|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Project Soul||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 29, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
While other fighting games go for a more realistic approach, SoulCalibur is the king of funky and original. It's been a few years since the franchise saw first light on the SEGA Dreamcast (nine, to be exact). The series has seen nothing but success wherever it's gone, and the last pit stops on the original Xbox, PS2, and GameCube are certainly worth mentioning, as they helped to consolidate the fighting franchise as one of the best available, right next to Tekken, Virtua Fighter, etc. And now you are probably wondering how well it transitioned to the current-gen of consoles, don't you? Well Look no further. Our review will tell you all.
SoulCalibur IV has marked a clear separation from the previous installments. Not only is this new title shining with the best graphics and sound quality yet, but it also brings in a few special guests that manage to make a difference. You may be hesitant to put your favorite characters aside. What would you do without characters like Yoshimitsu, Cervantes, Nightmare, Voldo, Mitsurugi, Astaroth, and even the shameless and barely dressed Ivy? Worry not. These characters and several other newcomers are part of the game's roster, but I have a feeling that many of you may just go the way of The Force. As you know, Jedi Master Yoda appears exclusively on the Xbox 360 version, while Darth Vader took over the PS3. Both editions will also get one more Star Wars surprise (more on that later).
These Star Wars characters are very compelling additions to the series and really make a difference. Yoda, fast, agile, sneaky, yet still very powerful, is my personal choice. Darth Vader, even with his dizzying Force attacks, is a bit too big and clunky for my liking, though he's definitely more effective against big brawlers. That's why it's great to be able to pick more than one character in several of the game modes. While fighting, you can easily swap between one character and the other/s with just the push of a button. Depending on who you're fighting against, some fighters will be more successful than others.
But enough about characters! I'm sure you want to know how the game plays. It's possible many of you are already used to the kind of controls SoulCalibur offers. Even still, the game has received quite a few upgrades, so you may have to get used to it all over again. The game has an incredible amount of combos, counter attacks, and abilities linked to each player. Moves are performed by pressing one button after another, two or more at the same time, holding or just tapping the directional pad or left analog stick, etc. There's certainly a learning curve, especially for people like me who don't spend a whole lot of time playing brawling titles. However, the controls are very accurate and responsive, and soon enough you'll be able to see your progress and quickly advance through the game's main modes. Moreover, your characters will constantly level-up. The more you use them and the more variety of attacks you perform, the higher they'll rank. That's why you have to say "no" to button-mashing from day one.
In addition to the health gauge, there's the "Soul Gauge." This one will start green and gradually change to red if you're taking too much impact. When the soul gauge is flashing red (Soul Crush), the character will become much more vulnerable and defenseless. Instead, if you're attacking your enemy effectively, this gauge will remain green and eventually turn blue, giving you the chance to perform stronger attacks. If the enemy is in "Soul Crush" state, you can then execute a remarkable critical finish - one fatal attack, no matter how full the enemy's health gauge was. Star Wars characters also have a Force gauge. You can use Force-powered attacks against the opponents, which are indeed very harmful. The Force gauge will go down as you use it, but it will refill itself if you don't abuse it. You just have to be smart while using it, because it will stun your character if taken down to zero!