PS2 REVIEW: SOUL CALIBUR 3

Lots of modes, unlockables and new characters and locations are not enough to get Soulcalibur III off the ground. The game fails to fly simply because it's overloaded with superfluous features that needlessly obscure the story and any cohesion that it may have wrought.

I wish I could be happy about the fact that there's so much to do in Soulcaliber III but the point is that most of the stuff is pointless. You can create your own character, and while that is all and good, there's not much you can do with him or her except to visit some lame single-player modes. The story doesn't make much sense to begin with but when you add some 25 different characters to the mix all with different back histories, it's impossible to keep track of what's going on. Not that you have to.

The beauty of Soulcaliber III is that underneath it all lie an excellent combat engine and gameplay that has stood the test of time. It's difficult to find fault with the combat system. At first it may seem too easy. It's totally accessible for beginners that just want to button mash, although they'll eventually find they don't really know what they're doing. With more practice, one is able to master the controls to perform a series of hard-hitting combos and counter attacks that the newbie wouldn't even know existed. There's lots of ways to hone your skills in this game including the Practice mode. Some of the other modes such as Museum, Story and Creation can also make for some good practice but they don't impress much on their own. They are definitely a means to an end - and that's the two-player mode. More on that later.

The story tells the tale of a magical but incredibly deadly sword called the Soulcaliber. The demonic Nightmare has been revived and the fight is on. There are various weapons, armors and upgrades to be collected, although the characters don't gain experience or increase their skills as in an RPG which kind of makes the game feel a little stagnant unless you're really into developing your combat skills with the control system which not everyone is interested in doing. At least changing characters will give you a different feel as they use different weapons, armor and special moves.

In the single-player mode, things do get very tough. You must work your way up the ladder by defeating numerous enemies, each one more difficult than the next. You can even ramp up the difficulty and give yourself a friggin' migraine if you want a real challenge.

There is plenty to do and explore in the single-player modes though you will hardly revisit the majority of them because they are basically novelties. There are lots of unlockables available that can be used to enhance your character in the create-a-character mode. It's fun to find them and experiment with them but since you can't take this character to the best modes it seems like a waste of time.

Battling in the two-player mode is where the party is. There's nothing like taking on a skilled adversary. The animations are done so well and play out so smoothly it's easy to become transfixed on them and forget to plan your next move. If the character animations don't distract you the locations surely will. Areas from all over the world are presented in great detail with bright colors and excellent dimensional depth. It's candy for the eyes. (Editor - eye candy, perhaps?)

In many respects I would have to refer to this game as Soulcaliber Two-and-a-Half. It's not so different from the last one if you just consider the core gameplay to be the main attraction. The new features are just like icing on the cake. If you can live with that and know that going in, SC3 will provide with a healthy challenge.

Preview by Vaughn

Update: The three new characters in the upcoming Soul Calibur III have had some light shed on their "personalities". But in a game like Soul Calibur, personality and story really don't mean all that much. Do you really need to delve into the motivation of your character like some washed up dinner theater hack actor? Who cares if so and so was abandoned as a child...let's kick some ass.

Okay, to be fair, some of you actually do care about things like this and all we can say is a hearfelt "Just stop it. It's embarrassing already. Put down the comic books and action figures, log off the forum board you haunt with your flashy anime avatar and the sarcastic signature, and go and do something consructive like visiting your grandparents, who used to love you until you turned into a gawky nerd." Sometimes tough love is the best love of all baby. Except when it's aimed directly at you.

Okay, enough chit chat. Let's check out the new souls in Soul Calibur 3.

Tira

Tira, the teal haired chick who uses the ring-shaped sword is a bit of a wild card emotionally. She's up and down. Just like your last girlfriend. She sulks when she wins and then instantly perks up and begins to laugh. Oh oh fellas. Better make sure you don't ask her to give you a "ring" or she might take your head off, then cry about it...and then laugh. I'm sure I dated her once. Her moves are based in gymnastics and we assume the ringsword will be reminiscent of a ribbon....albeit one that will instantly cut down on your Head & Shoulders purchases.

