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Soul Calibur
Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Namco
Publisher:  Namco
Features:  Puru Puru Pak
Ratings:  Rating Pending
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Being that the Dreamcast is a new system, it is going to need a lot of great games to really make it worth the purchase. Up till now the choice of must-have games has been pretty slim. There really has not been anything that really shows off what the system is capable of doing. I cannot say that all of that is about to change with the introduction of Soul Calibur, but damn it if it isn't a step in the right direction. Soul Calibur is the arcade-perfect sequel to Soul Blade (Soul Edge in Japan and in the arcade) and it delivers in every way that you would expect a sequel to deliver. However it does not really offer anything new, just a substantial revamping of t

Let's just make one thing clear right off of the bat: this game is knock-you-out beautiful. Every landscape is in full 3D and just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. There are many scenes that have the characters fighting on the water, which posses the clearest water graphics I have ever seen. Other scenes in the mountains seem to go on forever without the kind of dumb blurring you see on the N64 or the kind off pop-up the Playstation has. "Big deal!" you say, "Nobody looks at the backgrounds anyway. What about the characters." Well let me tell you, each character is brilliantly detailed as well. After the round when the camera zooms in you would expect to see all of the flaws in the polygons, but no. The images actually get crisper and cleaner as the camera moves in. Every line and every shadow is crisp and clear. This is the kind of game that really shows you what the next generation of systems is all about.

If you have ever played Soul Blade then you know exactly what to expect from Soul Calibur. The fighting engine is pretty much the same, but they have added a slew of new moves for each character and a much smoother way of moving in 3D. First let's talk about the moves. This is a weapon-based game so everything revolves around either swinging a weapon or kicking. Most of the special moves are really easy (a little too easy) to execute usually calling for just a direction and one or two buttons to be pushed. Each character also has a bunch of throw moves that can be executed from any angle on the opponents body. And while we are on the subject of angles, let's talk about the 3D engine that this puppy's got. No more will you have to fight a person face to face and no more will you have to rely on a simple sidestep. Soul Calibur has an 8-direction system that allows you to attack your opponents from 8 different sides of their bodies. In the training mode it details how to find the vulnerable place on your opponent and go in for the kill. There are also special moves that incorporate moving away from an attack in order to perform a maneuver. But even with all of this complexity, the game remains simple enough for the amateur to sit down, smash a few buttons and win a couple rounds.

You got to hand it to Namco. When they release a arcade port for the home console, they do more than just give you the game with a couple of dumb play options, they really juice it up (Tekken Ball anyone?), and Soul Calibur is no different. Just like in Soul Blade there is a Survival mode, a Team Battle, and a Vs. mode. But the option that really stands out is the Mission mode, which you may find a bit difficult unless you speak Japanese or get a translation. Basically there are many different missions that one must accomplish in order to earn points. The points can then be traded in for very artistically done pictures in the art gallery. Pick the right ones and you could get special modes or extra levels. The Mission mode is very diverse with a whole bunch of new twist on the fighting engine. Everything from a fight in quicksand to double or nothing matches where you can take the points you have or risk it all on the next fighter. This is definitely something that makes the game worth buying even if you never play with another person.

There are a lot of doubting Thomases out there in regards to the Dreamcast. Some say that it won't be able to compete with all of the new powerful hardware and the kind of hold Sony and Nintendo have on the market. However, if you could see the faces of the people when they watch Soul Calibur for 5 minutes, you would think that Sega has a pretty good chance. It is, after all, arcade-perfect amazing. If they keep releasing games like this I think that the Dreamcast will have a place in everyone's home.

Chris Shade

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