Soul Calibur III review
It got better

The good:

Soul Calibur gameplay
Interesting new features that you'll learn to appreciate
Ass load of playable characters
Amazing level designs
Good graphics and sound

The bad:

Ridiculously cheap A.I. for newbies
Graphics could have been better
Long load times
Hwang didn't make it to the main roster (fanboy complaint)



When I first got the game the day it was released, I had mix feelings about it. It seems like a lot of reviewers did, too. I thought they messed with my favorite characters too much, and that the extra modes were crap. I even told myself that this game ain't worth 50 bucks.

Well, it's been over a week now, and I gotta say, the game has changed my mind.

I'm glad I waited over a week to write a review. If I did it last week, I'd probably have given it a 6 out of 10.

I've been a fan of the series since 1997, and if you're like me, when you first play this game, you'll probably feel disappointed. All I gotta say is have some patience, my friend. The more you dig deeper, the more goodies you unlock and the more fun the game becomes.

Gameplay :

The series has always been awesome when it comes to controls, and it still holds true with this release. There's really not that much new to the gameplay, but that's not a bad thing because it was already great to begin with. There are subtle changes here and there like being able to control your character's weight when he's in the air to avoid some nasty juggles by your opponent, and going crazy on the d-pad when you get stunned for a faster recovery, but casual players won't notice the difference.

The characters still have the same moves and animations, but a lot of them are done with new commands. Some characters lost some moves, while gaining a few. All in all, though, it works well. The main characters are more balanced than before, except for maybe a select few.

The new characters fit in nicely with the returning characters. There are over 40 playable characters. That's not counting your 10 created ones. Though, only 24 are playable in the main story mode. The rest are bonus characters.

Before going on to talk about the extra modes, I have to mention that I'm glad they changed the commands for guard impact. This time, you have to use a different command for low attacks, which is good, because in SC2, it was pretty easy to pull off.

Now, let's talk about the new Chronicles of the Sword mode. It's like this mini strategy game that has 20 chapters in it. It has an interesting story, too, if you're into reading. There are a few cut scenes thrown in as well. You move your characters on the map from point to point, taking over enemy bases, while protecting yours. Each mission has a different objective. Sometimes you have to take over the main enemy base, other times you have to kill a specific character. When you encounter an enemy, you can choose to either watch your little characters battle it out themselves or choose to take over and have a 1 on 1 Soul Calibur match. When you take over an enemy base and an enemy character is still in it, you automatically go into the 1 on 1 fighting mode. Some of these matches have special rules just like in previous Soul Calibur games. There's not much depth or strategy to it, really.

So, even 5 days after I got the game, I really thought Chronicles sucked. I hated it. I hated how tedious it was and how the load time went on for 10 to 15 seconds. I even told people that they should have named this mode "Now Loading". But just yesterday, I started liking it. It grew on me. And today, I just finished the last chapter and was stuck staring at the loading screen a lot of times, since the last chapter is battle after battle, and the game has to load each .But it was so worth it.

The game gets to be more fun as you unlock more secrets and moves lists. As soon as I unlocked more stuff, my character started looking good enough to pass as a main character. I had a blast playing my character with Mitsurugi's moves and seeing a statue of myself in the ending kinda made it all worth it. And when I started reading the intros for each chapter, I realized that this "extra" actually has a decent plot, and depending on your point of view, it can be way better than the main Soul Calibur story. You can understand the story even if you don't read the conversations as long as you read the intros to each chapter, which aren't very long. By the way, you can't use your Chronicles characters in the main game, but it won't be a problem. I'll talk about that later.

And now, the Custom Character Creation mode. I also thought it sucked. I was quick to conclude that the mode was half-assed. Boy, was I wrong. When you start unlocking stuff, the mode becomes more interesting. Even managed to create a more-or-less accurate model of myself, with medieval armor, of course. It's a good thing I ain't fat, though, coz I couldn't find an option to make fat characters. Sorry, fatties. There aren't that many options, but there's almost enough in there to create characters from other games. So far, I've made Kunimitsu and King from the Tekken series, Dante from Devil May Cry, Cloud Strife, Ryu from Street Fighter, an almost perfect version of KOS-MOS from Xenosaga and a bunch of Mortal Kombat characters.

Your selection of moves will be very limited at first. You'll have to choose between different classes of characters. Each class has their own moves, but then, the more you play the game, or Chronicles for faster results, you unlock more moves sets. Eventually, you'll unlock the moves of the main characters. This is achieved by getting to level 30 in Chronicles. If you're using a Samurai character and get to level 30, you'll get Yoshimitsu's and Mitsurugi's moves. For more info on this, check out some tips scattered all over the Internet.

As I mentioned, you cannot use your characters from Chronicles in the main game, but fear not, for recreating them will only take you less than 5 minutes. You can also edit the colors for characters on the main roster. I made Astaroth bright pink and gave Mitsurugi white hair.

Then there's the main story mode, only this time, with a new twist. Called Tales of Souls, instead of static art and text, the game gives you decent cut scenes using the game's engine. You're given the option to choose your own path to the final boss, but it doesn't change the endings. You're also presented with special challenges, like having to defeat a giant statue, if you choose to accept them. There are few quick time events thrown in there, too, to spice things up. There are times when you have to input a certain command that flashes on screen during a cut scene. Failure to do this will sometimes lead to your character losing some health. They're annoying at first, but they're actually pretty easy to get used to. The same thing happens during the endings. Each character has 2 different endings which will depend on whether or not you input the correct commands. All in all, it's a good start. Better than previous standard story modes in the Soul series.

