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Chris Sell
16 Nov, 2005

Soul Calibur III Review

PS2 Review | The soul still burns.
As with the past games, the story is commendably solid for a fighting game. In the original Soul Blade on the PSone, a man named Siegfried found a cursed blade, the Soul Edge, and let its raw power consume his soul. He became Nightmare, a ferocious monster hell bent on the destruction of anything that stood in his path. Now, in Soul Calibur III, Siegfried has separated himself from the cursed Soul Edge sword and is on a quest to seal the sword forever. Nightmare, on the other hand, is hunting Siegfried so that he may re-join with him. Of course, there are an abundance of various other warriors that have their own reasons to pursue Nightmare and/or Siegfried, or have personal agendas entirely separate from the main storyline. It’s very much what we have come to expect from Namco’s classic fighting series, with each character having its own back-story explained beforehand; then finishing with their own unique ending.

Anyone who has played either of the previous Soul Calibur games will know right away what to expect here. On the surface you'll be glad to know not a lot has changed. All the familiar characters from Soul Calibur 2 have most of their moves from the first game still intact, thought some are different to perform this time around. For example, I’ve noticed a couple of stances for Mitsurugi and Ivy are different, while others have been given new moves in place of their old ones to improve general balance. In a nod to what SEGA did with some of their ‘similar’ Virtua Fighter characters, Nightmare now plays distinctly different to Siegfried, more so than ever before, as do Kilik/Seung Mina and Astaroth/Rock, all featuring many different moves based around their similar weaponry instead of being subtle clones of the other ‘more important’ characters.

Soul Calibur III introduces 3 new main characters. Zasalamel, a scythe-wielding warrior who desires the Soul Edge intending to use it to end his eternal life, is a great addition. He feels like a more athletic Astaroth with his scythe offering power at range. Setsuka is a sinister geisha with a Zatoichi-style blade hidden away inside her umbrella handle. Her style is very powerful and precise and reminds me a lot of Akira from Virtua Fighter in the way she moves and attacks in sharp, concise bursts, tearing you apart in seconds. Finally, there’s Tira, who visually looks somewhat out of place in the Soul Calibur universe with her costume somewhat reminiscent of ‘Poison Ivy’ from Batman. Her razor-bladed hula hoop is an interesting weapon, but her fighting style isn’t quite as free flowing as maybe it could have been.

New comer Zasalamel takes on veteran Mitsurugi.

New comer Zasalamel takes on veteran Mitsurugi.
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The actual fighting remains true to the style of the past games with each flat arena having edges for 'ring outs'. Whether these edges are all the way around or just on certain sides depends on what stage you’re on so movement must be a lot more tactical, especially now some walls are destructible. In terms of size they're about the same as in Soul Calibur 2 which is definitely a good thing in my eyes. The fighting itself is as beginner friendly as always, but there are mountains of strategies and techniques to learn on the way. The controls are simple with blocking handled with a single button, while other buttons deal with horizontal and vertical slashes along with kicks too. The usual array of throws, unblockable attacks and counters are all at your fingertips with various strings of button and dpad combinations. The game actually offers a rather extensive training mode which is split into various categories meaning that finding what you want to learn is simple. From simplicity of throws to the more advanced practices like guard impacts, Soul Calibur III explains them clearly and teaches you them with hands on demonstrations.

The one thing that Soul Calibur has always offered is an extensive selection of game modes and options and Namco sure didn’t disappoint this time either. The main mode is the ‘Tales of Souls’, and is your main source of winning gold to spend at the shops to buy new weapons, clothes, artwork, etc. Here we have what is basically your standard ‘Arcade’ mode intertwined with story, mission-based fights and interactive cutscenes. You’ll fight around 10-12 fights in all as you guide your character through his/her story, battling opponents and taking part in the odd themed mission. These missions usually involve fighting an enemy with a certain characteristic so that they can only be hurt in a certain way. The ‘Soul Arena’ contains many more of these modes that are set out in a score attack format with bronze, silver and gold settings for each of the missions. These missions have you collecting coins dropped by an injured foe, fighting on a spinning platform with no walls and all other kinds of specifics. The ‘Soul Arena’ also features a standard ‘Quick Play’ mode which is a no frills arcade-style series of one-on-one matches.

