We dared not believe it could be possibly true - Dreamcast's crown jewel Soul Calibur in all its glory, announced for release on iPhone and iPad. And yet, incredibly, here it is. For... $11.99/£7.99? And that's with a 20% launch discount? Man, this is going to be the most premium experience on the App Store! It's got to have that sprawling single-player quest, a flawless multiplayer... What's that? It doesn't even have multiplayer? Well what kind of sick joke is this?
There's no denying on the one hand, this is still one of the most brilliant things we've ever seen on iPhone. SoulCalibur is running on iPhone 4 or 4S (and iPad 2), with all the initial line-up of characters intact when you start the game, along with what appears to be all of the classic backgrounds too. It's not running at 60fps, even on iPad 2 or iPhone 4S (more like 30 with occasional slight fluctuations), but it's smoother than we expected. Still beautiful.
Above: Looking at it here, it's hard to believe we could be anything other than deliriously happy
And everything's there - the blade arcs, hair that blows in the wind... even character's flesh wobbles, and not just on the obvious bits. Heck, the leaves still blow around on the floor. It's still wonderful after all this time, doubly so considering what it's running on.
There's an Arcade mode, Time Attack, Survival and Extra Survival, along with Practise and a Museum mode complete with Battle Theatre and Exhibition Theatre. Some of the content is locked away, but you definitely can unlock things as we found out after our initial playthrough.
Above: There are 19 characters in total, many to be unlocked
But what you almost certainly can't unlock is a multiplayer mode of any sort. There just isn't one. A fighting game without multiplayer? That's no fighting game at all! To make things worse, the touch screen simply can't allow you to control the game properly. There's only one stick on the screen, meaning it's virtually impossible to choose between direction presses and 8-way run - something that will turn off expert players immediately.
Likewise with the buttons - they only support multitouch, meaning if you want to execute a move that's more than the basic throw (for which there is an optional extra button), you have to use your fingers piano-style on the touch screen, meaning you can't hold the device in a traditional joypad grip.
Above: You can change the opacity of the buttons, but that won't make them easy to fight with
Sounds like a disaster, right? Well, frankly, it should be. But at the same time, it's still Soul Calibur. That still counts for something. But when there's no multiplayer at all, there really should be the sensational Weapon Master mode to give you something with some meat to wade through.
But no. As it is, there are characters and exhibitions to unlock, some extraordinarily pretty graphics running at less than their best frame-rate (though still impressive and brilliantly high-res) and some noticeably compressed speech.
We really expected this to be amazing - all it had to do was work. As it is, it does work... but that's all it does and that's not enough after all - especially not at this ridiculous price. With all the hard process of converting the game to run on the hardware done, Namco's forgotten to do the simple bits.
There's no way this deserves such a premium price point compared to the likes of Super Street Fighter IV Volt. But at least now Sega has no excuse for not releasing the polygonal version of Virtua Fighter 2. If iPhone can do Soul Calibur, pretty much any game before the year 2000 should be possible now. But that's another story.
Above: This is an actual screenshot. It should have been magnificent. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to have a little cry