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Soul Calibur 3 (PS2)

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Soul Calibur 3 is another one that's been out a while. This review is based off the experiences I'd had with the game when my friend brought it over.

Gameplay: It's basically what you've come to expect of soul calibur. It's a fighting game involving weapons. Each character has his or her own weapon with its unique strengths and weaknesses. I noticed that everyone in the game moves faster than they did in Soul Calibur 2. It's almost as if the developers wanted to move toward a faster-paced fighting game; as if it was the gameplay of soul calibur mixed with the speed of Dead or Alive 2.

The balance of the characters (from a real basic perspective Jae Hoon can elaborate more on this) has been thrown off. Some characters simply deal more damage per hit than others. You can come to expect something like that in reality; a massive broadsword would obviously do more damage than a dagger. However, the previous soul calibur games didn't suffer from such a problem. It used to be that everyone had an equal shot at winning. Now all you have to do is just pick the guy who does the most damage per hit and your victory is practically assured.

The create-a-character mode is a fun addition to the core gameplay. You can make characters unlike those available by default, and also those never seen before. It was almost as if Namco had an idea that said "hey, let's give the user the ability to create characters that just didn't cut it for the actual game." And it can be fun for a while. I started with the default parts, and was able to make a couple characters I was satisfied with. These custom characters can be used in versus mode, and that's about it. With all the options that you can unlock, you're still limited to a male and female template. Everyone looks basically the same; you can change their faces, but all the males and females have roughly the same physique for their gender. All the males are average-height men, and all the females are average-height women. You cannot alter their height, weight, or even their muscle density. Suppose you want to make a 7' ninja with the build of a sumo wrestler? That sort of customization is absent, whereas it can be found in various other games; even height and how fat a character looks are options from Phantasy Star Online on the dreamcast five years ago.

The chronicles of the sword was a decent idea that needed to be fleshed out more. It's easy to see how something like that can get very monotonous very fast. What particularly annoyed me about chronicles of the sword was that you had to create a character specifically for that mode. You make a guy in create-a-character before entering chronicles of the sword, and you cannot use him in that mode. I am not entirely sure if Chronicles of the Sword characters can be used in general versus mode, but I'm assuming not, because they receive various stat boosts from experience and leveling up, which would make fighting against them generally unfair. I'll update this review when I know for sure.

The game has no online play, which is simply inexcusable at this stage of the ps2 lifecycle. Any fighter that comes out on the Xbox is almost always better than a ps2 fighter by default because of the online aspect.

Graphics: The game looks spectacular. There are no clipping errors (except for the usual weapon-through-walls), and the lighting is fantastic. The characters look better than they ever had before. The create-a-character option allows you to edit the default characters' colors, and the custom characters you make don't look too shabby.

AI: I was mostly playing with my friend, so I didn't have a chance to evaluate the AI. What I played was the tutorial mission in the chronicles of the sword, and those characters were pitifully easy and weak (I killed them in two hits each).

Other: The sound effects are good as always. It sounds like they used the same voice actors from Soul Calibur 2 for the english voices. They didn't sound bad, so I won't hold it against the game developers for that. The game features a new soundtrack, but also included music from soul calibur 2 and the original.

Overall The game had a lot of potential going for it. One can only hope that subsequent releases of Soul Calibur will fix the problems that cropped up in this version. If they re-balance the characters, slow down the gameplay a little, put more care and customization into the custom character creation, and make online play an option, then the next edition of soul calibur will be near perfect in my eyes. If they gave the next version a tag mode, I'd be in heaven As for this version, I think it warrants a rent, especially if you have a lot of friends who live near you. It's a great multiplayer experience, but on your own, it's lackluster.

Score: 7/10

Personal note: I will get this game once it drops to $20. A more thorough review will be available at that time.

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