Let it be said the Soul Calibur 2 was easily one of the greatest games of this console generation, and its sequel lives up to it in almost every way. Soul Calibur 3 captures the fast-paced action found in Soul Calibur 2, and tweaks it just enough to create an all new experience that easily makes one of the greatest fighting games of all time. However, while it undeniably improved, it still has a few key things missing that prevent it from being perfect.
The story of the twin swords of good and evil, the Soul Calibur and the Soul Edge, picks up from where it left off in SC2. Nightmare, after defeating Inferno and Raphael, received the whole of Soul Edge, returning him to his full power. However, at that moment, Siegfried, the man who took up Soul Edge and unknowingly turned into the world?s greatest evil, suddenly remembered all the death and destruction he had caused under the control of the sword, and separated himself from it. With his consciousness restored, he took the Soul Calibur, stuck it through the Soul Edge, and shattered it. He stripped off his cursed armor, and left to repent for the deeds done by Nightmare. Soon after, a man named Zasalamel (a new playable character), while in search of the Soul Edge, happened upon the armor and fragments of the evil sword. Using dark magic and the Soul Edge?s consciousness, he pulled the ghosts and spirits out of the earth and reanimated the armor, bringing Nightmare back into this world so he may have a chance to reclaim Siegfried as his container. From there, a series of events weave together and, once again, bring the sword-seeking warriors together in combat once again. On a story-related side note, Raphael is now physically corrupted by the Soul Edge and is spreading its taint wherever he goes, Talim is running an orphanage, Mitsurugi has another angry woman on his heels (Setsuka), Kilik and Xianghua are a team again, and Tira is a psycho trying to help the Soul Edge itself.
For the most part, the actual fighting remains the same as SC2. There is still the vertical and horizontal slashing, the kicking and the guarding. Many of the characters have had their moves modified a bit, be it in speed or control. The levels are generally different, and have slick new designs, though some have striking similarities to stages in the previous installment. Gamecube SC2 players, do note, the transition from the more convenient A-X-Y placement is tough to shake off, and it?ll take a while to really get used to the PS2 controller?s setup.
The single player mode really takes off and separates itself from almost any other fighting game out there, but is still somewhat disappointing. Instead of fighting some randomly selected characters five or six times, the selected hero travels across the world, through paths selected at the gamer?s discretion. The character starts off in their hometown and, for one reason or another, gets tied back up in the fight for Soul Edge. The story unfolds between each fight through text and the occasional CG sequence that offers Resident Evil 4-style interactivity, and everything comes to a head in a final confrontation with the new final boss, Abyss. While Namco deserves credit for doing something new in place of the standard sequence of random encounters, they certainly could have done more. Simply put, everybody in the game has almost the exact same story. Everyone meets up with Yun-Seong (new spelling) in Egypt, Cassandra in Spain, and Tira in Germany, and it is always under the same circumstances, in the same level (which can occasionally lead to an inexplicable mirror match). It would?ve been much better if the individual character?s stories all actually wove together into one cohesive epic. The other single player option is the Chronicles of the Sword mode. This offers a somewhat odd RPG-RTS-Fighting game-thing. Using a handful of created characters, the gamer battles his way through a continent ravaged by war, unifying it and gathering together numerous heroes together, including both the standard characters and a new cast, unlocked by progressing through the story. In all honesty, the Chronicles mode just isn?t particularly fun. The story is generally uncompelling, and the battles progress very, very slowly. However, it still must be played, as it is the only way to unlock most of the bonus characters and earn the money for new weapons, but it takes a long, long time. The biggest problem is the lack of online multiplayer. If that was available, most of this could’ve been forgiven, but in this day a fighting game is simply incomplete without an online mode.
Character creation mode is the main addition to SC3, and unlike the single player modes, it is simply incredible — eventually. It starts off with a slim six job options, and a minimal number of hair and clothes options. By playing through the Tales of Souls, special ?Bonus? characters can be unlocked (finally, Hwang Myong is back), as well as expansions to the store inventories. Chronicles of the Sword mode unlocks new fighting styles for the individual classes (allowing them to use new weapons), as well as money and buyable items. As the game progresses, more classes become available, as well as even more equipment. It isn?t until all the jobs, and much of the clothes are unlocked that the create-a-character really takes off, but once it does, it makes it worthwhile.
The graphics remain pretty much unchanged from SC2, with just a bit more detail in the levels and some semi-destructible environments. Not that it?s a bad thing, since SC2 looked great. It does, however, take a hit in the sound department, sporting quite patchy voice acting, especially compared to the quality job done in SC2. Many characters have new voice actors and some of them just sound bad (case in point, Yun-Seong). For the most part though, the game sounds good.
Though Soul Calibur 3 lacks a few things, it is still one of the best games on the PS2. It has a superb cast of characters with a great variety of moves, a unique (though flawed) single player experience, and the given multiplayer fun. While it lacks an online mode, there is still plenty that will keep a gamer coming back. This is definitely a must for anyone who enjoyed SC2.