9.2

Soul Calibur IV review
Fighting game gold

The good:

-Extremely well balanced (especially for a fighting game)
-Deep, satisfying combat
-Beautiful graphics
-Characters with personality
-Wonderful Character Creation feature
-Skills (Power, Gauge, Special, etc.)
-Online
-Tons of unlocks
-Star Wars characters

The bad:

-Dissapointing Story mode
-Single Player experience is repetetive
-Dissapointing Bonus Characters
-While not overpowered, Yoda is often unenjoyable to play against (and in my opinion, not fun to use)

Summary:

Soul Calibur has always been a series that could appeal to gamers on the most basic level a game can. It offers the opportunity to let one's reactions take over and enjoy the fast-paced and satisfying results. Playing with friends is truly an enjoyable experience when fun and competetiveness are balanced.

Soul Calibur IV in particular appeals to newcomers to the series as well as veterans because it's easy enough to get into but experienced players can still enjoy the benefits of experience. Simply put, many characters can be used by beginners and pros alike (Sigfried, Kilik, etc.). Characters like this can leave any player with a comfortable base of characters to fall back on at any time while learning more advanced characters. That is not to say, however, that beginner friendly characters cannot easily beat such advanced characters.

Namco and Team Soul deserve nothing less than praise for their dedication to their fans. They consistently keep old favorites and add new characters to keep seasoned players interested but comfortable. These familiar faces provide veterans of the series with a feeling of nostalgia to balance out the novelty of characters like Yoda/ Darth Vader and The Apprentice, as well as bonus characters like Angol Fear and Shura.

The developers behind SC IV do not dissapoint, even with the introduction of risky new gameplay elements like the Soul Gauge, Critical Finishes (supermoves that can only be executed when the opponent's soul gauge runs dry) and Equipment/Armor Destruction. The Soul Gauge's purpose in battle is clearly defined and very important. Defensive players (like myself) have a good reason not to "turtle" lest their Soul Gauge runs dry and their guard breaks, opening them up to a one-hit K.O. Critical Finish. Critical Finishes are not overpowered by any stretch of the imagination and happen infrequently enough to be a source of intense satisfaction. The player who is defeated by one has no one to blame but themselves and is likely to revise their battle strategy. Equipment Destruction acts in a different direction than the Soul Gauge. It encourages the player to block and avoid taking hits so their armor won't break (when armor is broken, the area it previously covered takes more damage when hit) and give the enemy the advantage. The result of these 3 things in SC IV's gameplay could not have gone more smoothly. Players will have incentive both to block and to go on the offensive in a balanced manner.

Another addition to the new Soul Calibur is Skills. Players can choose up to 4 different Skills under the categories of Power, Impact, Boost, Gauge, and Special. Each category houses different types of Skills that do things like cause damage to blocking opponents, drain the enemy's life, or even turn invisible for a period of time. These Skills are an interesting addition because the player can use them to compliment their talents or make up for their shortcomings in combat, or even both. They also make surviving some of the Single Player Modes easier and are especially necessary for Tower of Lost Souls. They can also be used online and against friends in Vs matches.

While SC IV's gameplay and fighting mechanics remain top-notch, the Single Player experience is lacking. The Single Player modes include Arcade, Story, Tower of Lost Souls, and the essential Training Mode. Arcade remains mostly unchanged, which is a good thing. The one notable difference is the last boss, Algol, who uses things like a cannon, his throne, and protruding spikes to really mess you up. Algol, fortunately, can be unlocked. Story mode is a big dissapointment. It is unreasonabley short (5 Stages with an average of 3 easy enemies in each) and hardly a challenge. Each Story mode experience is slightly different for every character, with different enemies, different dialogue before fights, and a different cutscene ending. However, this "plot advancement" leaves much to be desired, particularly the ending, which often ends predictabley and quickly. The one good thing about story mode is that one can easily beat it with every character in a short period of time and enjoy each "unique" story. Tower of Lost Souls is a surprisingly fun mode. The player can choose to ascend the tower and fight a slew of difficult opponents and boss characters or descend and fight a large amount of easier enemies at the price of being unable to retry without starting all over. Tower of Lost Souls is successful in that it takes a reasonabley long amount of time to complete and requires the player to have skill, patience, and use a fair amount of strategy when choosing Skills for their characters. Finally, Training mode remains mostly the same. One can still choose to have moves displayed for them and browse lists of combos when learning each character. The player can even give commands to their practice dummy to do controller-inputed actions or choose from a preset list of typical actions. This makes it easy and fun to learn new characters and combos. Overall, the replay value of the Single Player modes is relatively low but the player is still going to have to beat them over and over again to enough gold to get all the characters, equipment, and Achievements. Getting gold is hardly a challenge, but it quickly becomes something of a grinding process because there are a thousand things to buy and they become pretty pricey later on. One weapon actually requires the player to play Arcade mode two or three times to earn enough gold.

Overall, SC IV is a wonderful game. However, it should be stressed that the only way to enjoy it fully is with others.

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