A well publicized part of Soul Calibur III is the new ‘create-a-character’ mode; an options that arguably long overdue in the genre. As far as options and customizability goes it’s hard to fault. There’s endless combinations of costumes, hair styles and accessories you could create so you could quite easily make dozens of very different looking fighters if you wanted. Unfortunately, there’s something not quite right about it. For starters, they quite don’t match up graphically with the existing characters, a fear I had since first hearing of this creation mode. The faces lack details by comparison and often you will find certain clothes look messy on certain character shapes. In terms of how they play, most of the styles are somewhat uncomfortable. With most of their attacks feeling like a like mixture of pre-existing characters and moves, they give you anywhere near the same desire to learn them as the existing characters. They also feel unbalanced at times, especially those with projectile attacks, making 2 player contests disjointed.

Maxi’s stage from Soul Calibur makes a return.

Maxi’s stage from Soul Calibur makes a return.
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As well as for general fighting, created characters are also needed for the new ‘Chronicles of the Sword’, which to be honest, is as equally awkward as the create mode. Here you have a real-time strategy game mixed with one-on-one fighting with a few RPG elements thrown in there too. Here, your mission goals tend to involves either capturing or defending strongholds to control portions of the world map. When units of opposing teams meet you are sent into battle using the standard fighting engine with your created characters. While it’s not the disaster that some of Tekken’s extra modes have been in the past, it never really evolves to anything more than making sure you attack in great numbers and is ultimately uninspiring to play as a result. And let’s be honest, people buy Soul Calibur for its fighting, so it’s a shame that they even bothered wasting development time on this.

Especially when you consider some of the niggling fault and omissions this game has. For starters, the computer AI is inconsistent. After Virtua Fighter 4:Evolution, the standard for AI in fighting games was set to a new level. The AI had a lot of human traits, it was ruthless, it had believable reflexes and it even shared some bad habits only a human would have. In Soul Calibur III, the AI is either disappointingly slow or Jedi-like in its reactions and decision making. Just playing through the ‘Tales of Souls’ mode and most of your fights won’t prove much of a problem. But come up against the likes of Setsuka, Zasalamel or Mitsurugi for example and you can be pressing the start button to retry again and again for ages until you manage to beat them. Commendably, the final boss isn’t the usual cheesy cheapness you expect from a Namco fighter, but the inconsistent AI throughout the game will frustrate enough to make up for it. The fact that you cannot set a difficulty level for this mode means you could be suffering for a long time. Of course, once you become experienced at the game the mode becomes too much on the easy side.

Graphically, Soul Calibur III squeezes as much as it can from the PS2. The Dead or Alive game still hold the crown of the best looking fighter, but Namco’s game stands tall above Virtua Fight 4: Evolution and is probably more consistently beautiful than [i]Tekken 5. The characters while similar to those in Soul Calibur 2, have even more detail and texture with clothes actually looking like they are on the character rather than spray painted textures on the skin. The arenas are a treat too with varying ground textures like grass, cobble stones and wooden boards matching the incredibly varied selection of backgrounds perfectly. There’s clock towers, burning mansions, pirate ships and even some old favourites from the original Soul Calibur re-envisioned here. The animation is just as superb as always with smooth, believable swings and slashes with the entire multitude of weaponry featured throughout the game. There's a few clipping issues with some of the less conventional weapons that you unlock/pick up in the shops, but it’s really nothing to worry about. Menu's are all clear and very well presented and, as expected, all of the unlockable art work is of a constant high standard. The weapon design especially must also be applauded. On a personal level I must say that some of the new costumes aren’t as appealing as in the past games, but that’s subjective to individual taste anyway. There’s a few framerate splutters here and there, but for the most part the game is as smooth as silk. It also has 16:9 and progressive scan support for those who are capable.

Setsuka - always prepared, whatever the weather.

