- October 25, 2005 00:00 AM PT
Soulcalibur III is a solid sequel, but it bites off a bit more than it can chew.
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Something Old, Something New
In designing Soulcalibur III, the primary focus seems to rest on the concept of "more." As in, more characters (28 main fighters, plus other "bonus characters"), more modes, and more glitzy special moves. But more isn't automatically better. Take, for example, Soulcalibur III's new mini-game Chronicle of the Sword, which blends fighting, strategy, and role-playing. Though it's a neat premise, the muddled execution makes it just a curiosity. Same goes for the new Character Creation mode, which is not nearly as comprehensive as it could have been--most of your alterations are literally skin deep.
The single-player mode is business-as-usual, with one major exception: the CPU-controlled fighters are wildly schizophrenic, swinging from idiotic bumbling to Superman-style feats of skill in the blink of an eye. No matter: the two-player versus mode is the main draw here, and it's still fiendishly addictive. But this game desperately needs an online multiplayer mode. Whaddup, Namco?
Cloak and Dagger
The graphics, at least, look predictably spectacular, particularly the breathtakingly-detailed battle locales. It's a shame, then, that Soulcalibur III highlights special attacks with excessive special effects like purple flames and gaudy green lightning bolts. The game really doesn't benefit from this razzle-dazzle treatment; it's like smearing thick scarlet lipstick and black mascara on Natalie Portman in an attempt to make her look "hotter." Worse, the effects cause occasional bouts of brief slowdown. Soulcalibur III features the sweeping soundtrack you remember--more or less--from all the previous games, as well as a smattering of grunts, booms, and clangs.
Yet Another Friggin' Tale of Souls and Swords
Obviously, Namco can't continue to pile on more moves, game modes, and graphical enhancements: at some point, something's gotta give. The missing online play is one major sore point, but what's most surprising is that Namco didn't even bundle in playable versions of Soulcalibur and Soul Blade. Tekken fans got the first three Tekken games for free with Tekken 5, so why not Soulcalibur fans?
As it stands, Soulcalibur 3 is a complicated beast. Is it the best Soulcalibur game ever? You bet...but not by as huge a margin as you might have hoped.