Soul Edge was released a couple of years ago, right after the excitement over Tekken 2 started to die down. Die-hard Tekken fans hoped for something to satiate their appetites for a new game in the series. Other fans hoped for a worthy weapon-based fighting game not seen since the Samurai Shodown series was in its prime.
Soul Edge was released on the PlayStation in a better-than-perfect translation entitled Soul Blade. With arguably the best cinemas ever seen in a video game, and easy-to-perform moves and combos, the game was just screaming for a sequel, and now it's here. The story line for the game is extremely deep, unlike Tekken which has absolutely no story line (until its PlayStation counterpart came out with cinemas, that is). One of the main baddies in Calibur is Nightmare, who is an evil version of Siegfried. It seems that at the end of the Soul Edge tournament, Sophitia, mortally injured after destroying one of the evil Soul Edge swords, was about to be killed by the now-insane Cervantes. Taki jumps in to defeat Cervantes and takes Sophitia from the battlefield. Siegfried finds the broken Cervantes and Soul Edge. Taking the sword, Siegfried becomes possessed and is now the final Boss in Calibur. The endings in this game will be even more elaborate. It could be said that the Soul Edge team learned a lot from the development of Tekken 2, the Tekken 3 team learned from Soul Edge, and now the latest installment, Soul Calibur is a hybrid of all these games. To an expert Tekken player, Soul Edge offered little but pretty graphics. Most of the "combos" consisted of simple AAA, ABA, ABC button presses, and the characters were highly unbalanced. Soul Calibur addresses many of these problems, and attempts to repair them. Out with most of the MK-style button-mashing combos, and in with the strings ... plus there's more.
There are a ton of brand-new innovations that make the game a marvel to play: guard impact, staggers, stage variance, stance changes, motion delay and analog cancels. Guard impact and staggers are pretty much an attempt at applying realistic physics to the combat. For example, if Astaroth swings his huge axe at Taki, her relatively small Sais are only going to do so much to block the attack. As a result, it's possible to cause Taki to stagger, effectively leaving her open to another hit. While this may seem unfair, you'll need to remember that Taki is a lot faster than Astaroth and would therefore be able to get a lot more hits in before he even pulls off a guard impact. It's just up to you if you want to be able to hop around and jab your opponent to death or simply smash them with just a couple of slow hits.
On a side note, the weapon meter from Soul Edge is now gone. While you won't be able to destroy your opponent's weapon anymore, there are still plenty of ways to take care of "blockers." For starters, it is now easier to pull off unblockable moves, and with the weapon weight and stagger system, it should be no problem to knock a blocker out of his stagnant position. Additionally, some characters are able to execute special attacks that can only be performed while running. The fact that your opponents can run around and crack you on the head while you're standing still can make for some tricky fights.
Besides the new combat system, Soul Calibur has Stage Variance (Namco's words, not ours). There are ovals, octagons, squares and many more. This is important in Calibur because, like the Virtua Fighter series, there are ring-outs.
Returning from the original ensemble found in Soul Edge are Mitsurugi, Taki, Sophitia and Voldo. However, as is to be expected in a sequel of this nature, there is a slew of new characters. Available from the outset are: Nightmare (a revamped Siegfried possessed by the Soul Edge), Kilik, Xianghua, Maxi (a nunchaku specialist to satisfy Li Long fans), Astaroth (big guy with a big club--Soul Calibur's "Rock" substitute) and perhaps the most devilish new member, Ivy (a platinum blonde in a skimpy outfit with a multisectioned sword that turns into a whip).
It's pretty obvious this is a much-improved game over the original. Even if Soul Edge wasn't your cup of tea, you might want to give Calibur a look. It should be out nationwide when you read this.
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Welcome back to the stage of history--this time it's on the Dreamcast. Namco's decision to port Soul Calibur to the Dreamcast can almost be deemed historical on many levels. Namco games like Ridge Racer and Tekken are synonymous with the launch of Sony's PlayStation and helped them get an early lead in their 32-Bit battle with the Sega Saturn. Although Namco has recently announced that they have no other Dreamcast titles planned for this year, just the fact that their most ambitious arcade conversion ever will be on Sony's next-generation competitor has many excited about future possibilities. Another reason Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast attains landmark status is because it's the first game to really show off the system's graphical prowess.
While Namco has always offset the compromised graphics of home versions with extra modes and mini-games, Soul Calibur will be their first home title to sport better graphics than its arcade counterpart. Originally released last summer, Soul Calibur ran off of Namco's System 12 hardware, which at the time was already pushing the graphical limits of the board; 60 fps, improved texture resolution complex character models, advanced light sourcing and an orgy of particle effects made it one of the most beautiful fighting games ever conceived. There was no doubt for a second that this game would have to pass up the PlayStation with its more dated System 11-derived hardware. With the PlayStation 2 still more than a year away from launch, Namco had no choice but to consider their next viable platform--the Sega Dreamcast. Since the Dreamcast with its Naomi-based hardware Is considerably more powerful than the System 12, Namco took this opportunity to pursue their vision of what Soul Calibur should or could have been.
