My, what a big sword you have.
Fighting is all well and good, but if you're going to do it, why not use huge great swords, nunchuks and other weaponary? That's the basis for Namco's famous SoulCalibur series.
Namco's SoulCalibur series started with a sequel. The arcade and eventual Dreamcast port was the follow up to Soul Blade (or Soul Edge in Japan). The port was notable for being an improvement over the arcade game and this new version is another step up from Sega's home console version.
If that history lesson doesn't excite you then just take a look at the videos doing the rounds on Youtube, or the screenshots below. SoulCalibur on iOS is the prettiest fighter yet, fact. The movement is suprisingly fluid, despite a lot of action going on behind the fighters and those high quality visuals in front. On iPad it further impresses and will have people peering over your shoulder as you play.
Because of the visuals, it seems that the game is restricted to 4th Generation devices and higher (iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPhone 4S and iPod Touch 4th Gen). It's a shame that older devices aren't supported, but somewhat understandable given the amount of processing that seems to be going on.
Unlike Street Fighter IV and King of Fighters, the game has distinguished itself with use of weaponary instead of fisticuffs. This makes a big difference in the style of fighting and puts a lot more emphasis on blocking moves. Blocking high, low, or in the middle is important to prevent damage from the enemy and learning to read your opponent is key to surviving the higher skill levels.
Another difference with Namco's fighter is the use of 3D space. As well as the usual backward and forward movements, your character can move into and out of the screen, around the other character. This can take a bit of getting used to, but once you do it's an essential skill for getting the upper hand in a fight.
Control-wise, SoulCalibur hits most of the right buttons. Although it can't compensate for a real arcade stick or physical pad, the virtual stick anf buttons are certainly responsive and the buttons can be moved around the screen, with more or less being added to suit comfort and skill levels. I'd go as far as saying that the controls here are the best fighting controls seen on the iPhone so far, though the iPad fairs better with more space for button layout.
Despite all these positives, there's a big hole in SoulCalibur's repetoire; it has no multiplayer. No, not even local WIFI or Bluetooth is available. It's a big knock for a genre that screams multiplayer and hampers the long term enjoyment of the game. Namco Bandai's App Store brief for the game does mention further modes being available at a later date, but we can't guarantee it'll be the multiplayer one.
Aside from this, the story mode is absent. This is less of an issue for me as I found the original a bit heavy going, but it would have still been a nice inclusion. What we do have on offer is the standard Arcade mode, a Survival mode that gets progressively harder, Extra Survival mode, Time Attack and Practice to keep you busy. It's still a hefty chunk of gaming for fighting fans, but then they're asking a hefty price for this on the App Store compared to many other games, so those items that aren't included do smart a little.
Even without multiplayer, the 19 fighters, excellent graphics and fluid gameplay still add up to one impressive iOS game and the score reflects, in part, my pleasure of being able to take SoulCalibur around with me wherever I go.
If you're a fan of the series or of fighting games in general and can live with the lack of Multiplayer for now, then SoulCalibur is still worth the asking price. If Namco Bandai add Multiplayer, expect the score to shoot up to 10.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 10
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 7
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