|The tale of swords and souls becomes legendary.|
It's hard to debate. NAMCO certainly has a knack for making remarkable, enjoyable, and very strategic fighting games. Whether you're a Tekken fan boy, or a Soul Edge aficionado, NAMCO has satisfied the thirst of 3D fighting game fans worldwide.
The graphics this time around aren't necessarily groundbreaking, given the exclusive PS2 platform. Yet, it still has some great looking visuals apart from its prequels. Sword swings come with a faint light trail that adds to some glitzy weapon battles. When you Soul Charge (which is basically momentarily increasing the power of your weapon) your sword, stick, or whatever weapon contraption you might have glows a bright color, indicating that you got some punishing to do. When there are counter hits, guard impacts, or knock outs, bright and flashy shockwaves and sparked explosions fly off your weapons, giving you a very fast paced sense of battle.
The graphics really stand out with the battle arenas. They range from a Chinese garden amidst a sacred temple, to a raft floating around a medieval castle's moat, and my favorite, a surreal, spacey, alternate dimension inside a demonic sword. Some arenas have walls, some have sides surrounded by walls or gates, and some are even completely closed off. Unlike Soul Calibur 2, you can knock your opponent against some walls, and they will break free, increasing your chance of scoring a Ring Out. If you're skilled enough a well placed hit can send your opponent up and over the wall without ever touching it. Some character's have the ability to send their opponent's flying from the middle of the ring. It would be wise not to whiff your attacks, for a Ring Out from the middle of the stage is an embarrassing defeat.
With any fighting game sequel comes its roster of new fighters. New to the stage of souls and swords is Zasamalel, a brooding, cloaked man with a deadly scythe, Setsuka, a "geisha" of sorts that welds a mysterious sword inside a japanese umbrella, and Tira, a gothy, smart mouthed girl with a bladed hula-hoop. Certainly an interesting and odd assortment of weapons, however they aren't to be scoffed at. Not only are they deadly in the game, but a lot of the fighter's weapon disciplines are based on real life martial arts weaponry. So if you see a young child with a bladed hula hoop, I would advise keeping to yourself.
If you're not interested in the new fighters, NAMCO has many, many others to choose from. Returning fighters get some useful new moves, techniques, styles, and costumes. Veterans may find themselves spending a lot of time on their fighters they may have mastered in the previous Soul Calibur games.
Still not satisfied? Well, if you don't like them you can make your own character. Zounds! What a great idea. Soul Calibur 3 comes with a new Character Creation mode. You can choose the gender and fighting class of your fighter. Fighting classes range from ninjas to knights to thiefs. Each class comes with 3 weapons not used by the regular Soul Calibur fighters, giving your fighter a distinct look and style. You can give him or her any type of clothing from head to toe, or if you're looking for a quick laugh, you can dress them in nothing at all (well....they are wearing undergarments...). You can also change their hair color, skin color, voice, face, eyes, lips, and clothing color. And of course, name them anything you want. So far I've created a pirate named Bill Scurvy and a warrior named Pantless Joe. You can probably imagine what Pantless Joe is going to look like...
To step it up a notch, you can also unlock 2 "Soul of _____" options for each fighting class. For instance, if you unlock the "Soul of Taki" option, you can create and modify a ninja fighter any way you see fit, and that fighter will use the same moves as Taki, which is a main Soul Calibur fighter. But, like any game that allows you make your own character, you must unlock the items you wish to dress your character in. You start with a handful of items for each fighting class, however there are a total of 600+ items to unlock throughout the game. There are a few ways to do so.
The newest gaming mode to Soul Calibur that unlocks items for you is the Chronicles of the Sword mode. This mode requires you to create your own squad of fighters which you take to the battlefield a la Warcraft style. However, this mode isn't as liberal as a game like Warcraft. You are given linear set paths to travel across and you cannot build any types of fortresses or barracks. When you start the level, you have an assortment of watch towers that you can station one of your fighters in, or level it up in defense. When you encounter an enemy on the battlefield, you have the option of letting them hack at each other until one dies, or you can battle that fighter in a real Soul Calibur match. This way you can deal all the damage instead of waiting to see which character receives small damage increments slowly until death. When your character bites it, they are sent back to HQ to regenerate their health. When they've healed, they start back just outside your HQ so you must send them back to whatever point of the map that they were previously battling. Enemies have the same objective as you do. Take down the watch towers and convert it into one of theirs. When the enemies die, they stay dead. Lucky for you, indeed.
Before you send your fighters off to duel, you can assign them field statuses like Cavalry or Infantry. The only real difference this makes is the speed at which they move on the map, and the speed at which they level up their stats. As you level up, you generate more open spots to create more fighters or past enemies then become one of your squadron, as well as increase strength, agility, and health during a match.
The major downside to this mode is that you can only use these created fighters in this mode, and their stats aren't applied anywhere else. Also, the rate at which you unlock items and money is rather slow compared to doing Mission Battles, VS mode, Arcade mode, and Story mode. Chronicles of the Sword is overall repetitive and lackluster, not to mention needless time consuming.
To bring the number of fighters to an all time high, NAMCO game developers have used the create a character options to make unlockable fighters aside from the main Soul Calibur Fighters. Their weapons and styles are the same as the ones you'd use for your own created character, but some of them are quite interesting to see. Revenant has the head of a skull, the clothes of a jester/clown, and the hat of...well...Puss in Boots from Shrek 2. These can be unlocked in Chronicles of the Sword, and of course, nearly every other mode of play.
A wide array of other modes are available to play. You've got your standard VS mode, a practice mode that lets you free practice or tutorial practice with a man-owl, Standard Character Color edit (which lets you change the hair and clothing color of the main Soul Calibur fighters), Mission Battle (which are matches with a given set of rules like low gravity or when an opponent is damaged you must collect the coins that fall from their body), Shop (which lets you use earned money to buy weapons, armor, and special items like character illustrations and weapon demonstrations), and Story Mode. The Story Mode this time around allows for replayability. After you win a round, you are given a caption about the developing story of you character, which then lets you decide which path to take. Certain paths give you certain cutscenes and even unlocked items you wouldnt find anywhere else. Various cutscenes also come with a Quick Time Event, where you must quickly input a button command at the top of the screen to react with what is happening during the cutscene. Failing to enter the command or successfully entering the command also opens up different paths and enemies you face. During the round you may unlock items or characters and after completing the final stage you are awarded a handsome sum of money in which to shop 'till you drop.
The Story pretty much revolves around the Soul Edge (a possessed sword hell bent on consuming the Earth in chaos) and Zasamalel. Every fighter must face a transformed version of Zasamalel at the end of their path, as well as face him in the 3rd round at the beginning of your journey. Some characters have a closer relation to the Soul Edge, others deviate into something entirely different. Yet, each character asks you to play their story through many times to see every path not taken and hopefully unlock whatever item they missed.
Soul Calibur 3 is THE fighting game to play. Soul Calibur is notorious for its outrageous and stunning weapon battles as well as extra modes to fart around with. Its big kahuna this time is the number of fighters to choose and create from, and some really gorgeous fighting stages, as well as an epic soundtrack and well crafted dialogue (in Japanese, of course!) If you've never played Soul Calibur, now would be a good time to start. As a fighting game fan, one would have no choice but to give this game a Seal of Approval. Huzzah!
Written by OstrichStealth, 2006-01-26 09:10:13