Soulcalibur IV

Soulcalibur IV Review at GamersWithJobs.com

Fighting games aren't dead. Just because everyone's too busy playing Call of Duty 4 doesn't mean that the soul doesn't still burn. Soulcalibur and its sequels transcend other fighting games in the hearts and minds of gamers who remember just how super-rad the Dreamcast was, and the newest entry not only lives up to the previous entries but even exceeds them by adding online play that actually works. Soulcalibur IV hones the greatest series in the fighting game genre to a razor-sharp point, reminding gamers why fighting games are so damn fun in the first place.

Name aside, this is actually the fifth installment of the Soul series. It's easy to forget original game Soul Edge when compared to the unbridled awesomeness of the Dreamcast's Soulcalibur. What was a mildly entertaining, arcade fighter became the premiere launch title for Sega's little white box, with the port's addition of a complex Missions Mode, graphics that surpassed the original coin-op version, hilarious melodrama and perfectly balanced gameplay. It's not hyperbole to say that Soulcalibur was legendary, and that this newest edition holds the tradition is a sweet miracle.

Compared to other fighters, Soulcalibur IV's single player modes are a tour de force. The standard Arcade mode, typically the only real single player option in other games, is the mode you'll probably spend the least amount of time in. Story mode offers five distinctive levels for each character, often throwing up to four enemies at the player per level. Each of the five battles in story mode is paced with a disarming intensity and frequently pits you against multiple consecutive foes. Drop one enemy and the next will rush into the fray, leaving hardly a moment to catch your breath. Make it through these levels and you'll get to face Algol, King of All Fighters and bearer of a tragic spiky haircut. He's a fierce competitor -- especially for looking so dorky -- but his fight rarely feels as cheap as the bosses in, say, Dead or Alive or Tekken. Your reward for dethroning the king is a special cutscene and normally new unlocked characters.

Tower of Lost Souls is where you'll spend most of your time. Like the Mission modes of past games, you'll be presented with stages that offer unique challenges, typically based around your enemies skills. New to the series is the Tag-Team concept, allowing you to choose more than one character for each mission and swap between them during a fight with a tap of the right bumper. Switching on the fly will often save you from certain doom, as many of the levels in Tower of Lost Souls pit you against large groups of enemies. Also different from past games are the rewards for completing each mission. The rewards of each stage have to be unlocked by meeting specific criteria during your fight -- winning without taking damage, switching characters 3 or more times, or destroying sections of the arena are just a few examples. While Tower of Lost Souls doesn't have the complexity of previous mission modes, there are a metric ton of unlockables to keep compulsive collectors plenty busy.

Those unlockables are vital for the extraordinarily deep character creation mode. Just like in Soulcalibur III, you can create your own overly-dramatic warrior and set his or her soul alight. Your custom avatar can use any of the attack templates of the existing characters in the game, though unique fighter profiles like the Dancer are sadly gone. After tweaking her skin and hair color, pose, voice, musculature and preference of Jell-O flavor, you'll outfit your toon with a large variety of equipment, including the unlocked gear discovered in Tower of Lost Souls. Each piece of armor affects the character's battle stats, allowing for an outrageous amount of customization for your new warrior.

As if that wasn't overwhelming enough, each fighter can be given customized skills out of five different categories. As your fighter increases in level and gets better gear, you'll earn access to the more powerful skills, including invisibility and toxic attacks. If you forgot at this point that you were playing a fighting game instead of WoW, that's okay. Soulcalibur IV has all the intricacy of a role-playing game but with the added bonus of getting to pummel your opposition instead of rolling dice.

Of course, the real appeal of a fighting game is the multiplayer. Soulcalibur IV adds on to its stellar Versus mode with Online play via both Xbox Live and PSN. Contrary to reports, my experience in online soul burning was overwhelmingly positive. Battles with friends in Canada and across the US were largely lag-free, though one friend was consistently dropped right before our fight would begin. Multiple gamers can meet up in a lobby and spectate as two players battle it out for imaginary supremacy. Voice chat works throughout the battles as well, even between current fighters and spectators. The whole setup is reminiscent of huddling around an arcade cabinet, waiting for your next shot to take down the current champ. It's the kind of online fighting game experience true believers have been lusting after for years, and is almost as fun as sitting in the same room with your buddies.