When it comes to exploiting the strengths of a system, none is more capable than Namco. For starters, they've completely reassembled each character model from the ground up. The difference between the arcade and Dreamcast versions is easily noticeable. Aside from the game's higher resolution on the Dreamcast, the fighters appear better fleshed out, less jagged and more lifelike. Through extensive use of gouraud shading, Namco was able to conceal joints where polygons come together to form limbs. The end result is spectacular; body parts seamlessly work together to produce a coherent and realistic character model. In addition to how each character looks, Namco also wanted to perfect their motion data so they're as smooth as possible. A lot of tweaking went into improving the animation overall--stuff like blocking, staggering and parrying have all been touched up for the home version.
Other subtle touches include minor facelifts of each of the 19 arenas. A lot of background structures and objects which were originally 2D were upgraded to full 3D constructions. But wait, that's not all.
Our sources in japan revealed to us even more mindblowing improvements for Soul Calibur. Each character will have a fully articulated jaw and facial skeleton to allow a wide array of facial expressions and speech movement. The same will also apply for the bodies of the fighters. For the first time in any 3D fighting game, Soul Calibur will feature character models with a connected hip and torso segment. This ensures natural hip and chest motions that simulate the full range and limitations of human movement. In addition. Soul Calibur's skeletal system will also figure muscle and body mass into both the graphics and physics of the game. If you look carefully, you can see muscles flex, and as fanboy service, Taki's heaving bosoms. Let's not forget, all of this graphical icing comes sprinkled with heavy doses of colored light sourcing and gratuitous amounts of particle effects all moving at a brisk 60 fps. Soul Calibur on the System 12 already had some of the best graphics and motion capture for any fighter to date; now the Dreamcast version is on the verge of making history as the first fighter to take real-time animation to the next level of realism. This latest version of Soul Calibur will, in effect, put its former self to shame.
Like other Namco home conversions, Soul Calibur will also be loaded with extra modes unavailable in the arcade. At presstime, Namco had yet to finalize which modes will make it into the final build. Modes like single-player, versus and training are a no-brainer, but will we see Team Battle Mode? What about an Edge Master mode similar to the one that was in the home version of Soul Blade? There should be an ample amount of scenarios for a solid story mode for each of the 17 characters. Only time will tell which modes will make it in the game.
Sega should consider themselves absolutely blessed to have Soul Calibur coming out for the Dreamcast. Not only does it carry the Namco third-party prestige, but an amazing technological and artistic feat that will remain unrivaled until the launch of PlayStation 2.
Pirate Captain Cervantes has been possessed by evil twin swords known as "Soul Edge." Their lust for blood leads him to slaughter his crew and terrorize the Atlantic. Fortunately for hapless humanity, a Greek girl named Sophitia was able to track him down and destroy him, in the process shattering one of the evil swords. Of course, she is mortally wounded and a Japanese "demon fighter" named Taki comes to her aid, whisking her away to safety. Others were also seeking the Soul Edge for various reasons and after Taki leaves, a German knight named Siegfried enters stage left. Seeing the "dead" Cervantes and the remaining half of Soul Edge, he claims the weapon for his own, which in turn claims him as its own. Now a new evil is born and Siegfried becomes Nightmare, and the dangerous game begins again. Kill the wielder of the Soul Edge. Claim it as your own. Hope it doesn't claim you.
I honestly never believed that any fighting game could top Tekken 3. , Soul Blade was close, but it just lacked the gusto and pure variety of the true king of fighters (apologies to SNK). I, myself, never owned a PlayStation, but considered buying one just for Tekken 3. In fact, I was so consumed with owning that game that I went to Funcoland and was ready to plunk down the cash for a PSX and T3, when the clerk told me I should really hold out a month.
I balked at that, wondering why I should deny myself Tekken 3 for so long. He pointed to the shelf behind him, upon which sat a few small promotional boxes for Sega Dreamcast games, one of which was Soul Calibur. Now, not being much of an arcade freak, I’d never heard of any "Soul Calibur" game. He just knowingly smiled at me and told me to hold onto my money.
I figured anything that would convince a store clerk to tell me to hold on to my money had to be worth holding out for (well, that or he was a very poor salesman). It frustrated me, though. A month without Tekken 3. How could he deny me that??? But you know what? I’m glad he did.
Soul Calibur is fast, furious and intense—it truly is the epitome of fighting games to date. The controls are dead-on-the-money, even with Sega’s poorly laid out controller. (Okay, the controller is ergonomic and comfortable, but the button layout is horrid for fighting games or any game that stresses pressing multiple buttons at a time, say X+Y or Y+A or X+B … those cross-diamond bridges are really hard to do with your thumb in the heat of battle.) The characters are extremely responsive and the new eight-way run feature shows other "3D" fighting games how 3D space should be managed.