Setsuka

Next up is Setsuka, who is dressed like an Oiran, which is the highest level of Geisha attainable. While her look is Eastern, her dress is Western - and the theme of hearts is very noticable. Although she might look cute, we're pretty sure she doesn't date guys who work at Blockbuster so put it back in your pants fellas. Plus if you ever tried to tell her that she owed a late fee for "Street Fighter the Movie" I'm sure after ripping out your tongue and using it as dental floss, she'd explain that Blockbuster no longer has late fees, dumbass. You should know that since you work there.

Zasalamel

Last and certainly least, because we don't dig talking about dudes because we're not gay, is Zasalamel. He's a mystery dude with a freaky left eye which just so happens to contain his soul. So THAT'S why he was crying during the finale of Friends.... This guy can reincarnate himself after he dies, presumably because he loves paying income tax for ever and ever. Not much else is known about him, except that he prefers wearing all white outfits. Even after Labor day.

Thus brings to an end our exhaustive character study (hey, we used to work for Gamepro Magazine - anything over 2 sentences is taxing!). We hope that once you get a chance to play as one of new three players in SC3, that you'll look back fondly over the hours you spent reading our little exclusive and perhaps think about learning to read much, much faster, as this should have only taken you about 30 seconds. Moron.

Previous Preview: Leading video games publisher and developer Namco Hometek Inc. announced today Soul Calibur III, the latest installment in its celebrated weapons-based fighting franchise, is scheduled for release exclusively on the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system in 2005. Featuring three all-new characters, a groundbreaking character customization system and original gameplay modes, Soul Calibur III continues the storyline of legendary fighters in pursuit of the all-powerful Soul Edge.

“Soul Calibur III expands upon the landmark achievements of the franchise, and is undoubtedly one of the must-have games for PlayStation 2 owners in 2005,” said Yoshi Niki, Business Unit Director with Namco Hometek Inc. “With a robust character creation system, jaw-dropping graphics and a large selection of fighters, ' Soul Calibur III' gives players the ultimate opportunity to immerse themselves in one of the most beloved series in gaming.”

Soul Calibur III offers players unprecedented variety in gameplay modes and fighting styles. Gamers can guide the fate of their favorite character in the narrative Tales of Souls Mode, play head-to-head with a friend in Vs. Mode, create their own custom fighters in Character Creation Mode, battle as their custom fighter in a real-time simulation in Chronicles of the Sword Mode, engage in unique and original battles in Soul Arena Mode and even recount the history of the franchise in Museum Mode. Also, the addition of three new characters to the existing family of classic warriors gives Soul Calibur III a collection of more than 25 playable characters, each with their own unique fighting style. New characters Zasalamel, Tira and Setsuka will engage in combat within all-new stages, further enhancing the game’s unmatched epic scope and trademark weapons-based fighting engine.

Story:

The unholy sword was sealed by the destined one, but a mysterious individual revives the azure knight, Nightmare. The legendary battle of Soul Calibur and Soul Edge moves to the next phase. Which sword will ultimately prevail? What is the motivation of the three new souls who join the fray? And how will you, the player, become involved in the world of Soul Calibur?

Play as one of your favorite classic characters to follow how their fate unfolds in the Tales of Souls mode. Battle it out against your friends in the Vs. Standard mode. Create your own original character to play in the Character Creation mode. Rise in the ranks in the World Competition mode… Play it any way you want. Get ready for the latest installment of the most dramatic weapon-based fighting franchise on the PlayStation 2.

Features:

  • Customizable characters: Create your own character after you or the ideal warrior you’ve always wanted to be. Choose the sex, occupation, look and even a weapon for your own original character.
  • Your original character is the star: The Chronicles of the Sword mode allows your original customized character to play through a mode much like real-time simulation – you can see your own character in the battles that unfold.
  • 3 Brand new characters! Zasalamel, Tira and Setsuka wield their specialty weapons to join the classic cast for a total of over 25 characters.
    * More stages than before: Battle it out in more stages than ever, from a castle in Germany to a shrine in Greece, or even at the top of a clock tower.
  • …and more! Get ready for the battles by training in the Practice Mode; enjoy unique battles in Soul Arena Mode; view the history of the franchise and everything you’ve unlocked in Museum Mode – the variety of modes will keep you playing!
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System: PS2
Dev: Namco
Pub: Namco
Release: Oct 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Darwin
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
3.5