Soulcalibur IV stands alongside its predecessors as a landmark game. Namco Bandai would need to make massive changes to its winning formula to put tarnish on the series, like replacing everyone's weapon with french baguettes or translating the game's menus into Esperanto. But crowded in a market of Halos, Maddens, and Mass Effects, it's easy to miss that Soulcalibur IV fits alongside those outstanding, blockbuster games. With a bevy of game modes and online play that works, Soulcalibur IV is a game that should spin in everyone's console this summer. Even if you skipped the genre's heyday back in the arcades, there's plenty here to keep your soul toasty warm until the winter months and beyond.

Soulcalibur IV at GamersWithJobs.com
Soulcalibur IV at GamersWithJobs.com
Soulcalibur IV at GamersWithJobs.com
Soulcalibur IV at GamersWithJobs.com

Comments

Your custom avatar can use any of the attack templates of the existing characters in the game, though unique fighter profiles like the Dancer are sadly gone.

Though you can't make your own Jedi, only the actual Soulcalibur characters.

Nice review though. I'm thoroughly enjoying the game myself, if not as much as some others in my household.

Welcome Back to the stage of .... ermm... GWJery!

To be honest, I'm a little wary of SC4, given the bad rap that SC3 received. I'm one of those people that played the hell out of the DreamCast port of SC2, and still think its visuals are damn impressive, about on par with some PS2 games. With all the guest character artists and Star Warsing going on, I was afraid that this would be another cash-in.

But if it's as good as you profess, I'll be picking it up in a month or two. Tower of Lost Souls sounds like my kind of timesink.
*sigh*. Here's to relearning Ivy for the third time.

And boy oh boy, you weren't kidding around when you mentioned Agol's comedically overdone look

With this, Tatsunoko vs Capcom, the new Street Fighters and the newly worked King of Fighters, my 360's going to look like an arcade straight out of my teenage years!

Sounds like my kind of game. Maybe I should have been playing that instead of, or along with, Tekken all those years. Variety is the spice of, um, gaming. I've never played a fighting game where you could design your own character, that sounds awesome. I'm personally not big on the online stuff for that kind of game, but the unlockables would keep me busy for a while.

Yay Demi! Whale on that spiky haired doof!

The wiki page says his blood type is "a stream of pure power" and his fighting style is "control of the stream of power." So, I guess his technique is to not bleed too much? That's mine, too.

Is there a way to unlock Ivy's sailor uniform from SC2? I'm not fond of the new underdressed Ivy. Epaulets are where it's at.

Where the bloody hell have you been then fella?

Nice to see you back in the saddle, Mr. Banks! I had way more fun playing this than I was expecting to. So much so that I very nearly regret renting instead of buying it. The online performance, especially compared to the last Dead or Alive game, is excellent so far.

Great write-up. It really hits on all the things I found great about the game. I got completely lost - in that can't-stop-tinkering-with-this-thing way - in the character customization mode for hours the first time I went into it.

bnpederson wrote:
Though you can't make your own Jedi, only the actual Soulcalibur characters.

I was pretty bummed when I couldn't put a flowery top hat and monocle on Yoda. I'm hoping that some DLC might be extra outfits / weapons for those guys, because it's too bad the only choice there is "dirty white robe" or "dirty brown robe."

This is enough to make even ME think about playing a fighting game. Shock. Horror. Welcome home.

Can anybody comment about speed?
I only managed to play 4 matches before my xbox died.
(As a side note, I've had the xbox for about 18 months now and this was the first game I bought for full price (and on release day at that) and my xbox dies....)
It felt slow and the controller felt sluggish (which is odd because they felt fine for soul calibur 2).
Anyways since I can't check it out for myself I'd be interested to hear what other people think about it. Especially since I don't see anybody mention the difference when it's talked about.

