Sunday, September 26, 2010

Random Encounter - Soul Blade

  In 1996 Namco released Soul Edge, the very first in the now extremely popular Soul series (known more popularly as Soulcalibur) to arcades across Japan and North America.  This had come after the successes of Tekken and Tekken 2, and in many respects the two series's have a lot of things in common, though Soul Edge was much closer to Tekken than any of the Soulcalibur games.
  Naturally it would also follow Tekken to the home console PlayStation in 1997 where it would receive a solid update with more modes, more music options, and new (hidden) characters.  Renamed Soul Blade, it quickly became the favorite weapon-based fighting game and among some of the most popular fighters in general.
  For it's time it was an amazing game.  However, it has not aged well at all and isn't much of an enjoyable experience anymore.  True fans of the Soul series should certainly take a look, but new fans looking to experience the roots of current entries like IV and Broken Destiny should only look back as far as Soulcalibur on the Dreamcast.
  Soul Blade currently can only be played with the original disk for Playstation.  It has not made a debut on any current generation console shops (PS3 or XBox 360).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Single Player - Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny

  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of the Soulcalibur series of games from Namco.  Just have a look at my Tekken review and you'll see I talk about it all the time!  In fact, it's my favorite fighting game series, with Super Smash Bros. coming in a close second (if that counts as a fighting game and not a party game).
  That said, you'd also know that while I loved Soulcalibur III, IV made me want to hurt people and do bad things to my PlayStation.  III was a massive experience marred only by the really glitchy nature of the save data that might have you starting all over (which I almost experienced...).  IV was marred by about everything that was included in the game.  Weak story, weak content, unacceptable guest characters, boring game modes, annoying character creation rules, and instant kill attacks made this the worst entry in the series, period.
  That was exactly what I had in mind when I downloaded Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny for my PSP Go.  I was expecting to have wasted $40 bucks on another crappy game that wouldn't hold my interest longer than a day or two.  I was wrong, and grateful I was.
  Now this is a portable game, so I don't expect high end graphics or massive amounts of content.  There still is no fun Edge Master mode wanna-be in this game, just a lame mode called "The Gauntlet" that has you doing exactly what your told to do in battle.  Think of it as an enhanced training mode where you have a situation you need to work your way out of, like should you guard, or go for a quick hit?  You have hardly any time to decide, but you have the option to try over and over, and you are given hints after each defeat so with patience you can pull through.
  There is no story mode, just a quick battle game where you pick opponents to fight, then fight them, and rinse and repeat.  There is also a mode called "Trials" where you battle in an arcade like setting going for a high score based on either attacking or defending well, or a classic survival mode for a test of your total skill.
  Character creation returns in the same fashion as in Soulcalibur IV, but without any bonus elements to your equipment.  This means you can actually make a character that looks the way you want without being handicapped by poor equipment stats.  This is a huge plus, making it even better than the Create-a-Soul mode from III.  The extra styles present in III are still no where to be found, which is still a loss in my opinion.  Being forced to only pick from the default character stable as your move set limits creativity.  It's still awkward for a dark, evil looking knight to be provocative like Ivy.
  Equipment breaking still occurs, but this time it doesn't happen so quickly.  This is also a big improvement as it was laughable to have your awesome warrior busted down to his boxers in seconds flat (Did this turn into Ghosts 'n Goblins...?).  Soul Crush is also still in the game, but can only be invoked after an opponent has guarded a number of attacks.  It's easier to perform now as well, but there never seems to be a need to use it.  By the time your opponent is that beat down, they're usually out of life or out of the ring.  It's a part of the game that needs to go.
  Fortunately controlling the characters is exactly as it has been for several games now.  Only small rebalances have been introduced to allow for the new character Dampierre and guest character Kratos of God of War fame to fit in.  Graphically it's on par with Soulcalibur III and looks great on a small screen.  It's very comfortable to get into, and you'll be pulling off all your old tricks with your favorite character in no time.
  All in all, Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is a solid portable fighter, but I don't feel it was worth $40.  Still it is fun, and for die hard fans it's a great way to experience the eternal tale of souls and swords away from home.