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Soul Calibur

What makes a game perfect? Is it incredible graphics, or perhaps exquisite game play? Or could the perfect game be based on the fun factor alone? While Soul Calibur has been called ‘the perfect game’ by many people, I beg to differ… Flawless? No. A must-buy Dreamcast game? Absolutely, without question!

Soul Calibur is Namco’s first ‘better than arcade’ port to Sega’s Dreamcast. Following the story-line of Soul Blade, the game’s prequel, SC takes place in a period of time when swords were the weapon of choice and pirates roamed the open sea. You are able to choose from a wide variety of fighters that only Namco could have created, ranging from the nunchaku-wielding Maxi to the ax-handling Astaroth. Each character has his or her very own fighting style and weapon, and although they can be accused of some glaring imbalances in initial strengths and weaknesses, every fighter can be used to achieve victory, with a modicum of skill.

Before I go off on my complaint with Soul Calibur, let me hit on all of the highlights that really make this title shine. First, the most impressive facet of the game has to be its amazing graphics. Using the DC’s processing muscle to its greatest effect, Soul Calibur blows the competition away. Even hard core Virtua Fighter 3 fanatics can’t contest to the sheer beauty of Soul Calibur. Instead of just upping the poly count on the System-12 arcade version of the game, the talented folks over at Namco of Japan have used original models exclusively for the Dreamcast port. This not only takes the character detail to the next level, but also gives the illusion of playing a fully-CG FMV, right on your DC! The characters of Calibur also have their very own facial animations, and the first time I saw Mitsurugi speaking with perfect lip synch, my jaw just dropped to the floor in awe… The game looks that good!

While Soul Calibur's graphics may appeal to the masses, every hard core gamer knows that a fighter isn’t worth the CD (Or GD, in this case) it’s burned on without stunning game play and intense strategy. The current fighting community seems to be split into three factions – The 2-D purist, fans of Virtua Fighter realism, and Tekken 'button smashers'. While I, myself claim allegience to the Virtua Fighter series, I have to admit that Soul Calibur definitely appeals to all three types of fighting game fanatics. At first blush, Soul Calibur may seem like a mindless button smasher... but once you allow yourself the time to get completely engrossed in the game play, you’ll see that SC is almost as technical and strategic as the 'sacred' Virtua Fighter series. A beginner may be able to pick up a controller and give you a good beating with Maxi, but a master will quickly break any hopeful rookie’s will, with powerful guards and circling dodges.

Unfortunately, this leads me to Soul Calibur's only detectable flaw... while professed SC masters may think that they can manhandle any selectable character, the ugly truth is that some of the game's characters are completely over- and under-powered. Case in point: After completely slaughtering a few self-proclaimed Calibur sausages at E3 this year, I was completely eroded by a kid who decided to choose the ‘Eddy’ (A term every Tekken player should know) of SC, Maxi. While not a major downfall, I can’t help but think that some of the characters should have been slowed down, or powered down, in order to allow for a 100% level playing field.

That being said, I still think Soul Calibur is as close to perfect as any fighting game has ever been. While my quest for the perfect fighter will continue (I’m beginning to feel like Ryu with a big duffel bag over my shoulder) Soul Calibur has completely satisfied my fighting hunger with gorgeous graphics and incredibly fun gameplay. If you haven’t already bought this game for your DC, you owe it to yourself to drop what you’re doing now and run, don't walk, to the local software shop and grab a copy!

- Rick Mears


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