I've had it for 2 days now - the PS3 version that is, and speed seems to me personally maybe a touch slower than SC2, but certainly not sluggish, even with the big heavy hitters (Astaroth, etc).
I'm quite enjoying myself with this, although obviously I need practice because it's been way too long for me - getting hammered regularly in SP games.

We got it, but thanks to my job schedule my experience with the game so far has been my daughter kicking my arse.

Repeatedly.

Other than that, I'm having a grand time with it.

An positive echo for the online play here. Had several matches today, made sure I only joined games with four and five bar connections and was fine.

Been playing with the Apprentice a lot. -He's quite powerful but he can be punished easily because a lot of his moves have a long recovery time.

FeddEx wrote:
I've had it for 2 days now - the PS3 version that is, and speed seems to me personally maybe a touch slower than SC2, but certainly not sluggish, even with the big heavy hitters (Astaroth, etc).
I'm quite enjoying myself with this, although obviously I need practice because it's been way too long for me - getting hammered regularly in SP games. :)

How does the PS3 HDD pre-loading (term?) affect the gameplay?

I played through Arcade mode as Mitsurugi earlier, on default difficulty. I went through every round without, hit the Apprentice in the penultimate round, and it took me over 40 minutes to finish him; I think, in that entire time, I won 5 rounds. I then went on to the final boss, and beat him without a loss.

The CPU Apprentice just seemed to spam incredibly long combos of very powerful moves; some rounds, I went to the floor on the first hit, and never got to my feet again.

Now, I am hardly a good player of fighting games, and occupy that frustrating place between button mashing and knowing the moves (I know what I should do, but the finger/brain connection fails) but I have never had such an unbalanced fight. I've played through Story mode with 5 characters, and done a few levels of the tower, but nothing like this has happened.

Has anyone else had a similar problem?

No, the Apprentice was incredibly difficult for me too. I think I found a good strategy though. When you side step, he's seems prone to start guarding. At that point, just get close and throw.

Yeah I had the same frustrating issue with the Apprentice. Spent about an hour just tying to beat him. Sometimes I'd get quite far, maybe win a round, but then he'd just give me a serious beating, juggling me like it was a circus act.
I'm like spider_j - I know a number of the moves, in my case with Taki, but it won't really work out yet. Considering the others didn't give me that much difficulty, the Apprentice fight was annoying..

@MaxShrek:
As for the loading time on the PS3, it does feel like it's a fair bit faster in loading the levels when it's installed to the HDD, but I would need to try it out on specific levels to be sure of that. I don't have a 360 so can't compare it, unfortunatly.
Other than that though, actual gameplay-wise, there's no much of a difference to me, as it's not using the disk much if at all, I think.

I'm glad that it wasn't just me! To be honest, my gameplay improved a lot during that marathon, and it only took me 10 minutes to beat him the next time I played on arcade. Spamming throws was what I worked out, as well.

I'm finding the tower disappointing; I greatly preferred the quest mode, whatever it was called, on the Dreamcast. I was really annoyed that they removed it from the XBLA version. There just isn't any actual sense of progression in the tower; just unlocking the treasure chests.

spider_j wrote:
Has anyone else had a similar problem?

My experience is it isn't just the apprentice, it's whoever the penultimate character ends up being. When I played AS the apprentice Siegfried kicked my punk ass from here to Tuesday before I managed to beat him and then beat the boss in two goes. Same with a couple of others, the AI just seems to go "okay, how do you deal with me being a cheap fighter and cheater now?" at the end there.

My first trip through the game was with Yoda. Curiosity got the best of me.

I never lost. His midget size makes him a completely cheap little b*tch of a character.

The Apprentice has taken me as long as ten minutes of repeat fights on hard difficulty, and actually as many as 15 minutes (wtf) on normal. Much like bnpenderson, when I played through as the apprentice himself I ended up getting slammed for 15 to 20 minutes by Siegfried.

