Review by Zero_Signal620
"Another great entry in the series, though a step down from SCIII"
The Soul fighting series has been around for over a decade now. From the early days of Soul Edge in 1996, and eventually to the groundbreaking Soulcalibur in 1999. SC2 in 2003 had something to offer for every console it came out on, and SC3 in 2005 had a lot of backbone in terms of replay value. Then there was Legends, but we can pretend that never existed.
Three years after Soulcalibur III comes the fourth title in the Calibur part of the series, and the sixth title overall (again if you count Legends). While I enjoyed III more, Soulcalibur IV still has some good things to offer.
Story - To be honest, I quit paying attention to most of Soulcalibur's story, if not all of it. Something about a tournament and an ancient sword that everyone is dying to get their hands on. Even thinking about it gets some people asking questions that will never be answered. SC2 and SC4 have bonus characters from completely different games, so we're supposed to believe Soulcalibur, Tekken, Spawn, Zelda, and Star Wars are all somewhat in the same time frame. And why would Darth Vader want to ditch his lightsaber for a much inferior weapon? But anyway, I can use this part to talk about Story mode in SC4, which I felt was a massive letdown.
The reason I enjoyed SC3's story mode was because it was long and almost every character had an interesting background to them and you weren't limited to one path every single time. Along with that, 3's fights were more challenging (I can't count how many times Abyss wanted me to throw my controller). SC4's story mode is ridiculously short and leaves you wanting more. You select your character, read their beginning, and fight five matches. Yes, only five. You get four regular matches, and then you face the final boss. After beating the boss, you see your character's ending, which is short for the most part (and even shorter if you use a created character).
For those disappointed with Story mode, we at least get Arcade Mode and Tower of Lost Souls. Tower involves you ascending a tower and going through different scenarios; sometimes you'll get to pick 3 people to travel 3 floors (usually against 8-12 people total), other times you're forced to only take one person against as many as 9-10 people. It's very challenging and even gives you the opportunity to earn free equipment to customize your characters with. Definitely one of the finer parts of the game, and heavily emphasizes you to create characters of your own.
Characters - Some of them look and perform great (Kilik, Siegfried, Nightmare, Mitsurugi, Setsuka), while some of them look like they're ready to do anything but fight; Ivy Valentine's removed most of her armor to the point where you'd think you'd see a wardrobe malfunction in the middle of a match. Most of the characters are easy to get used to, while some are insanely cheap, whether you're playing with them or against them (biggest examples being Cervantes, Maxi, and The Apprentice). SC4's bonus characters are from the Star Wars universe. 360 owners were given Yoda and The Apprentice when the game first came out, but Darth Vader was brought over as a downloadable character. Sadly enough, Namco charged about $6 for people to download Vader to the 360, when for a few extra dollars, you could download the original Soulcalibur from 1999. Also sadly, Vader is quite sluggish in this game and is not worth the money you pay to download him and Yoda isn't much better either. The Apprentice, when used perfectly, can be one of the cheapest characters in the game, or at least in my opinion.
Graphics - The environments in which you fight in look fantastic for the most part. From the gold and fire blend of Phantom Pavilion to the cool look of the Ice Caverns, you're bound to be captivated by most of the backgrounds to the fighting arenas. Another great aspect that can't be ignored in the game.
Gameplay/Control - Like any other SC, the controls take some time to get used to. Most of the traditional fighting styles from the series are still here; everyone has their weapon of choice, unblockable attacks can be a pain, ring outs are still cheap yet efficient, and the soul gauge can be your best friend when used correctly. SC4 adds Critical Finishes, which is pretty much a cleaner form of Fatalities, and every character has one. Like most fighting games, the controls can be read like the back of someone's hand if they consistently play with one character. Another new addition to the series is the ability to remove someone's armor in battle. When taking or applying damage to the upper, middle, or lower regions of a character, you or them can lose whatever armor is in said region. If you or the person you're facing is really bad, a character can eventually lose all their armor and be down to their underwear; having armor broken off can result in taking more damage, so this of course forces the player to think of a new strategy during battle.
Online mode is smooth for the most part, but newcomers are forced to learn fast as they're usually thrown with someone selecting Cervantes or someone trying to get a quick ring out. Thankfully, not everyone is like that online, but every game has its bad online moments and this is not the exception.
Customization - SC4 brings over the character creator from SC3, as well as the ability to customize the outfits to any of the default SC4 characters. The customizing is both good and bad. Good because you're able to give your creative side of the brain a chance, whether you're trying to create something/someone that already exists or trying to create something fresh, and there's plenty of armor and accessories to choose from. It's also bad because each article of clothing has effect on your abilities. Some clothes give you more power, others more impact, boost, etc. Eventually, if you're wanting the most powerful character possible, you'll probably wind up creating a character with the tackiest wardrobe ever and equip it with an odd weapon. The voice acting for created characters is laughable for the most part, and for those who like single player are best sending their created guys through Tower or Arcade. Despite the eventually tacky looks and voice acting, the character customization is pretty nice. If you don't care for Tower of Lost Souls, then let your imagination run wild.
The only flaws I can think of overall are pretty much the story mode, some of the characters (then again, no game is perfect in that department), some of the online play, and bits of the customization. Even then, I still recommend this title. The replay value is still good for fans of both the genre and the series, as there's a lot to play for. Good alone, but even better with friends, whether they're online or not. Hopefully Namco keeps the train rolling with Soulcalibur V in the future, while fixing the few problems that exist here in the process.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/09/09
Game Release: SoulCalibur IV (US, 07/29/08)
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