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Featuring graphics that surpass even the amazing NFL 2K ( /exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000K4C9/%24%7B0%7D ), Soul
Calibur is the martial arts fighting game to end all fighting games and the game to get if you're a Dreamcast owner.
Based on the arcade classic of the same name, Soul Calibur lets you choose to represent one of 10 fighters in a series
of battles against your peers. If you can successfully defeat all of your opponents, you will then face the fiendish
Inferno in a final showdown that will determine the fate of the world. Each of the game's warriors is armed with a
different deadly weapon--sword, ax, stave, nunchaku, you name it--and an assortment of special moves all tailored to
that specific weapon. The warriors include men, women, and creatures from all over the globe and from various
mythologies. Each is brought to life with amazing motion-capture animation, which results in incredibly lifelike and
realistic duels. If you own a Dreamcast or are thinking of buying one, do yourself a favor and add Soul Calibur to your
collection. --Mike Ryan
* Exceptionally lifelike graphics and animation
* Multiple game modes--1-player, 2-player, team, computer vs. computer, martial arts demo, and more
* Secrets and extra features will keep players coming back
Cons: * May be too violent for some parents
Let's get one thing out of the way: Soul Calibur is the best 3D fighting game ever released in the arcades.
Better than Virtua Fighter 3. Better than Tekken 3. If that weren't enough, the Dreamcast version one-ups the original
arcade release in just about every way imaginable. Now that we've established that, let's explore why, and what it is
about the Dreamcast version that raises the bar on fighting games in general.
From its debut at the 1998 Electronics Entertainment Expo, tucked away in a remote corner of Namco's booth, it was
obvious that Soul Calibur was something special. Namco had pushed the PlayStation-based System 12 hardware farther than
anyone had a right to expect from such a modest chipset. Namco took what it had learned from Tekken 3 and built on the
ambitious, but limited, Soul Edge fighting engine. Soul Calibur was not only a substantial leap in graphics, but in
gameplay as well. Employing a new eight-way directional system in conjunction with a physics engine that took weapon
weight into account, Soul Calibur's gameplay reached new heights in both complexity and depth. Perhaps one of the most
crucial additions was the inclusion of the tech-roll found in Tekken 3. No more lying on the ground as your opponent
rained down attacks from the sky. Just a quick tap of the guard button and you were back on your feet, quick as a
whistle. Graphically, the game was a fireworks display of particle effects, complex polygonal character models, and a
light-sourcing tour de force, all running at a blazing 60 frames-per-second.
The short of it is, if you haven't played Soul Calibur, you need to. For sheer adrenaline working in tandem with
eye-melting graphics, nothing could touch it. What then, does the Dreamcast version (Namco's first "real" game developed
for archrival Sega in ages) of Soul Calibur do to leapfrog past its arcade counterpart in every way possible?
To begin with, the most obvious enhancement are the graphics. Despite the lack of a prerendered FMV intro, the likes of
which we're used to seeing from Namco, the opening offered here will drop more jaws than Muhammed Ali. Think of the
intros usually seen in Capcom games like Marvel vs. Capcom, but rendered in full, hi-res, 60fps 3D (with a splash of
Samurai Shodown thrown in for good measure), and you're not even close to imagining how awesome the intro to Soul
Calibur for the DC looks. Picture a first-person camera zooming in over some sandy horizon, as weapons slam into the
foreground. Keep going until the weapons are replaced by a swiftly approaching Kilik (the staff user in SC). Trigger an
impressive sequence of character cameos and a dynamic soundtrack, and there you have it. This has to be seen in person
to appreciate. It looks so good it might as well be CG, because five years ago, graphics like these were impossible.
The reason the arcade version couldn't be ported home to the PlayStation was due to hardware limitations. Despite the
fine conversion of Tekken 3 to the PlayStation, Soul Calibur on System-12 used an extremely high amount of RAM to enable
effects like Z-buffering and other processor-taxing effects - effects that were not present in Tekken 3. The Dreamcast,
on the other hand, represented the perfect solution to Namco's problems. With hardware roughly ten times as powerful as
the PlayStation, the DC can not only manage Soul Calibur's graphic fireworks, but also enhance them by leaps and bounds.
With characters boasting not only improved polygon counts, but high-resolution textures, each member of Soul Calibur
moves around each stage looking larger, tougher, more solid, and more detailed than ever before. For example, Astaroth's
alternate costume sprouts Godzilla-like spikes out of his back (these spikes wobble as he moves), along with a tall
Alfalfa-esque hairdo that swings and sways depending on what direction he's moving in. Soul Edge alumni and Siegfried's
alter ego, Nightmare, wields the Soul Edge itself, with an eyeball set in the center that looks around at the
proceedings independently of the sword. Details like hair, clothing, and accessories all move in rhythm with an
extremely realistic physics model. Improving the quality of the characters wasn't enough for Namco's programmers though.
They also added a muscle-flexing system that causes pectorals to ripple during victory poses, breasts and buttocks to
jiggle realistically (read: subtle, not exaggerated as in Dead or Alive), and skin to stretch in a most natural way,
with not a polygon tear in sight. These characters look incredible, and some benefit from the enhancements more than
others (Lizardman's tail no longer looks like a polygonal mess). Everything looks perfectly smooth (especially faces),
with minimal blockiness, putting the models in VF3tb to shame. This is an extremely solid-looking game. The characters
have also been outfitted with an extensive set of facial expressions that add greatly to the game experience. Take
Mitsurugi, for example. With every sword slash accompanied by a grunt or yell, his face synchronizes the appropriate
expression as well. Even during win poses, each character mouths his own victory speech. Even little things like fingers
are individually rendered.
Weapons are also impressive enough to simply sit back and watch: The blades on Voldo's twin katars move independently;
Kilik's bo flexes with each swing; and metallic weapons like Mitsurugi's sword feature specular highlighting (think Gran
Turismo, but better) that reflects the environment around it. Other things, like head tracking, dust clouds kicked up by
the characters' feet, and amazing real-time shadows (check out Ivy's flaccid whip-sword in practice mode for a good idea
of how cool simple shadows can be), round out the visual impact. Soul Calibur is so detail-intensive that even your
character's breath can be seen on some stages. --James Mielke
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