Setsuka - always prepared, whatever the weather.
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The soundtrack is as impressive as it has ever been. Packed full with memorable, epic tunes, Namco rarely fails when it comes to music. There’s even some classic tunes remixed that’ll warm the hearts of Soul Calibur veterans. Kudos again to Namco for making good use of surround sound in a fighting game. The sound effects are brilliant with every weapon having a slightly different sound, which, when you consider there are well over 100 weapons on offer, is a huge feat. The Surround Sound support works surprisingly well too. A great example is in the volcano cave level, character/weapon noises will echo further in the rear speakers. It really does add to the whole attachment of player to the fight. Voice work is present throughout the game, though thankfully there’s the option for both English and Japanese settings so you don’t have to suffer the awful American soundbytes throughout the game.

Other than the problems I mentioned earlier, there are a few other niggles that spoil the game somewhat. Team Battle, something that’s been in the series from the start, hasn’t been included which is a shame, especially given the size of the roster on offer here. There’s also no records page now either, so finding out your total time played, usage and success rate with each character isn’t possible anymore. Oh, and the lack of online support is a disappointment, especially considering how well Dead or Alive Ultimate and Mortal Kombat: Deception have offered it recently. Taking the time in carefully making your own character would have been given a whole new precedence had you been able to take on the world with them.

But, from the moment the opening FMV starts you can see that Soul Calibur III is going to be a top quality game. With its extensive array of modes available to the player, along with its ambitious create-a-fighter mode, Soul Calibur III is arguably what many believed Soul Calibur 2 should have been. It’s not without its faults, the create mode lacks polish, the ‘RTS’ mode is a waste of time for the majority of people and the AI lacks consistency, but there’s no denying Soul Calibur III is a fine game. Even by not including created characters you’re looking at over 20 fighters to learn, so there’s plenty here for fighting game fans to sink their teeth into. Fighting games always excel in multiplayer, and Soul Calibur III is no different, but as far as single player fighting games go, you’ll find few that can offer the amount of quality and depth of Soul Calibur III.
The Score
In many ways, the real sequel to the Dreamcast classic. With better AI and online support it would have scored as highly as its past games, but things have moved on since then. So, it has its faults, but there’s no denying that Soul Calibur III is a top quality fighting game that shouldn’t be missed.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Soul Calibur III Content

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17 Comments
8 years ago
Now, just need to get myself a PS2...
(Yes I know I've said this many time before but... yeah...)

Piss off at the fact is only on PS2,
Link rocks as a character
8 years ago
I STILL think the character design in Soul Calibur is better than the SCII & SCIII. Yes, the sequels are throwing around more polygons than the Dreamcast original, but there's just something missing from the look...hmm...

I'll still buy this though... Eventually. And when it's halved in price.
8 years ago
SC2 got boring to quick, hopefully this will be more worthwhile.
8 years ago
I still need to pick up SC2. I loved the original on my DC. I still can't decide between the Xbox or Cube version. The bonus characters don't mean much to me, so I guess it really comes down to control and graphics. Any suggestions?
8 years ago
I'm probably not going to pick this up, mainly because I've become damn good with Voldo in Sc2 (1K and 4A = zomg1!!"), and I don't want to rebuild skills because of some tweaks and nerfs to his frames, etc. It's tempting though...
8 years ago
Spanca wrote
I still need to pick up SC2. I loved the original on my DC. I still can't decide between the Xbox or Cube version. The bonus characters don't mean much to me, so I guess it really comes down to control and graphics. Any suggestions?
The Cube one dude, I'd play all 3 before I got the game & I would have to say the cube's pad was perfect for it. The lay-out of the button & the cude's D-pad was far easier to the the moves. Much easier then the Xbox's for those Down, down-right, right, sort of moves.

As for the graphics's, I don't think there's much for a different between the two. Load time for both is real short compare to the PS2 one.
& I would personally use Link over Spawn any day of the week if I was to chose.
8 years ago
Damn Capcom, WHY IS THIS GAME NOT ON GAMECUBE???????

