Developer: Project Soul
Played on: Playstation 2
The third entry in the Soul Calibur franchise is a departure of sorts because it has several gameplay modes instead of the regular one-on-one bashfest of the previous games. The one-on-one gameplay mode is still here, but there is also two different gameplay modes that incorporate minimal RPG elements.
In Tale of Soul, I control a single character out of the usual roster of predetermined characters and go through some mission, gamebook-style, where I have to choose between different actions. For example, if I choose to, say, go to this place, I will meet an opponent who will want to bash my skull in, while if I go to another place, I will meet another opponent who will want to kick my hiney. When I meet the opponent, of course, the game switches to a one-on-one fight mode. In Chronicles of the Sword, I control up to several characters that I can customize to my fancy (although their fighting style is tailored after one of the Soul Calibur roster) and go about conquering realms and collecting power. The plot is sketchy, to say the least, and apart from the one-on-one bashfest that ensue when two opponents collide, the gameplay consists of directing cute little sprites that are my characters to an enemy’s tower and destroying it. If you are expecting some serious RPG game, you’ll be wanting to throw this game out the window.
The entire roster of the Soul Calibur characters from previous games are here, from the super-cheesy polearm wielders Kilik and Seung-Mina to the katana-wielding Mitsurugi. Even from superficial gameplay, it’s obvious that Rafael, a rapier-wielding French guy with bad haircut, stands out with his incredible speed and rapid weapon thrusts. Meanwhile, many characters, like Ivy, have their movelists modified so old hands familiar with them may have to spend some time re-familiarizing themselves with these characters. But there is nothing particularly innovative or new in the game’s one-on-one system – Namco is banking on the RPG additions of the game to bring in new fans.
Replayability is sketchy at best since the RPG elements of the game are nothing more than throwaway fluff padded over a familiar one-on-one fighting system, but Namco has introduced a system where weapons of the characters, even in the straightforward one-on-one bashfest, can be upgraded to include properties like poison attack, guard break, and elemental attack properties. Upgrade requires “money” that is earned from playing the RPG modes of the game. Also, unlocking characters, weapons, illustrations, movie clips, and customization options require “money”, so I will have to keep playing in order to play some more, so to speak. But really, after a while, sloughing through a monotonous one-on-one bashfest marathon with characters that are pretty much the same opponent only with different costumes and names becomes too tedious to warrant all the work needed to unlock everything.
Also, the game creators must have realized that there are – heavens – people who like guys that enjoy the fact that in the previous instalment there are cute male characters as well as female characters. Not wanting to threaten the masculinity of their straight male players of the game, Project Soul thoughtfully makes sure that the male characters expose at most a bare arm and maybe some chest (no nipples though) while the female characters go all-out with heaving unrealistically-huge breasts and ridiculously skimpy outfits. I guess they must have taken pity on all those Dead or Alive programmers who were out of work and commissioned them to work on Soul Calibur III.
Ultimately, this is one game that makes the player work three times as hard when it’s still basically Soul Calibur II with a lot of superficial fluff and accessories that adds nothing but cosmetic value to the game. Fans of bouncing boobie pixels are in for a great time though.