Soul Calibur III
-Console: Playstation 2
-ESRB Rating: Teen
-Genre: 3-d Fighting
- #Of Players: 1-2
-Published by: Namco
-Memory Card Usage: 300 KB
- #Of discs: 2 (Bonus Namco Demo Disc V.3.2)
Since Sony snagged the exclusive rights to SC III a while ago, fans have been wondering how the game will measure up to its mega-hit multi-platform predecessor. With its beautiful graphics, new modes, a character creator, and an improved overall storybook atmosphere, it does a pretty good job.
While storylines haven’t been the main draw for fighting game fans, SC III does an admirable job of weaving an interesting and compelling atmosphere. The Azure Knight, Siegfried is finally freed from the bonds of the evil sword Soul Edge by stabbing the blade with its opposing counterpart Soul Calibur. He then goes on a quest to finally destroy it. All the while Nightmare, the personality Siegfried assumed while under control of the sword has been somehow revived and wishes to finally release the true power of the blade on the unsuspecting world. Throw in a bunch of characters that wish to either take Soul Edge for themselves or destroy the blade, and you have yourselves a game.
3 new characters enter the fray this time. Zasalamel, a man with a massive scythe, who found a way to be reincarnated eternally, orchestrates storyline events in hopes of finally finding a way to die. Next there is Setsuka, a beautiful woman wearing a kimono who simply seeks revenge on the man who killed her adoptive father in a duel. Finally there is Tira, the psychotic willing servant of Soul Edge that just kills with a giant bladed hoola-hoop of death out of pure enjoyment of the suffering of others. They all fit very well into the growing cast and add to the huge number of weapon based fighting styles already present.
Players are once again given the option to choose between Japanese and English voice-overs. Players that are audio purists will enjoy being able to switch between the two. The English VO is done very well. It is probably one of the better vocal sounding fighting games out there. Nearly everyone seems to fit the roles that they were cast as, and much better than in the previous game. Though, there are plenty of times where the subtitle on screen doesn’t match the audio. It is somewhat understandable with all of the text, but it is disappointing. Also audio lines seem to get cut off suddenly in a few cases.
The music returns with its trademark orchestrated scores, still as good as ever. Though in some cut-scenes the music doesn’t always load. Which is a little strange. The sounds of weapons clashing and slicing in the midst of battle is still seems to be quite realistic.
The controls remain the same this time around, one button for horizontal slashes, another for vertical slashes, and the last 2 for guards and kicks. Pushing combinations of these buttons does a variety of things. It is just as responsive as ever. Luckily if a player hates the control scheme, it is fully customizable. The camera works fine, but there are times especially during throws where zooming in on the action can get a little disorienting.
Everything is improved this time around. Stages are a beautiful sight to see. Whether it is a battle on a samurai ship in the midst of a fierce battle with flaming arrows flying through the air, or fighting in a beautiful cathedral with water flowing down around the battle arena, everything looks really nice. Floors show damage when powerful moves connect, much like in Tekken 5. Character models are improved too, especially in facial details. When gamers watch their favorite character speak in the profile mode, the mouth movements actually look pretty realistic.
The create-a-character mode is pretty impressive, though, it is quite limited. Players only have one body type for their gender. So any dreams of creating your very own hulking giant like Astaroth or a petite character like Talim still remain dreams. Character creations never seem to reach the quality of the original characters. The original characters clothing just seem to be shiner for some reason. Most of the create-a-character’s” clothing just has a plain, bland look. The original characters have an interesting color edit feature, but that is pretty limited as well. Gamers are only allowed to change 3 areas of the character, 2 for clothing, and 1 for hair. It would have been nice if gamers were able unlock some of the main character’s clothing by completing some requirement in the “Tales of Souls” mode or something, but alas, it doesn’t happen.
One of the new additions to the game is the Tales of Souls mode, in which the gamers play through their own chose your own adventure type of storyline with the character of their choice. Before every match players will be reading a large blurb of text explaining the actions of what a character is doing at that time. It is kind of reminiscent of the Weapon Master Mode in SCII. Players are allowed some freedom in choosing where they will go next, and events will change according to what is chosen.