Long gone are the days of characters who can soar into the clouds with the touch of a button and the flick of a stick. No more leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Only a few of the characters in Soul Calibur can exceed more than two feet of vertical air, and jumping is not exactly easy to do in the midst of a battle. What you can do, however, is run. Run like the wind. Run left, run right, run back, run forward … run anywhere you please. It’s called eight-way run and it’s eight ways of freedom. Tap, hold, and off you go. There is even a whole slew of moves for each character that can only be performed when you’re running!
Namco really went far out of its way to truly take advantage of the DC’s potential. Though they don’t have modem-to-modem or Dreamcast Network play enabled, they do harness the beast in other ways to make the experience as good as it can be for each console owner. For example, you can adjust both status bars (top and bottom) as well as center the display area on your screen (in case you have one of those TVs that crops a lot or has an off-center display).
All game options are saved onto a memory pack or one of the neat little Visual Memory Units (VMUs). On a side note, as you play the game with a VMU in the controller, your character is displayed as a cute (albeit blocky) anime caricature that swings when you attack. The game also supports a "jump pack" (Sega’s version of the N64’s rumble pack), which, due to foresight in controller design, can be inserted into the system controller at the same time as the VMU. (Unfortunately, the jump pack severely off-balances the controller, and Sega would have been wiser to place the second controller accessory slot sticking out the bottom of the controller, right where the cord spouts from.)
Other useful information that is saved is the extra characters and stages you have unlocked. Defeating the game with each of the starting characters will earn you the right to play with several more new characters or play in new venues, ultimately gaining you access to the character "Edge Master" and the game’s end-boss "Inferno." Edge Master is an old guy with an odd scar on his head and a particularly strange ability: every time a round starts, he takes on the fighting style of someone else in the game… does this remind anyone of a certain wooden doll in Tekken 3? Oh, for the curious, Yoshimitsu, that crazy spinning samurai from T3 has come over to Soul Calibur to join the fun. He’s one of the "extra" characters you unlock on your way to Edge Master.
Jaw-dropping. Amazing. Stunning. drool … The best graphics of any game to date on any system ever. Motion-captured characters so breathtakingly lifelike you won’t believe your eyes. You’ll pause the game and wonder, "How did they do that???" and "Can a person really… ??? No, they made that up!" On my FD Trinitron WEGA the Dreamcast’s quality is very close to DVD, if not better.
The backgrounds are also incredible. The game starts with a handful, but as you complete various missions in the Mission Mode, more are unlocked. Most of the stages are fully-3D, not just a 3D platform surrounded by a "matte painting." Also, each arena is shaped differently. Some are oval, others are triangular, others perfect geometrical shapes. They all share one thing in common: each has an edge, and you and your opponent will often be hurled off it through the course of the game. A ring-out is an instant win situation for the one left standing, so if you just can’t seem to inflict enough pain on Inferno … throw him over the edge. (Oddly, the first-man out loses instantly, so if you end up falling off yourself after throwing them over, you still gain the victory, even though you’re both dead).
Each character is composed of thousands of polygons, and Namco even added polygons to the models specifically for the Dreamcast. The arcade engine is a souped-up PSX engine with a lot more RAM, but lacks the raw horsepower to crank out truly complex scenes at 60 fps. The DC takes the load flawlessly and seems to have room to spare. In fact, there are Mission Battles that actually cause the fighters to speed up with each successive blow they take … at times I could have sworn I was playing Sonic, things got so fast.
Other features to unlock include an Exhibition Mode where you can view each character’s kata (a formal presentation of their unique fighting style), extra outfits for each character (they start with two, and many can gain a third. In fact, a certain character in the game can only be unlocked by using a particular character in their third outfit to defeat the game…), and an Opening Direction mode where you get to decide who makes an appearance in the intro movie. Cool feature. A little pointless, but it does help add that personal touch to what would otherwise be an identical game on everyone’s system.
The musical score is incredible. Each scene has its own music and each piece is a mini-masterpiece. Perfect rhythm and mood for each venue, from bright and adventurous to dark and brooding, Namco knows how to craft a scene in its entirety with both audio and visual cues.
The sound effects are also awesome. Singing swords, grunts, groans, whimpers, hefts, tumbles, rumbles, collisions, thuds … all the sounds associated with melee combat at its finest. Each character has about a dozen things to say, all in Japanese, with English subtitles as an option that can be enabled. Herein lies the only flaw I’ve found with the game: being a Japanese title, everyone says everything in Japanese.
I suppose we’re just supposed to disregard the fact that Sophitia is Greek, Seung Mina and Xianghua are Chinese, Voldo is from God-knows-where, and Ivy is very English. I’d love to give them full points for sound, seeing as how the rest of it is so spectacular, but this is a major pet peeve of mine. Authenticity is a must.
Buy this game. It’s been called an "instant classic." This is not a joke. Hands down the best fighter ever made, and thus far the most stunning visuals to come from the Dreamcast, it is the benchmark to which all others will be compared henceforth.