Japan: August 5, 1999
North America: 9.9.99 (I just can't help myself!)
Europe: December 1, 1999
Standard Controller, Arcade Stick
[Video courtesy of "Its Still Thinking". If you dig the gameplay footage, go grab RDC's impressive Soul Calibur ISO release and bust out a few combos of your own!]
SOUL CALIBUR!!! is a 3D arcade fighting game released in 1998 by Namco. It's the successor to the lesser known Soul Edge arcade which was released in 1996 (later released on home platform as Soul Blade). One of the first 3D fighting titles under the weapon based fighter sub-genre (the other being Toshinden), Soul Calibur's cast is well varied and diverse thanks in part to the games central focus on weapon combat, providing the user many options among playstyles to discover. The games control scheme is a simple yet elegant 4 button layout encompassing a Block (guard) button, Horizontal attack, Vertical attack and Kick. Soul's general techniques are abundant like "Soul Charge" (virtually useless IMO) and the more worthwhile defensive variations in its "Guard Impact" system that provides the defender various types of parries to halt an aggressors assault and attack back accordingly. Perhaps the most groundbreaking feature to Soul Calibur name is the 8-way run. This implemented system of movement provides players with complete access to move about in all 8 directions on the playfield. Furthermore, its execution is impressively implemented, making it an effortless task to gain access to this level of freedom during heated battles. Because of the nature of weapon based combat where positioning, proper spacing and the possible threat of "Ring Outs" are perilous, the 8-way run system gels smoothly with the games blueprint fighting formula which clearly compliment casual players and advanced veterans alike.
For some reason i was under the impression that RDC had already written a review for its respective Soul Calibur release some time ago. After some research, the closest I could find on the blog was a amusing story involving ebay, alchohol, a party and Soul Calibur, and not in that particular order... Oh wait... ehem!
...A Tale of Souls and Swords, Eternally Retold!... yup that about sums it up.
WELCOME BACK TO THE STAGE OF HISTORY! Contrary to some info that's out there, Soul Calibur's original inception is the involvement of Namco's own arcade board dubbed "System 12" (not NAOMI!). When porting the game over to the Dreamcast, developer "Project Soul" faced the daunting task of porting over their game to hardware that although was more powerful than their in-house tech, was also ultimately different... not to mention a very tight deadline they had to do this in to have the game ready for the consoles inaugural launch date in the states. While it was pretty clear that absolutely nothing of the original arcade version of Soul Calibur would be left out of the home conversion, the real testament of the developers craft lay perhaps on what was possible to further improve the product as a whole with this new technology found under the Dreamcast's hood. The latter became a rather staggering result when the game was finally unveiled to the public. For the first time in the industry, a console version unquestionably looked superior to its arcade forefather. Higher Polygon count, smoother textures, little to no polygonal tearing on the character models as well as independent physics on hair and clothing. Collision vastly improved among combat, majority of the battlegrounds assets went from stale 2D images to wonderful 3D! I'm someone who truly appreciates the little things in life, as such i am pleasantly delighted with the games lighting and clashing effects! You all owe it to yourselves to someday play this game with VGA ouput. You just gotta!
BATTLE 1 FIGHT! Soul's audio is of the highest calibur (pun intended!) indeed. Music is wonderfully orchestrated, elevating the games epic scope beyond anything ever heard in a fighting game at the time. Dialogue feels spot on for just about the entire cast adding a nice dimension to their personalities and providing an additional layer of realism. Sound FX like footsteps, floor slams and weapon clashing sound practically perfect to the ears! The audio in Soul IMO impresses just as much as the visuals do to the whole game.
THE LEGEND WILL NEVER DIE! That quote seems very fitting to Soul Calibur doesn't it. Was the game truly deserving of all the accolades it achieved back then. I would say so (I still fondly remember all the buzz the game generated back in the day). But what about now? Whats my take on it as I write this review some 12 years later. Hmm... The game was clearly and still is one of the killer apps of the Dreamcast. In return, I feel the Soul series owes so much to the Dreamcast platform for propelling it to the greatness it garnered (let's be real here! no one knew or cared for Soul Calibur when it was in the arcades and i'm sure it would have stayed that way if Namco had decided to port the game to the Playstation like they originally intended to). Is the game really perfect even today, Nah! but even by today's standards, its pretty damn close.