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Soul Calibur III’ appeals to fans of genre

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Welcome to the stage of history.

“Soul Calibur” die-hards will recognize that quote almost immediately. Those who have never played should become acquainted with it immediately, as the “Soul Calibur” series is arguably the current king of its genre.

The first way that “Soul Calibur” sets itself apart from other fighters on the market is the setting. While games like “Tekken” and “Mortal Kombat” are obviously set in a time close to the present, “Soul Calibur” distinguishes itself by placing itself in medieval times.

The story centers itself around two swords, one good and the other evil. The story is prominently based upon the evil sword, the Soul Edge. Once it was part of a set, but the second sword was shattered and the shards spread throughout the land. Many fighters seek out the remaining sword- some for power, some for wealth – but whatever their intention, they become tainted by the sword if they succeed in attaining it.

There are some fighters that intend to destroy the sword though, if it is ever found. The good sword, the Soul Calibur, will arise to defeat the Soul Edge when the two meet. But realistically, not many gamers play fighting video games for the stories. What the plot boils down to is that there are bad guys, good guys and very large weapons.

The characters themselves are a wide and diverse bunch. They range from a giant axe-wielding golem to a bondage-wearing balding man. Each one is a deep combatant with a variety of moves and strategies to be learned. Newcomers to the series shouldn’t feel overwhelmed with “Soul Calibur III,” as the developers worked to create a more balanced, easier playing field.

New to the series is the Chronicles of the Sword, a gameplay feature that adds role-playing elements. In this mode, the gamer gets to create a fighter of their choice from scratch, assigning a selected character class and giving them his choice of apparel. The player then takes his created character through a story mode that is based around several warring kingdoms. As they progress, the created fighter levels up and unlocks more character classes and items for use in the different modes.

To that end, the game features a wealth of unlockable content that add to the replay value. There are a vast number of unlockable characters, as well as parts for the “create a fighter” feature. The created character can be used in the other game modes as well to fight the traditional “Soul Calibur” combatants.

But the addition of the ability to create a new fighter did not eliminate the importance of the already-established characters. The Tales of the Soul feature centers itself around the “Soul Calibur” staples. Each of the characters gets his or her own branching storyline that adds depth to their pre-existing backgrounds. This mode is also useful for accumulating gold, which can then be used in turn to purchase new items and weapons.

However, the games genre can also be its biggest detractor. Fighting games only have a lifespan that directly depends on the player’s interest, which is often quite short. Beyond “Smash Bros. Melee,” it’s hard to find a fighting game that has real longevity for gamers. “Soul Calibur III” works to increase its duration in the gamer’s active library, but despite all of the additions the essential gameplay is still fundamentally the same it has been from the start.

For fans of the fighting genre, “Soul Calibur III” should be a high priority. For newcomers, however, this is an excellent place to start.