Soul Calibur III Review

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Graphics: 9.5
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 9.5
Multiplayer : 9.5
Overall : 9.2
Review by John K.
Ever since the release of Soul Blade on the Sony PlayStation, the Soul Calibur games have been among the best fighters around. With its stunning visuals and highly technical fighting mechanics, the sequel to the PlayStation title, Soul Calibur, quickly rose to the top of the Dreamcast’s software library. In 2003, Namco released a sequel to Soul Calibur on all three major consoles. With unique characters in each version and improved graphics, it stole the show once again. Now in 2005, Namco releases the PlayStation 2 exclusive Soul Calibur III. Once again updating the graphics and adding some brand new features, Soul Calibur III seems a huge improvement over its predecessor at first glance, but upon closer inspection, this might not be the case.

As mentioned before, Soul Calibur III is exclusive to PlayStation 2 and thus is the first game in the series that wasn’t released in arcades, leading to the absence of an Arcade game mode. As a substitute for Arcade mode, a Quick Play mode has been added, which is paradoxically a few menus deep. In Quick Play, players can take on multiple opponents after each other in multi-round fights, which boils down to an arcade mode without the credits.

The story mode in Soul Calibur III is called Tales of Souls and will remind players a lot of the Create your own Adventure mode of previous installments. Players must pick a character and proceed through a text-based story taking you through various battles up to a final boss. The story is told plainly in between matches, and the lack of polish in its presentation brings the mode down a notch. Players will have to choose their route through the battlefields via a map screen, but all paths eventually end up at the same point. Playing through the story mode unlocks dozens of items and extras which are hidden randomly throughout the game. Unlocking these bonuses will take players quite some time, making it all the more unfortunate that the story mode doesn’t keep players interested much.

Soul Calibur III also introduces an all new single-player mode called Chronicles of the Sword, an attempt to mix of fighting and real time strategy that fails horribly. At first, Chronicles of the Sword seems interesting and maybe even innovative, but the sparkle soon disappears from players’ eyes when they are confronted with dreadfully long loading times, an boring text-based story and tedious characters.

In Chronicles of the Sword, players use the character they create in the all new character create mode. Players choose a gender and a basic template such as Ninja or Thief, and can customize their character with various pieces of clothing and accessories. A lot of the more interesting ornaments will have to be unlocked during the Tales of Souls mode, and while these items will make your characters look cool, they don’t look as spiffy as the original characters in Soul Calibur III.

For gamers new to the Soul Calibur universe, there’s an in-depth practice mode, where players can either work on their technique or learn how to play via the tutorials. In the tutorials, everything is explained from standard movement to advanced fighting techniques. It’s great to see a developer who finally realized that some videogame players might already know how to move around in a fighting game, making tutorials randomly accessible instead of going through a whole list one by one.

Namco has added three new characters to the roster of Soul Calibur III, making the total amount of playable characters the greatest to date. Tira is one of the two new female characters and her weapon is a big hula-hoop of some sorts, made of razor-sharp steel. Tira can peform amazingly fast attacks with her weapon, and is the fastest of the new characters. Zasalamel is an Egyptian warrior fed up with being immortal, and sets out to die. His scythe may be a slow weapon, but the extended range and power of it make up for the lack of speed. Setsuka has the appearance of a Japanese geisha, and fights with a parasol with a hidden sword inside. All of the new characters fit in well in the roster, but don’t play quite as smoothly as the old ones. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, since the old characters have been refined for years.

Subtle changes have been made to the fighting system in Soul Calibur III, and each character has new moves added to their arsenal. Soul Calibur fanatics will notice these subtle changes immediately and find themselves challenged to master the new moves of their favorite character. Characters that previously had a lot in common, like Siegfried and Nightmare, seem to have been tweaked to be more unique this time around. This doesn’t mean that Soul Calibur III isn’t accessibly to new players; on the contrary. The in-depth Practice tutorials and easy to learn, hard to master techniques are very inviting to new players and give them a good challenge to become a Soul Calibur master.

Soul Calibur III offers jaw-dropping graphics, and not only in character modeling. The levels are astonishingly detailed and will amaze everyone who lays eyes on them. Characters are modeled realistically and physics are life-like. The lighting effects are equally noteworthy and come across credibly in glares off swords and other shiny surfaces. Sound effects and music tracks are subtle yet realistic, from swords clashing to blows landing on your opponents—or on players’ characters. The music tracks are not brilliant, but do fit a fighting game well.

Established fans of the Soul Calibur series will find more of the same in Soul Calibur III. The new features and modes aren’t mind blowing and even appalling in the case of Chronicles of the Swords mode, but they don’t take away what Soul Calibur does best: amazingly detailed fights. New players will probably be better off picking Soul Calibur III to start, but more because of graphics than features that weren’t in previous installments.