After having a few weeks of play time with Soulcalibur IV, we’ve finally compiled our thoughts and feelings about the latest tale of souls and swords… Our very own Masakun has put together a very comprehensive review of Soulcalibur IV, click below and check it out!
Soulcalibur IV Review by Masakun
Almost three years after Soul Calibur III took North America by storm, Namco Bandai’s fifth installment of the soul series officially hit store shelves this week.
In sum the game turns out to be a vast improvement over part III, and a worthy successor to the Soul franchise.
It’s no secret that the game has been playable among select communities for some time now, as some game shops purportedly broke the official North American street date of July 29. I was fortunate enough to try out the game at San Diego Comic-Con International, upon which I was able to test out many of the claims made by message boards everywhere.
A further evaluation based on some more time with the game makes me feel quite good about Soul Calibur IV. As someone who only played a little bit of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur, a lot of Soul Calibur II and was then disappointed by Soul Calibur III, this newest installment looks to be a game I will play for quite a few months to come.
That glowing orb next to your life bar? That’s the soul gauge. Blue means you’ve been attacking a lot, green is the color you start off in, yellow means you’ve been blocking a lot, and red means you’ve been blocking too much. If you’re in the red, your lifebar will also flash red – a chance for your opponent to land a critical finish if they guard impact your attack, or break your armor. Speaking of which…
There’s a lot more going on in the screen than before.
Three shapes below your soul gauge correspond to 3 parts for your body armor: high, medium, and low. Once broken, your armor stays broken for the rest of the match, and you take more damage. Pretty hilarious results ensue for custom characters, who get stripped down to their underwear when their armor breaks.
Two chances present themselves for a critical finish: right after armor break when your opponent’s life bar is flashing red, or right after GI when opponent’s bar is flashing red. Note that this doesn’t always work; for instance, the opponent can’t be in the air, and you can’t be in the middle of a string (a series of hits).
Changing, and Multiple Enemies
Yes, it’s like DOA or Tekken Tag Tournament in a way. For Story Mode and Tower of Lost Souls, you can hit a ‘change’ button to switch characters. It is possible to start a combo / chain with one character and then finish it off with another.
The time window for guard impacts has been squeezed down a notch (it feels like there are 5 frames or so less than what was previously available). Also, parrying will now make an opponent fall to the ground face down, as does just impacting.
8 Way Run
Perhaps as a way to compensate for the tighter time frames for guard impacts, 8-way run has been tuned to avoid more vertical attacks — in other words vertical attacks such as Sophitia’s BB or Nightmare’s 3B simply don’t track as well as they did before.
Just frame moves are back with a vengeance in Soul Calibur IV. By perfectly timing button pushes, move properties change (usually for the better), and you can confirm that a just frame (JF) move was performed by the audio cues (high pitched whirrs) and the visual effect – your character will flash a bright white color. There are a ton of just frames compared to Soul Calibur III – part of the fun in Soul Calibur IV will be to discover them all.
Eye candy (not the fanboy kind)
The art direction calls for more dynamic special effects than those of Soul Calibur III (e.g., the pre-fight screen, the text displays that pop up on the screen with detailed information); also, the screen flashing into grayscale mode and slowing down animation when a player is KO’ed is a refreshing touch.
Eye candy (the fanboy kind)
The disease that some of the women had which caused their breasts to expand beyond humanly possible proportions still afflicts the same unfortunate cast of thirty-something females. The skimpier outfits (for the most part) would also make one assume that global warming is a terrible problem in this fictional world. The classic example, Ivy:
Her outfit must be clinging on to dear life
Sound and Music
The dramatic announcer makes a comeback, prologuing each match with a brief narrative for one of the characters in the match.
The stage BGM is in the same style as the other Soul Calibur games, although the two Star Wars stages in the game feature near-duplicates of John Williams’s tracks from the movies.
As Soul Calibur IV is multilingual, the in-game text and will change depending on your region setting. The player will have Japanese and English audio to choose from.
Single Player Mode
Fight in 5 stages against single or multiple opponents – you’ll be greeted with a brief ending sequence for your character.
Arcade mode features 8 stages with 2/3 rounds each – points are awarded based on how well you do, and your points are posted up for an online ranking.
Tower of Souls
Use a “change” button much like Tekken Tag Tournament or DOA. Weapon skills are reflected in this mode as you try to accomplish various tasks to unlock customization items. Once you beat 20 floors, you can also try your hand at a survival mode – the dungeon.
