I Wanted to Love Soulcalibur IV

I don’t play many fighting games, although I have in the past. I spent many, many quarters on Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat back in the day, but when things started getting crazy complex, I lost interest. Trying to remember 25 hit combos and countless special and finishing moves for dozens of characters isn’t something I consider fun. When I first experienced the Soulcalibur series on the GameCube with the release of Soulcalibur 2, it was like a breath of fresh air. The combat was a little more grounded, in that no one could shoot giant fireballs out of their wrists or freeze an opponent in mid-air, and it revolved around the use of weapons and various fighting styles. But best of all, moves are performed by combination of tapping and holding buttons, while pushing in different directions. Once I got a feel for the controls, I was able to use any character and do well with them. I was glad to see Soulcalibur IV kept the good stuff in tact, however it’s been a bit of a battle between love and “this is just silly” from the get-go.

Holy Tits Batman!

Soulcalibur IV - Ivy

Let’s get Ivy out of the way right off the bat. Someone got a little carried away with the boobs on that girl, and not in a good way. Like the next guy, I’m all for boobs. But there’s a limit, and Ivy crossed it 10 times over. It’s just not right. Not even in a funny sort of way. Ridiculous, is probably the best word to describe Ivy. But unfortunately, Ivy isn’t the only culprit in the gigantic tits department. Like most Japanese games that involve females, they’re all sporting what appear to be huge sacks of liquid, awkwardly tacked on their torso. Again, it’s just not right.

Sword Beats Fireball

While there’s not much in the way of realism when it comes to a Soulcalibur game, it is more grounded than most others. There are typically a few characters that can do quick teleports or insane flips that aren’t humanly possible, but for the most part, the combat is based on real world techniques.

Each character’s moves vary, but there are a set of common combinations that make jumping from one character to the next very easy. There’s no need to sit there and play as one character for hours on end in order to master their special moves and hit combos. While you could, it’s just not as necessary in this game as it is in others within the genre.

Character Creation Almost Saved the Game

Generally, I either can’t wrap my head around, or simply can’t stomach anything that could be labeled “very Japanese”. Soulcalibur has been an exception simply due to the excellent gameplay. Many of the characters are just plain silly, and the voiceovers and nothing short of painful to listen to. I actually mute the dialog audio setting so I can enjoy the game that much more. But in doing so, the announcer is also muted, which detracts from the experience a bit and leaves it feeling rather dry.

Thankfully, Soulcalibur IV comes packed with a pretty great character editor/creator. You can either edit an existing character or start fresh with your own. Each custom character is based on one of the main characters, so they will inhibit their movements along combos. The downside to the character creation is with the equipment and weapons obtaining stats. When you’re finished building your character, you can attribute special powers to them. The amount of power-ups they can handle is based on the equipment used. So if you really want to max out your character, you have to load them up with all sorts of stupid shit in order to build up their stats. So you’re left with the choice of having your character look good, but suck. Or look like an idiot and dominate the field.

Star Wars, WTF?

Soulcalibur IV - Star Wars

It’s cool and all, having a couple lightsaber wielding characters, but they really don’t fit in the Soulcalibur universe. Hopefully, from a marketing stand point it paid off.

Yoda is completely broken. He can’t be hit by most attacks and can’t be grabbed at all. You basically have to do low attacks the entire round, or hope to hit him in the air. The Apprentice is also pretty unbalanced, as he can shoot lighting.

Not Touching Online

I’m always a little weary of playing online, and it looks like I’ll be avoiding Soulcalibur IV’s online mode at all costs. After reading that one Ars Technica writer experienced a drop rate of 80% on matches he was about to win, along with the numerous other flaws, I’ll take a pass.

It’s a Rental

I bought the game on release day and played it significantly during the first week. The second week, my play time dropped to less than half. Here we are in the third week, and I haven’t touched it at all. Having beaten the story mode and arcade modes a couple dozen times each, I think I’ve got my fix. Granted, there’s still lots to be had – the new tower mode seems to be an undertaking and a half, but with the amount of great games on the horizon, the store credit is looking more appealing than more of the same battles.

Soulcalibur IV
3/ 5