Those rounds do tend to be exceptions though. I've been through the story a three or four times now on hard, the last time with Mitsurugi, and I only ended up having trouble with Taki as the last character in the final set before Algol. I'd utterly destroy the characters that came before her, usually only losing a tiny bit of life, and then hit her when she came in for almost half a health bar. Then she would proceed to start what seemed to be an almost endless impossibly complicated combo and either work me over to a ring out or just plain finish me off without me ever managing to get back up completely off the ground.

I have been playing this since the release date and its a fine addition to my library. I skipped out on SCIII, even though I absolutely played the crap of out SCII. This game brings it home. While it is a tad slower than SCII, it still holds up its speed. The new characters are very cool, one of my favorites being Hilde, who plays markedly different than any other character and has a great style.

I got this on PS3, and it is not a mandatory install but you have the option to. I played a good hour before I installed it and it really makes a difference. The load times were seeming a little long but once I installed it they were shortened enough that I didn't even think about them.

The visuals are absolutely amazing as well. Also the online play actually works out of the box. Most of my matches run just like they were offline. If there is lag, the game just pauses the fight until the connection is stable enough to continue. So if you lag you aren't going to get pummeled into oblivion and only realize it when you stop lagging. That doesn't happen very often though, it could use some overall streamlining, but that will be patched most likely.

The character creation is very cool. You can make a lot of known characters if you are feeling creative. I have made Snake, Raiden, Altair, Dante. I have seen some great ones online to like Thor and Mystique.

I spent the majority of the weekend playing this at a friend's house, including an up until 5am session on Friday night/Saturday morning. In my opinion there's no better beers-and-chums fighting game out at the moment. The five "bonus characters" (Scheherazade and the rest) are pretty pointless, seeing as they have the same movesets as the mains, but I suppose they show you what the character creation mode is capable of - I didn't really get into it much as there was plenty of throwing down to be done and it wasn't my copy of the game. The new boss, Algol, I didn't really find very playable, but Hilde is an excellent addition and is probably amongst my favourite characters. The pace is definitely slower than SC3, but this is improvement as the game becomes more tactical rather than a mashfest - though of course mashers can still get the wins in, such is the Soul Calibur way.

Astaroth has two more ground throws and a chainable airthrow.

SQUEEE!

Ivy is so different from SC2 that I will have to spend some serious time relearning her.

They changed some of my most reliable escape and return moves from Soeng Mina (though I see the bastard Kilik still has them) so I will have to relearn her too.

I haven't touched Hilde.

Cervantes is a nightmare. And absolute beast.

The apprentice I didnt find too difficult in any incarnation.

Some of the requirements for the unlockable chests are ridiculous.

I need some friends to play with on xbox live on a consistent basis. Getting ranked matches of any sort is a pain.

Astaroth has an air throw! Did I mention that? Only problem is online, that little tiny bit of lag with a slow character like the big guy makes timing that much hard.

Guard Impacts take a LOT more timing now. Especially Online.

What am I doing wrong? why can't I pull off a Critical Finish at Any time? When I go to do it, my character just holds his hand up to his head like he has a migraine.

That is all.

Benticore
Out

Oh! Oh!

Astaroth has a move that pops people up from the ground like a poptart...then he can THROW them. I call it the Pop n' Smash Special ($2.99 with coffee!)

SQUEEE!!

Benticore
Out

Benticore wrote:
What am I doing wrong? why can't I pull off a Critical Finish at Any time? When I go to do it, my character just holds his hand up to his head like he has a migraine.

Yeah I've got that too.. I've just given up on it so far because I can finish off most stuff by now, but it's really odd...
I've not seen it happen to my characters either though, so maybe you need to do something to unlock it for the AI fights or something? I can't find any references online to it though.. I feel like I'm doing something wrong too, but I've no idea what.

RE Critical Finish moves.

I though the deal with them was that you had to have broken your opponent's armor?

About the Finishing Moves;

From what I've seen on the SC4 forums (caliburforum.com) you have to break a piece of your opponents armor, and then have them soul crushed (which happens when you Guard Impact one of their attacks). THEN you hit all 4 buttons at once and end the match.

Yeah.

Benticore
Out

1Dgaf wrote:
anything

1Dgaf posted on a front page article by Demi? I'm going to get all nostalgic!