And then there’s Yoda. We’ve no idea why the diminutive Jedi is here – and even worse, he’s horribly overpowered. His size and speed make him hard to hit, and he’s invulnerable to throws. He’s just as deadly at range, so there’s no safe place from his annoying attacks. At least the Apprentice is pretty cool with his crazy air combos, if you can ignore the fact that he shouldn’t be in a game about sixteenth-century swordfighting.
Once you’ve fiddled with all the characters and your friends have gone home, you’ll probably turn to the game’s new modes, and here Soulcalibur’s swapped the usual battle-across-the-world Story mode for a more conventional fight-loads-of-enemies option. Known as The Tower of Lost Souls, the premise is simple: you pick one, two or three fighters and use them to tackle a gang of custom-designed AI opponents with unique characteristics. You can instantly tag your characters in and out and tactical thinking is critical. The Tower is also a handy introduction to the game’s new ability system, enabling characters to specialise in different abilities. These vary from the almost useless – Appeal makes you better at fighting characters of the opposite gender, but worse against same-sex opponents – to game-winningly helpful. In the upper stages of the Tower it’s taken to the extreme: on level 20 you’re up against a character who can’t be thrown, dishes out damage and recovers her own health with every parry… and who parries automatically.
Alternatively, you might fight a character who dishes out a lot of hurt with every strike and has an increased chance of blocking strong attacks. This is the sort of thing you’ll need to bear in mind while you’re creating characters to use in Special Versus mode. Calibur’s got beautifully balanced fighting, astonishing graphics, swathes of stuff to tinker with and the best clothes-smashing physics ever. Is that enough to secure top beat-‘em-up status? Well, yes. Purists will explain that Virtua Fighter offers greater tactical possibilities, but they’re missing the point: Pai Chan isn’t as cute as Talim, beaches aren’t as exciting as pirate ships and being a bloke in pajamas can’t compete with playing a patricidal knight with a living sword that’s the embodiment of evil. Enjoy your time in the limelight, Soulcalibur – soon you’ll have to defend your title against Tekken 6 and Street Fighter IV.
Jul 29, 2008