SOUL CALIBUR IV XBOX 360 REVIEW

When the original Soul Calibur was released in the late 90’s, it set the standard for what would be one of the greatest 3D fighters in the history of video games. A decade later, Namco-Bandai reignites that same arcade enthusiasm through Soul Calibur IV. Seeing that today’s consoles have progressed quite nicely, the new Soul Calibur has definitely taken a more cutting edge approach graphically and technically. The latest changes not only provide old-timers and new comers with another round of fluid fighting performance but also an accessible combat system. The latest installment of Soul Calibur certainly sets a benchmark in weaponry-related combat. However, some of the recent gameplay adaptations may take awhile to accept.

The game features an amazing culture of visual refinements that set the stage for scintillating battles and immersive fighting experiences. Right from the start, players are pulled in to the ensuing mesh of sensational lighting effects that are nicely communicated not just from the respective backgrounds but the clashing of swords as well. The environments are full of lavish details and character designs are the best we have seen in the annals of Soul Calibur. The cutscenes between battles deliver an enlightening content and let players connect with the main story as they continue their quest for truth and reveal the objectives of each character once the legendary sword is found. Besides the overwhelming appeal surrounding Soul Calibur’s universe, it’s the game’s incredible animation that provides the lasting impression.

In the animation department, character movements are relatively smooth and the addition of destructible environment helps dispense a dynamic fighting scenario. Players are able to crush away walls or leave permanent damage on the ground as they slam their opponent into these concrete surfaces. The one setback to Soul Calibur IV’s overall presentation is the inefficient process for loading content that sometimes takes away the heightened reaction for the ensuing match. At least, there are no frame rate issues. The gameplay has changed quite a bit. Some of the personal combos that have been your bread and butter through the years may not work here. That’s because the developer has introduced new elements of attacks in combination with the “charging” of the directional commands. So far all your favorite moves are well accounted for but this time you have to learn them in their new states.

There is no doubt the list of offensive moves have grown exponentially, but some of you may not like the fact that the pace of your attacks have been toned down a bit. The purpose behind this idea is to avoid repeated cheap shots. In the earlier versions of Soul Calibur, it was tough getting out of your opponent’s long string of combos and victories were simply decided on who can hit the buttons first. With the new fighting mechanics in place, the gameplay has become more strategy-based and allows new comers to settle in instead of being setup as a punching bag. One of the latest moves that have been put into action this year is the technique called Soul Crush, part of the new Soul Gauge system. It’s a nice one-hit kill application but not all impractical considering how difficult it is to force your opponent in a vulnerable position.

Soul Crush takes into effect when your opponent blocks too much, sending his or her health bar in a flashing state. In this instance, you have a chance to end the match quickly with one fatal move. But how often do you see opponents block for long period of time when the match is anything but a cornucopia of relentless swordplay? Seeing as Soul Crush is a painstaking maneuver, it’s still worth watching the eye-catching sequence as it unfolds. Other playable options worth raving about Soul Calibur IV is the “Tower of Lost Souls.” It works like any survival mode except that you’re given battle-specific conditions to complete a particular section of the tower. Each section might represent two or three floors, and each floor could contain up to three or four interlaced matches. Objectives may range from knocking opponents out of the ring to rallying up four or more counter hits at any given level.

Of all the single-player modes available in Soul Calibur IV, Tower of Lost Souls is the most entertaining. This is where you unlock most of the game’s hidden items such as new armors and weapons. You will need gold coins to be able to purchase and equip these unlockables. The opponents you face in the Tower of Lost Souls come with carefully match skill sets, giving you plenty of challenges to test out your wits. As you ascend (and later descend) the long flight of stairs, defeating multiple groups of enemies will become a much tougher undertaking. But the real challenge in trying to survive the Tower of Lost Souls is not having your health replenished. Instead whatever energy you have left in the last match carries on to the next. Thankfully, the game has provided players with Guard Impact. What’s nice about Guard Impact is that it allows you to repel or parry opponent’s attack based on the directional commands.

Guard Impact is still rough around the edges but when performed properly can be very effective. Since both parties are going to be momentarily stunned, the player who uses the Guard Impact successfully is able to move first and has the advantage in the fight. It’s going take a lot of luck to get the right “impact”. Being able to create your own character is one of the key moments of Soul Calibur IV. And building one is quite an amusement in its self. The collection of wardrobes and weapons that you could equip yourself with is as flamboyant as the era that depicted it. You can change your voice pitch of your character, muscularity, and the type of additional skills you can use in the battle like Impact Heal, Nullify Ring, and HP Recovery to name a few. Whatever fighting gears you choose will affect your ability to stave off your enemies. The percent meter on the side will tell you how good your warrior is.

The cool part of designing your character is that nothing is permanent; you’ll be able to continually exchange items for better parts. Of course, you’ll need some gold coins to be able to upgrade your equipments and you earn them by winning matches in both story and arcade modes, as well as completing certain conditions in Tower of Lost Souls. Just about every item can be improved, not just your basic attacks, defense, and health attributes, but also your skill points including power, impact, boost, gauge, and special. It’s easy to see why Soul Calibur IV is an epic fighting game considering the technical changes that were made to please the next generation of players who demands more bang for their buck. And Soul Calibur IV delivers most of these high expectations. Overall, the game is certainly a transcending experience.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5 OUT OF 10