Soul Calibur II is one of my all-time favorite games and the one fighting game I’ve always gone back to. I never played Soul Calibur III due to not playing on the PlayStation when it launched. Installment four launched last week and a little surprisingly, it got enormously positive buzz pre-launch. After so many previews and sneak peeks and gorgeous art, save for the ridiculous breasts – what were you thinking, Namco? You spoiled Ivy to realms beyond laughable – I was really eager to get into the game.
I’m saying it was a little surprising because fighters have been on the wane for a long time. The genre has become the domain of hardcore gamers only. I don’t see that many people playing Virtua Fighter 5 or Dead Or Alive 4 and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in Tekken 6. Myself, I’ve played quite a bit of Tekken: Dark Resurrection on the PSP, and deservedly so, as it’s an excellent game. I was a huge fun of Dead Or Alive 3 on the Xbox, even with its broken fighting mechanics, but DOA4 failed to excite me at all. Now Soul Calibur is a gamer darling and most eyes are looking forward to Street Fighter IV – maybe there’s a fighting game renaissance in the cards. If Street Fighter is as accessible to newcomers as Soul Calibur is, things are really looking up.
Soul Calibur IV is the most beautiful game currently on the market. From the stills I wasn’t that impressed, but in motion – the models, the lighting, the animation, the backgrounds, the colors… It’s videogame perfection. Namco really tackles the arcade aesthetic like no one else. Maybe they could have gone in a new direction, sure, but as far as arcade roots go, I can’t see it getting much better than this.
The most fun I’ve had with is the random character battles. You can have the game randomize your VS characters entirely, mixing and matching characters and movesets and special abilities and clothes and colors to create entirely new fighters for every single bout. It’s addictive fun, let down only by the necessity of returning to the character select screen between fights.
Soul Calibur has always been very good in remaining deep, yet accessible. You can play perfectly fine with straight buttonmashing, but it doesn’t take long for you to discover more effective ways to use the characters. Since its release I’ve been playing very little else.