Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The first one still has a burning soul.... The Soul Calibur XBLA Review

1999 may seem like a long time ago, but it was the year Soul Calibur came out exclusively on Dreamcast and changed the fighting game landscape for a number of years. To this day, it is still the most critically acclaimed fighter in recent years and it finally makes a reappearance on Xbox Live Arcade three weeks till the fourth game in the franchise comes out on 360. For 800 Microsoft Points (10 bucks), you will get the Dreamcast game with missing features and everything unlocked. Being nine years old, this first entry is still fun to play holding up to even today's standards. Even though online play is absent in this XBLA version, Soul Calibur is still worth the admission for nostalgia and good warmup for the fourth game if anyone has never gotten into the series to get used to it.

All the modes except story and mission mode are in this version of Soul Calibur from arcade, versus, time attack, and survival modes. It is unfortunate that those two modes is not in because it provided more replay value to the Dreamcast version than a normal fighter would back in the day. The overall fighting mechanics still hold up today with the assortment of characters from Mitsturugi, Kilik, Ivy, Nightmare, and more along with the signature guard impacts and ring outs. The action is fast-paced with rounds only lasting 40 seconds at default allowing characters to have more damaging attacks at their disposal. This was toned down in later games to make fights a little longer. Leaderboards and achievements does this XBLA version have some replay value from beating time attack records and survival wins. The major disappointment of this release other than missing modes is the absence of online play. Even though Namco are saving that feature for Soul Calibur IV, it would have been cool if this game is online if people still prefer this game over the later entries in the franchise.

The graphics of this Live Arcade version of Soul Calibur did receive an upgrade, but a marginal one at best. The game does look a little more cleaner than the Dreamcast version catering to the HDTVs. All the backgrounds still look as good as they were in 1999 even though every level is an open ring for more opportunity for ring outs compared to later games. The only major disappointment graphically is the lack of widescreen, which means there is a border surrounding the game screen even applying the stretched option. For the sound, it is mostly unchanged from the Dreamcast version, which is good since Soul Calibur games provide great soundtracks. The music still holds up along with the character voices and the announcer. Other than that, the overall presentation of Soul Calibur XBLA is good, but not great.

Soul Calibur for Xbox Live Arcade is still a good game despite its missing features. The gameplay is still as fun as it was in 1999 with fast-paced fights and deep mehanics that kept the franchise different from other fighters. The lack of online play does hurt this game's value and any chance of great multiplayer other than local matches hopefully against someone with similar skills. Graphically, the improvements are great, but the lack of widesceen does affect the game's presentation. With Soul Calibur IV around the corner, it is hard to recommend the first game, but if you are nostalgic for it and never played any of the games, this is a good start to get used to the game's fighting mechanics. Soul Calibur is indeed worth the ten bucks for fans of the series and fighting games in general to experience one of the greatest games of all-time.

Score = 7.5/10

  • Gameplay still holds up even for today's standards
  • Good warmup for Soul Calibur IV for newcomers to the franchise
  • You don't need to worry about unlocking anything as everything is unlocked.
  • Still one of the greatest games of all-time
  • No online play
  • Mission and story modes absent from the Dreamcast version.
  • Lack of widescreen options

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