Soul Calibur 3
This is a tale of souls and swords. Ever since the release of the original Soul Blade, I've been aching to play a game that more closely captured the mission based narrative that played out in that classic title. Soul Calibur 3, disappointing only in that it came out at the end of the current generation systems, fulfills all of my wishes, giving us not only a complete Tales of the Sword mode, but also the Chronicles mode, in which you can play through a completely unique game. While it resembles a mini game more than another feature of Soul Calibur itself, it is entertaining.
Gameplay wise, you've got to have good skills to make it through the later levels of Tales of the Sword, where you'll face off against opponents who have a strong defense. In many ways, a strong defense is the key to winning at Soul Calibur 3, as this game is unlike many fighting games in that a strong offense just doesn't get you through the real meat of the game. Also, be sure to learn how to guard impact, as it's another critical skill that can really help you excel. Fortunately, to help you through all of this is a well expanded tutorial mode, that's difficult, but rewarding. Try completing every tutorial exercise for additional benefits.
In the end, what makes SC3 stand out is the great replayability that it contains. Most games have a small amount of replay value as you beat the game over and over again with each different character. The difference here is that each character has a unique story mode that has a multitude of choices that guide them along their path. While you end up fighting the same opponents, the Soul Calibur series is famous for switching up the battles by making them conform to a specific constraint, such as launching attacks or a survival battle.
All in all, Soul Calibur 3 is a good fighting game, and my only real complaint is that it comes at the end of an era, the end of the current generation of consoles. I'd personally would love to see what this would look like on the Xbox 360, but hey, this just means we get to try SC4 for the PS3!
Download Soul Calibur 3
This third (fourth if you count series predecessor Soul Blade) iteration of Namco's weapon-based fighter focuses on giving players an incredible amount of content. Sadly, that content won't include system-specific characters like Link, Heihachi, and Spawn--this puppy's coming only to the PS2. Still, three all-new fighters and a create-a-character mode (in which you can choose everything from a character's fighting style to the width of his eyebrows) will help fill the void.
Absolutely brilliant, even though Namco's keeping most of the goodies under wraps: Only five characters were available for versus play when I test-drove Soul Calibur III. But that little taste was enough to appreciate its quality. For the hardcore fans, SC3 feels a little different than previous games. Soul Calibur-style guard impacts return--so you now have four options instead of two--and the game feels a lot faster than ever before. Many of the other changes were subtle: I spotted tweaks to the arsenals of Mitsurugi, Kilik, Astaroth, and Cassandra that made them slightly more offense friendly. And newcomer Tira pulled off some bizarre maneuvers with her razor-sharp hula hoop. It's too bad I couldn't try out the complex new fighter-creation system, as it should add an amazing amount of depth. Namco promises that you can outfit characters with weapons not found in the game proper, like shuriken. If only they could add online play....