Re­vis­it­ing his­tory in the orig­i­nal Soul­cal­ibur to see just how far the fight­ing se­ries has come

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - DANIELLA LU­CAS Pub­lisher Bandai Namco / Developer Bandai Namco / for­mat Xbox 360 / re­lease date July 2008

With a new

Soul­cal­ibur game fi­nally on the way this year I felt like now was the per­fect time to go back to the se­ries’ roots with the first en­try. While it was orig­i­nally launched on Dream­cast in 1999, it wasn’t re­leased on Xbox 360 un­til 2008, just be­fore the fourth game in the se­ries came out.

Its ap­pear­ance may have just been a way to build hype for the new (at the time) game in the run up to its re­lease, but it will for­ever hold a spe­cial place in my heart as it’s the first game I ever re­viewed for a mag­a­zine back when I was a plucky in­tern. This tiny on­line rere­lease is what kick­started my ca­reer, and af­ter just shy of ten years, I’ve fi­nally re­turned to where it all started. But does it still feel as ex­cit­ing now as it did to me then?

For starters, I def­i­nitely re­late more now to the an­cient, an­gry husk that is Cer­vantes, rather than the youth­ful and sprightly Xianghua that I loved in 2008—though I still suck at play­ing as the ghostly pi­rate. I also to­tally ex­pectws it to be muddy and brown in the looks depart­ment, but it’s won­der­fully bright; it’s aged well, even if the char­ac­ter models are a little square. I’m pretty sure that bi­ceps aren’t sup­posed to have cor­ners. Still, every move­ment is sur­pris­ingly fluid—it feels great to ma­neu­vre around the stage.

Un­like other fight­ing games such as Street Fighter or Tekken, knock­ing some­one out isn’t the only way to win a fight. The stages them­selves are small, with very def­i­nite edges that you can shove an op­po­nent off to end a match early. The are­nas are usu­ally very ba­sic shapes here, but that added sense of drama of push­ing some­one off when they looked like they were win­ning is some­thing that be­came a defin­ing part of the Soul­cal­ibur se­ries. Though I’m not sure ‘drama’ is

“Re­play­ing this old game, it’s not nos­tal­gia I’m feel­ing—it’s ex­cite­ment for the fu­ture”

the right word when you ac­ci­den­tally mist­ime a jump kick and fall to a demise of your own mak­ing.

Mak­ing friends

The only re­ally weak area is that some of the char­ac­ters in the ros­ter aren’t as dis­tin­guished as they are in later games. For ex­am­ple, the sword and shield-wield­ing Lizard­man plays al­most iden­ti­cally to Sophi­tia, and heavy axe users Rock and As­taroth are also alike. It def­i­nitely feels like they tried to bulk things out to fit in more fight­ers, though thank­fully they’re all a lot more nu­anced in the later games as the se­ries pro­gressed. Maxi with his swirling Nunchucks is still a jerk, with move­ments that are dif­fi­cult to cut into as he quickly nips at your health bar in con­stant little bites. But that makes fi­nally beat­ing him in ar­cade mode all the sweeter. He’s the first wall you’ll hit in terms of dif­fi­culty, but as soon as you fig­ure him out he’s easy to over­come. It al­most feels like a puz­zle, though this sen­sa­tion dis­ap­peared in later en­tries thanks to in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated AI.

Like wrap­ping your­self up in a bur­rito of blan­kets, there’s al­ways some­thing com­fort­ing about play­ing old games, but re­play­ing this, it’s not nos­tal­gia that I’m feel­ing—it’s ex­cite­ment for the fu­ture. All of

Soul­cal­ibur’s strong­est points, such as its flam­boy­ant weapons, per­ilous arena edges, and di­rec­tional move­ment, are pure here, but my head is full of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what it could be when VI is re­leased. With so many ad­vances in gam­ing tech over the years, there’s so much it could do to en­hance its flour­ish-filled fight­ing style. n

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