Review by mixedlion
"A good sequel to an excellent series"
I have always and always will be a fan of the Soul Calibur series. No other fighting genre (except for maybe Mortal Kombat) has had a really engaging story or cast of characters that you'd actually like the way the SC series has. Soul Calibur 4 is a great sequel and most likely the best so far.
The gameplay for Soul Calibur has always been good but never has really gone any major overhauls until now. Now you can break off an enemy's armor (now which affect gameplay, especially for custom characters) and the new critical finishers are just amazing and reasonably challenging to pull off. There is also far less "ring outs", some stages you really have to work to get any sort of "easy win", the same goes for excessive blocking, which encourages the player to be more active in battle.
The Story Mode is somewhat disappointing, a lot of the endings are very short and really don't give any conclusion to the story whatsoever (let's just hope that means the soul still burns), and it is only five levels. What makes up for it, however, would be the Tower of Souls mode, which is both fun to play and frustratingly challenging, depending on how you view the AI and how lucky you are. The AI can be extremely cheap at times, especially when facing some of the overpowered AI custom characters and certain levels.
Overall though, the gameplay continues to be exceptional and definitely in my opinion surpasses Virtua Fighter or Street Fighter.
The music has always been epic since Soul Blade, and Soul Calibur 4 delivers when it comes to excellent background music. However, a lot of the music seems revamped from other levels this time around and instead of being exceptional, the music has more or less become "just enough to fit" rather than overhaul it. The voice and sound effects are great though as they always have, so nothing has changed there.
Character Customization: 7/10
The character customization has vastly improved from the last series, allowing the player up to 50 slots instead of a measly 10. However, while the character customization is better than the last, it isn't without its flaws.
For starters there are no unique movesets, all of your custom character's movesets are based off of the 25 standard Soul Calibur characters, which is a good and bad thing. Good because Soul Calibur 3's unique movesets were largely half-baked for lack of better term and because at least your character gets a critical finisher, but still it doesn't feel totally unique. There is also not as much parts you can use to equip your character, or at least they aren't as easy to get (you can't just buy them from a shop like you could in the 3rd game, now you have to go through Tower of Souls which can be a pain at times).
Lastly, most of the parts have an effect on your character. While that makes for a good "RPG style" build, it also takes away your chance to make your character the way you want him or her to be, and almost forces you to equip parts just for that extra gauge boost or that impact you need. The voices of the customs, while you can select their pitch, really don't seem at all different from one another, and alignment doesn't seem to come into effect. For instance, my "evil" custom character wound up sounding like a "martyr" because of her equipment parts, making her an overdramatic heroine instead. Character customization in this game is good but not great, to say the very least.
New Characters: 8/10
The new characters in this series are largely a mixed bag. The five "bonus" characters, Schezerazade, Angol Fear, Kamikurisi, Ashlotte, and Shura are lame both with storylines and that they are basically carbon copies of the existing characters. You look at them and most of your custom creations and think "I could've made better than that", considering Angol Fear looks totally out of place with the rest of the cast, Ashlotte and Kamikurisi are just two more little girls, and the other two just aren't all there. You can choose to ignore them thankfully, but that space could have been put for something better, such as Battle Theatre or maybe even more custom parts. They are just a waste of space. There also could have been at least one or two male guests to even the odds out, but thankfully they aren't considered canon to the story (at least I hope not).
The Star Wars characters, I can only speak for Yoda and the Apprentice. The Apprentice is really cheap as an AI opponent and frustrating, but he's also quite effective and fun to play as. Yoda, on the other hand, while he seems cool on paper to have in the game, both playing as him AND facing him is quite an ordeal. You cannot grab or throw him and he's just too small to be any sort of balanced match.
On the flip side, the two new canon characters, Hilde and Algol, are excellent. Hilde is by far my new personal favorite, as her fighting style is totally unique and unlike the rest of the female cast she isn't scantily clad nor is she a little girl. She fits in with the series well, and she's great to play as, the only thing is she has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get past it she's a great character for sure. Algol plays the role as the new "boss" quite well, unlike some of the previous bosses he has a really good heart despite being intimidating, and he's actually likeable (and human). Those two are the reasons I bumped up the score so much, especially for Hilde.
Overall Score: 8/10
I wanted to give this game a 10, considering how much I really love the Soul Calibur series. The Soul Gauge, Critical Finishers, and some decent new characters are what the series needed. However, with the inclusion of the Star Wars characters the the "guest characters", it makes such a good series become more like a license and name brand rather than being totally unique. There should have been more effort and concentration into putting things that made the series classic, such as Battle Theatre, Exhibitions, more artwork like the first Soul Calibur had, and definitely more to the story (like Soul Calibur 3 did). Instead, Namco commercialized the series, and while I respect that, I do hope the series will remain true should it continue, because while this game is good, its definitely not the ultimate conclusion for sure.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/01/08
Game Release: SoulCalibur IV (US, 07/29/08)
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