Some of you may remember the first Soul Calibur on the good old Sega Dreamcast (which is actually the second of the Soul series) and those of you who do will recall how amazing that game felt.
It was the first of its kind to implement an eight-way run system. That is, no longer were you restricted to only rolling from one side of the screen to the other – you could now move in a complete range of motion encircling your opponent as you attack.
This made the gameplay exceptionally free feeling and realistic. Many a battle of gargantuan proportion was waged on the couch of splendour in my palace-of-flies flat. That was one thing the game has always done well, provided a sense of its own immense epic cheesiness. So yes, the soul still burns!
Soul Calibur IV is an interesting addition to the Soul series. Previous versions of this game, in my opinion, haven’t stood out as being really any better than Soul Calibur. Until now. It still has the old arcade feel but the graphics are outstanding, detailed and animated fluidly. Ivy has bigger knockers than ever, Seigfried’s giant cricket bat – I mean, sword – is still immensely amusing to thrash about. Mitzirugi is an outstanding character that is tougher to pick up at first, but like a good samurai, perseverance in learning his moves pays off in the end. Maxi is super fast and as cool as an Asian Elvis with his nunchakus, and Kilik remains arse-kicking with his quick moving staff of death delivering the pain.
Oh yeah, and Voldo can still gross one out with his pervert-at-a-parade look, clad seemingly only in studded leather belts, his fighting style can be considered as "beware the thrusting pelvis of doom."
A good tactic is to fight around, trying out all the characters, before going back into single-player training mode to learn some of the moves. You can go to the moves list and select one you want to see, plus scroll along to different moves with the top shoulder buttons and the character will perform selected moves for you whilst displaying the buttons (labelled somewhat ambiguously) that you need to hit to learn the moves you like.
Namco has also introduced a tag team mode, and a health or “soul” gauge that changes colour based on whether you’re attacking or guarding.
An empty meter means the armour can be smashed off, leaving the character able to take less hits. The next time the Soul Gauge empties provides you with the opportunity to perform a finishing move. Remember the game has a history of forgiving buffering, making the controls not as precise as you’d require in say Tekken. This means most moves are slightly easier to pull off.
The character creation mode is a good addition, and I’m sure if you try this game you’ll spend a fair amount of time in there. Why the PS3 version is dark with Darth Vader playable, and Xbox 360 is light with Yoda playable, is open to interpretation. In both games you can also obtain Starkiller (Darth’s Apprentice from the upcoming Star Wars Force Unleashed game).
I’m excited about the online play and haven’t experienced too much lag so far, now all that's left to decide is if there are more players online with Xbox or PS3 and go beat some face!