There are 2 more modes called World Competition and Soul Arena. Since the game isn't playable online, we have World Competition, where solo players can pretend that they're in a world tournament. I didn't even bother with it. The Soul Arena mode, is the game's arcade mode. There's Quick Play, which is what you'd expect from an arcade game, and Mission, where you have to fight under special rules.

There's also a Museum where you can view the cut scenes from the story mode, character profiles, the exhibition theater and the goodies you've bought or unlocked. A lot of the things you have to unlock have to be bought at the Shop with the points that you've earned.

There are some negatives I have to mention, too, though. First, the load times. They're not that long, but for a fighting game, they kinda are. Before the last battle in the story mode there's 10 to 12 seconds of load time. Even Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast only had a few seconds of load time, 5 the most. Some people have mentioned that the game has a lot of slowdown. Honestly, it's not as bad as they make it out to be. Not obvious at all, but it's there. Then there's the A.I. A lot of people complained that the previous games were too easy. I guess the Soul Calibur team took that seriously, coz the A.I. in this game can be very cheap... in a bad way. To me, there's reasonably difficult, then there's uber cheap, and more times than not, the A.I. in the later levels is uber cheap. It will get you mad a lot of times, especially with the last boss and the secret last boss. It's made worse by the fact that you cannot change the difficulty in some modes, which makes getting through them a chore when you're using a character you're not familiar with. But as soon as you get good, you won't have much of a problem. Just remember to block low attacks, coz the A.I. seems to always know when you're open for an attack.

There's also one very important thing I have to mention. There's a glitch in the game. It has something to do with your Chronicles of the Sword save. It gets corrupted very easily. When I say corrupted, I mean that it gets messed up and it will give you a warning that the save is corrupted and that you have to delete your SC3 save on the memory card. The rest of the game will be fine, but you will not be able to save your COTS game anymore. There have been a number of reasons reported, but Namco hasn't released an official statement for the North American market. But they did release a notice in Japanese. It said that your save will be corrupted if you move or delete a save file for another game on the memory card you have your SC3 save on. This reviewer has tried this, and it did not do any harm to my save. However, when I took out my memory card and plugged it back in, my save got corrupted. Until Namco releases an official statement, it's hard to be sure what the exact causes are. One sure way to corrupt your save, though, is when you turn off your console or do a soft reset while he game is attempting to save. This is common knowledge by now, but a lot of people still accidentally do it and blame it on the glitch. To avoid getting your save corrupted, it would be best if you turn off the auto save function and have a back up save on another memory card just in case one gets corrupted.

And finally, once again, they just threw Hwang in there without much thought. It's no big deal, but there are still a lot of Hwang fans out there. Here, he's just a bonus character with no story mode and an even weaker set of moves than the last game's Assassin. He feels like an extension of how he used to play in Soul Blade. He lost way too many moves and only gained, I think one. Heck, even another bonus character, the returning Li Long who had previously only been featured in Soul Blade back in 1996 has a more interesting moves list. Why, Namco?

Graphics :

It doesn't look that good. There, I said it. Don't get me wrong, the game looks wonderful at times, but it just doesn't look as good as it's supposed to be. It's not the game's fault, though. Because this game has the best level designs in the series, even better than the first Soul Calibur's. But because it's on the PS2, it was robbed of the chance to look as stunning as it could have been. I love the PS2 and the games in its library. I have more games on PS2 than I do for Xbox or Gamecube. But let's be realistic. The PS2 has limitations. The PS2 is weak. The level designs, architecture and just the amount of things going on in these levels really don't belong on PS2. Everything looks good, just not amazing.

It's the textures. They're just not that sharp and in some instances, you could even say that the Dreamcast game had better textures in some areas. Also, the lighting could have been better and the colors aren't as vibrant as they were in previous games. They look washed out. Take for example Tira's stage, where you fight on a platform that floats around a castle. It could have been so much more if not for the muddy colors and textures. The idea is brilliant, but because of hardware limitations, it ends up looking dull and can't even hold a candle to Siegfried's beautiful stage in Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast, a game released in 1999.

But with all that out of the way, this is still one of the best looking titles on PS2. Those boys at Namco sure are talented. They managed to pull off a few tricks and make the game still look good on PS2. Soul Calibur 3 also has the best water effects of all the Soul games. The character models are above average as well. The character and art design is also very good. They seem to have modified a few costume designs from the first Soul Calibur, which is good, because a lot of the designs in Soul Calibur 2 were just either too ordinary, or just ugly. And I have to admit, some of the stages do look fantastic.

With their talent, just imagine how good this game could have looked on a more powerful console. I heard rumors that an XBOX 360 version will be out by next year. I guess that would kinda suck for PS2 owners, but I still wanna check it out just to see how good it'll look.

Sound :

This isn't as big a deal to me as the graphics or gameplay, but it still adds to the overall package. There are a lot of remixed tracks from previous games, and I like them. Aside from a few annoying ones, the English voice acting isn't as terrible as it used to be, which is a big plus. There's still an option to switch to the Japanese voice overs. All in all, the sound is as good as it's always been. Though, the music during the intro didn't feel as epic. I miss the cheesy intro song from Soul Edge/Blade. Also, for some reason, the announcer sometimes isn't given enough time to finish saying his silly intros before each match. It makes for quite some awkward moments if you pay attention to that sort of thing. I won't go that deep with the sound coz I only have standard surround.

Overall :

This is Soul Calibur and it's still as kick-ass as it has always been. It may seem like a mess and the new modes may seem crappy at first, but trust me, they will grow on you. And once again, the gameplay is just great. Just grab a friend and kick his ass. The only downsides are the graphical shortcomings, the load times, the ridiculous A.I., the random glitch that messes up your COTS save and the fact that they're treating Hwang like an unwanted bastard stepchild. But that ain't enough to bring this legend down. Indeed, the Soul still burns.

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