Training mode is back in full force – this mode has retained most of the elements of the training mode in Soul Calibur III. There are additional options to tweak your soul gauge, but it would have been helpful if there was a way to disable armor break for your training opponent.
For the standard VS mode, you can use any character, standard or customized, but skills and weapon effects are disabled. You can choose handicap levels for life bars and soul gauges.
Special VS matches take advantage of weapon effects and skills. There is unfortunately no way to save your character data on media and bring it to a friend’s house – any battling amongst custom characters must be done online.
Online versus matches can be with Standard VS mode or Custom VS mode – customized characters are usable in both options.
Like Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection Online, you can set up a room, join a match a room that is randomly assigned to you, or peruse the currently available rooms, where up to four people can duke it out, Soul Calibur style. If you set up your own room, you have the option of keeping “private” slots, that is, slots that are only available to people you invite.
How about that lag?
The lag feels the same as Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection (peer to peer), but doesn’t feel as bad because the game is slower. You can see how good your connection is to your opponent by looking at the bottom of his or her side of the screen. 5 bars = excellent, and 1 bar = don’t even bother.
The same rules about minimizing lag that exist in other fighting games hold true in Soul Calibur IV as well. For more information on optimizing your internet connection for online play, follow this tutorial for Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection Online.
Downloadable Content – Yes, it exists
As of July 31st, the first batch of downloadable content (DLC) has been released for both versions of the game. The options are:
- Stage BGM from Soul Calibur I ($1.00 each, or $15 for all 17 tracks)
- A pack of customization items for six characters to give them a “retro” Soul Calibur look ($1.50 for the whole pack)
- A well-established rumor is the availability of Yoda on the PS3 version and Darth Vader on the Xbox 360 version as DLC as well.
Create your own character
Customization options for Soul Calibur IV are fewer than they were in Soul Calibur III, but the options have been streamlined to cut down on waste. For instance, you could equip a full face mask that covered an eyepatch, but such options are no longer available. In return, you now have the option of customizing girth and muscle mass.
Weapons for a character are unlocked by beating story mode with that character, and customization items are unlocked through accomplishing tasks in Tower of Souls mode.
The movelist for your character is now based only on the default characters. Unfortunately, you can’t create a character with the ‘force’ moveset.
The number of unique male faces has decreased since Soul Calibur III – person A counts as one face, person A with a goatee another, and person A with just a moustache is another face as well.
An example from yours truly – Trunks and Bojack (both from Dragon Ball Z)
And here’s Nappa vs Master Asia (from Mobile Fighter G Gundam).
Customize an existing fighter
Customization options now let you equip the default characters with the custom items and colors that are available for created characters. If you are so inclined, you can strip them down to the bare minimum that a teen-rated game will allow. Two of the souls are brave enough to bare all and fulfill every fanboy’s dream: Nightmare and Lizardman.
Chain of Souls
This mode shows you a relationship chart that fills in as you unlock more characters.
Even the Star Wars characters found their way on to this chart.
The art gallery is just that – an art gallery. Spend your in-game gold to unlock different portraits.
You can look at events unlocked in story mode, or for a few characters, special events (that are also unlocked when you beat story mode with the respective characters).
If you’re curious to see how many hours of your life you wasted on this game, or want to check out the achievements (honors) you’ve unlocked, head over here.
While some were dubious about any follow-up to Soul Calibur III, its sequel seems to stack up well against other fighting game series available today. It’s too early to make any final calls on character rankings or balance issues, but for now it seems that most people who are playing Soul Calibur IV are quite happy with the game.
Online access opens up the possibility for game patches (v 1.01 is already out)
The soul gauge / armor break system encourages a more aggressive style of play
Tower of Souls encourages creative strategies to accomplish goals
While there is some overlap, most characters have unique play styles
No weapon exhibition mode
EDITOR’S NOTE (From MarkMan) – Hi everyone, don’t stop reading! If you’re serious about learning more about Soulcalibur IV and competitive Soul Calibur, please visit the following sites:
- Calibur Forums – The bulk of the competitive Soul Calibur community reside here! These forums might look familiar as they were the official Soul Calibur II forums from many years ago!
- Soul Calibur Universe – A great wealth of news by Soul Calibur fans, for Soul Calibur fans.
- Soul Calibur News Blog – Masakun’s Soul Calibur related blog that covers any and all notable news having to do with the game series!