Sadly, most of the characters share the same cut-scenes and events in their storylines. Also in many of the cut-scenes are moments where you have to press a pre-specified button or combination of buttons. Missing the timed event will usually result in lost health, or starting off the match with a negative status effect on your character. The main problem with this is that it gets boring doing it over and over after a while. There is no way to skip the sequences either. It is especially aggravating when they show up during the character endings. When I would play with a character I’d normally never use, and barely make it through the storyline only to have my ending ruined because I couldn’t hit the up button and square fast enough, it was aggravating. Even if the ending can be viewed in the Museum mode and the timing be eventually mastered there, it still bothered me on some level.
Next, there is the Chronicles of the Sword mode, the hyped RTS mode meant to replace Weapon Master this time around. This is the main mode in which Create a Character shows its stuff. A story of 3 kingdoms fighting for supremacy with a group of shadowy figures manipulating the strings awaits players. The problem with this mode is that the story is so vague and thin; it is really difficult to get anything out of it.
There aren’t any real strategy elements in this mode either. Winning nearly always consists of killing everyone on the map. Most battles consist of either attacking until it is over, or defending until the advancing enemy troops are killed, and then going and killing the general. SC III characters make an appearance in certain bases for no real reason outside of giving players a chance to see what their Job Class is. (Character move-lists can be unlocked with enough player experience in a particular job class.) Many of the strange field effects that each fortification could have aren’t described at all, so players will end up jumping in and finding out what they mean the hard way. Also, created characters in the CotS mode can’t be carried over to the main mode. They have to be recreated in the separate Character Creator. While the mode can be fun, and a nice change from the Tales of Sword mode, it can get really boring sometimes. Players can’t save mid battle, so if they get started and have to quit, their progress will be lost, unless they purposely get all of their characters wiped out. Sadly, most of the items that can be unlocked in the character creator are found here.
These modes are only the tip of the iceberg. There is a tournament mode, which is pretty fun except you can’t save your progress. The Soul Arena offers the ability to participate in a bevy of unique missions from fighting a giant statue to attacking the enemy in hopes of getting the coins that come out of their bodies every time an attack is successful. Also, the arcade style of playing through the game (2 out of 3 rounds, no story) is available as well. There is a new additional training mode, that teaches new players the ins and outs of the system, with a glossary of all of the SC terminology to boot. That becomes very helpful since character’s move lists have changed. It would have been nice if they showed the rhythm of button presses for the commands like in the Tekken games, because just watching the computer do a move successfully, and then actually trying to do it can be difficult.
It sad that Namco didn’t put in the arcade ports of Soul Edge, and Soul Calibur like the development team mentioned in earlier interviews before release, but it is understandable why they didn’t. Decent online play would have been great, especially if none of your gaming buddies are in to fighters. But there is definitely more than enough to keep the fighting game fan occupied.
The multiplayer pretty much remains unchanged this time around. Though the addition of the tournament mode is okay, chances of most gamers finding enough people to play with is slim. It still manages to great for all of the tournament competitors out there. Some battles feature additional effects like icy floors or increased damage for moves that knock an opponent back. Though the best part is fighting with the character creations.
Namco has made a fighting game that will last for a very long time. They show just how much they care about the single player by placing so much stuff to do and things to unlock. Though some unlockables are very tedious and time consuming to find, the feeling of accomplishment always follows after players find a new event in Tales of Souls, unlock a new fighting style with a character creation, or get the gold medal requirement on one of the challenges in the Soul Arena. The stores run out of items way too early in the experience. There are a lot of things to buy, but I still found myself having a lot of money with nothing to spend it on. The multiplayer combat is just as good as it has always been, and maybe even more interesting now that character creations can battle along with series favorites.
Final Score: 9/10
This game has a tendency to just suck up entire days. Players will find themselves sitting down for a small break, and then looking at the watch to find that a few hours have passed. It is an addictive experience. I just hope that in the next inevitable installment, they will improve the quality of the Create a Character, and put in the arcade ports of the earlier Soul Calibur/Edge games. Only the most dedicated fans will actually sit through to get the 100% completion that they are looking for. The computer intelligence is a lot smarter this time around, and will be more likely to take advantage of positioning and mistakes players will make. It is great that Namco put in the improved training mode and glossary. It makes the ability to rise from a novice to a possible tournament champion that much easier. Soul Calibur III manages to be as deep as ever, and still be accessible to new players. It is a great experience worthy of any videogame fan’s time.
By Plumbum Sol