If you’re looking for an entertaining 3D fighting game that has a healthy number of modes and one that isn’t afraid to try new things, Soulcalibur III won’t disappoint.
When the original Soulcalibur came our for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, the three-dimensional fighting game felt like a breath of fresh air for the genre. After all, Soulcalibur is still considered ones of the best 3D fighting games ever made, since it had fluid combat, lush visuals, fantastic audio and simple to pick up, yet hard to master gameplay. But if you think about it, Soulcalibur III is the third game to come out in the same generation of consoles and even though the second entry was well received by both critics and fans of the series, can this third iteration inject the series with the energy and adrenaline it needs to keep both newcomers and fans of the series interested?
As most of you probably know, Soulcalibur III is a three-dimensional fighting game. The control scheme lets you perform horizontal strikes, vertical strikes, kicks, use a defend position (also known as guard) and you can even grab the opponent to perform melee attacks. But as in most fighting games, you need to combine different attacks to pull off a devastating combo that knocks out your opponent. These are the basics of Soulcalibur and while the combat is much deeper than that (there are advanced techniques, such as Ukemi, guard impact, just impact, soul charge and so on,) the best part about the series is that pretty much anyone can pick up a controller and perform some flashy attacks. Something that fans of the series will immediately notice that some attacks from popular characters (the one that immediately comes to mind is Ivy) are completely different. Although this is annoying because you need to memorize those moves again, I’m pretty sure these changes were made to balance the game and make some characters less powerful.
There’s a healthy number of modes to choose from for both single-player and multiplayer. These modes are Museum, Soul Arena, World Competition, Tales of Souls, Chronicles of the Sword, Character Creation and Vs. Mode. Finally, there’s a shop where you can acquire weapons and other cosmetic items, including armor, items to customize characters, extra modes, illustrations, art and trailers.
One of the most interesting additions is the new mode where you can create characters and use them in pretty much any mode you can think of. Appropriately named Character Creation, this mode allows you to use the robust tools provided by the game to change individual parts of a given character (hair, costume, weapons and more) or create someone from scratch. The character you create can be used in Soul Arena, Practice and Vs. Standard modes. Although there are multiple options to create characters (I’ve seen everything from Cloud from Final Fantasy VII to Bill Gates,) it’s worth mentioning that the characters you create have a limited number of jobs to choose from. Jobs determine the equipment and style of play from each characters, so even though you create a character with something specific in mind, the movements are exactly the same as those from a character from the main roster, such as Mitsurugi or Talim.
Since we’re talking about the roster, there are some new additions that fit in nicely. These characters are Sazalamel who uses a giant scythe, Setsuka who uses a parasol and Tira who uses a pair of deadly hula-hoops. You can also play in new locations. Overall, there are 18 stages and some of them are truly breathtaking, since they are full of nice little touches. In one particular stage, for instance, there are cherry blossoms as far as the eye can see and you can see the petals falling during the fight. The entire game is also impressive from a visual perspective as well, since it’s full of flashy special effects (for example, when weapons clash or when you perform a flashy combo.)
But one of the modes that will probably catch your attention is a new one called Chronicles of the Sword where you create a character and participate in a game that’s half real-time strategy game and half-fighting game. During the strategy part, your character is basically a unit that you move in turns in a large overworld map and whenever that unit encounters an enemy, a fight takes place. If the fight’s successful, you receive experience points that improve your health and other attributes, but if you lose, you retreat and lose some health. This mode sounded compelling at first, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying, since all the compelling ideas were mashed up together in a boring and predictable way. Also, interruptions constantly disrupt the pace of the game.
In Tales of Souls you follow each character’s story, but the path you take determines the ending you get when you reach the final episode. Some special events are set and they repeat in the story regardless of the character you choose. Also, some specific quick time events appear during the cutscenes and if you fail, you lose some health or start the fight poisoned. The structure of this mode is fairly simple, you fight enemies in a succession, but every now and then, you need to defend from random enemies called bandits before time runs out.
Despite its strengths, the game isn’t without some annoying technical problems. The most serious one is an error that happens if you have the auto-save feature turned on (take into account that this is on by default.) Basically, this causes the save data to get corrupted and you lose all the progress you’ve made. To solve this, you need to start a new save with the auto-save turned off and never change it again. No one knew about this problem until the game came out, so you won’t find a warning in the game or its manual.
As in most Japanese-developed fighting game, Soulcalibur has some problems with sexism, so you’ll see that most female characters are oversexualized, using revealing outfits, big breasts that bounce constantly and so on. There’s also hammy voice acting, long loading times and the story is full of cliches.
Despite its problems Soulcalibur III is a solid fighting game that keeps some of the best aspects of the series and incorporates some compelling ideas. Some additions are better than others and while the most promising modes (mainly the character creation and Chronicles of the Sword) are not worth your time, this is still a fighting game worth getting excited about. If you’re looking for an entertaining 3D fighting game that has a healthy number of modes and one that isn’t afraid to try new things, Soulcalibur III won’t disappoint. This tales of souls is worth playing.