Aparently, Soul Calibur 2 sold more on GCN than on ps2 and xbox put together, CAPCOM DO NOT LISTEN!!!!!
8 years ago
tbenton wrote
Damn Capcom, WHY IS THIS GAME NOT ON GAMECUBE???????

Aparently, Soul Calibur 2 sold more on GCN than on ps2 and xbox put together, CAPCOM DO NOT LISTEN!!!!!
Yeah! You should go yell at Capcom HQ!

It's made by Namco

Sorry, cheap joke. Your point is fine!
8 years ago
I've got both the GC and Xbox version of SC2 and they look the same. The GC pad is probably the more suited of the two but I used sticks anyway. The Xbox version supports progressive scan though so that might be a deal breaker as to which verison of Nacmo's fighter youo get icon_razz.gif
8 years ago
I know what Nacmo version Io'd get. icon_razz.gif

Sucks that it's PS2 only, 'tis a shame I'll miss out on this one.
8 years ago
Chris wrote
I've got both the GC and Xbox version of SC2 and they look the same. The GC pad is probably the more suited of the two but I used sticks anyway. The Xbox version supports progressive scan though so that might be a deal breaker as to which verison of Nacmo's fighter youo get icon_razz.gif
Isn't progressive scan (and support for component cables) disabled on PAL Xboxes?

Pro scan is also disabled in software on PAL Gamecubes, but (more importantly) component is fully supported, and if you use a freeloader and a NTSC disc pro scan also works fine. Also, SC2 has a great 50Hz 625 line conversion on GC, so a PAL GC with component cables and PAL SC2 has the best picture quality of any version in the world.

So in PAL, the GC version has better output options. The XB version has better sound (Dolby digital compared to Dolby pro logic 2 on the GC), but only if you have a $5000 bose 6.1 system will you notice the difference.

(of course, these points are actually releveant to most PAL games between the systems)
8 years ago
Yeah, you're right it's made by Namco.
But I will go and yell at capcom anyway after they stuffed up the new viewtiful joe game.
8 years ago
David wrote
Chris wrote
I've got both the GC and Xbox version of SC2 and they look the same. The GC pad is probably the more suited of the two but I used sticks anyway. The Xbox version supports progressive scan though so that might be a deal breaker as to which verison of Nacmo's fighter youo get icon_razz.gif
Isn't progressive scan (and support for component cables) disabled on PAL Xboxes?

Pro scan is also disabled in software on PAL Gamecubes, but (more importantly) component is fully supported, and if you use a freeloader and a NTSC disc pro scan also works fine. Also, SC2 has a great 50Hz 625 line conversion on GC, so a PAL GC with component cables and PAL SC2 has the best picture quality of any version in the world.

So in PAL, the GC version has better output options. The XB version has better sound (Dolby digital compared to Dolby pro logic 2 on the GC), but only if you have a $5000 bose 6.1 system will you notice the difference.

(of course, these points are actually releveant to most PAL games between the systems)
It's easy enough to get progressive scan out of a PAL Xbox, you just need a special Splinter Cell or Mechassault save file and you can run some linux software to allow you to change your video output to NTSC icon_smile.gif
8 years ago
Nice review may think of getting this once the price goes down. icon_smile.gif
8 years ago
Wait, are you telling me that PAL Xboxes have never supported anything higher than 480i??

Is that why they stopped selling the component cables here as people found out it was a scam?
8 years ago
Possibly. Progressive scan was disabled in PAL Xbox's where the PAL60 option is instead. But as I said, it's very easy to do. You just need a copy of the original Splinter Cell or Mechassault and an action replay/max drive to transfer a special save file from a PC. You then copy the save to your Xbox, load Splinter Cell, run the save file and it'll open a Linux software where you simply press A for NTSC or B for PAL video output. It doesn't make your Xbox NTSC, all your PAL games will still work fine, it just means the video output is that of a NTSC Xbox.
8 years ago
Too much effort icon_sad.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Namco
Developer:
  Namco
Players:
  1-2

Extra:
16:9
DPLII surround sound

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