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November 30, 2005
Soul Calibur III - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
300KBDolby PLIIYesYesNoneYes

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SC3 looks stunning!
Namco are a company quite familiar to video game fighting fans. Indeed they have two series' that have millions of fans the world over, but are very different in style. The first is the predominantly fist based fighting game Tekken, while the second is their weapons based combat game Soul Calibur. It is the latter which is receiving its second outing on PS2 with the release of Soul Calibur III, a game which for the first time hasn't hit the arcades first (indeed an arcade version isn't even planned) and is also a Playstation 2 exclusive, a decision which is certain to upset many Nintendo and Microsoft fanboys. The new game has a lot to live up to with its prequel, Soul Calibur II, widely regarded as one of the best fighting games of all time.

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Cassandra's about to Ring Out.
The first thing that gamers should note is that Namco aren't simply slapping a couple of new characters into Soul Calibur II and then passing it off as a sequel. Indeed this game includes many new game modes, hundreds of unlockable items and a continuation of the storyline. The storyline in the game is as follows...

The unholy sword was sealed by the destined one, but a mysterious individual revives the azure knight, Nightmare. The legendary battle of Soul Calibur and Soul Edge moves to the next phase. Which sword will ultimately prevail? What is the motivation of the three new souls who join the fray? And how will you, the player, become involved in the world of Soul Calibur?

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New characters Tira and Zasalamel.
In terms of characters Soul Calibur III sees the inclusion of three new characters. These include Zasalamel who uses a Death Scythe as a weapon, the gorgeous green/blue haired Tira who uses a Ring Blade and Setsuka who uses a Iai sword hidden in an umbrella as a weapon. In terms of returning characters all your favourites such as Ivy, Mitsurugi, Taki, Cassandra, Astaroth, Voldo, Raphael, Siegfried, Kilik, Nightmare and Talim have returned among others.

Certainly one of the most interesting, and impressive, new additions to the series is the ability to create your own characters. After selecting the characters sex and occupation which includes the likes of dancer, monk, barbarian, thief you then have the ability to change the appearance with over 20 aspects to change including the characters face (eyebrow, lips, eyes, skin colour), Mask, Necklace, Belt, Variety of amour, socks, shoes and clothing> It's also possible to change every aspect colour from skin tone to clothing. Following these decision the game determines your fighting style. This created character can be used in many of the game modes.

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Checking the character stats.
As you would expect Soul Calibur III includes the usual options, well, almost. The traditional 'Arcade' mode has been replaced with a Tournament mode which pits you against virtual human players with silly names. It's also possible to enter 2-player games which, as is always the case, is sensational fun - especially when you use your created characters against each other. It's still a little disappointing that there's no online gameplay, but given the quick responses required to counter attacks this is somewhat understandable given the laggy connections most people still have (even on broadband). As mentioned above there have been several new game modes added, and indeed they deserve a more detailed look, so here we go.

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Taki is kicking ass again!
One of the first big modes is the Chronicles of the Sword. This is billed as an adventure styled game however it plays a bit closer to Defender of the Crown. That being you have a series of castles to defend, but must also take over the opposing teams castles, and defeat their armies. The isometric viewpoint works pretty well, but ultimately this mode feels quite shallow. It's little more then walk around a map, enter combat and then go into a one-on-one battle to decide the victor. I was quietly hoping for some Dynasty Warriors styled large scale battles but it never happens and as a result the game feels like the arcade mode with some slow wondering around in between bouts.

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The second new game mode is the Tale of Souls. In this mode you select your character and the follow his or her progress around the lands as they try to find the Soul Blade and its secrets. This adds a little more background to each character, but we found that reading page after page of text became tiresome. Perhaps Namco can/should use cut scenes in future to keep it interesting.

Finally we come to the Soul Arena mode is one which places you in many unique situations to overcome. Some may be battling a giant, others may be competing for coins or battling a statue. While not the most original game mode we've ever seen this is another mode that is certain to keep you occupied for more time then you really have to spare.

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Increasing the character stats.
Namco should also be commended for the inclusion of the Museum. As you play the various modes in the game you earn Gold which can then be used to purchase new items in the museum. As well as weapons for the characters you can select from artwork, character profiles, movies and much more.

I guess ultimately we have to look at the game as a package and in that regard there are a couple of areas where Namco could have done more, or should that be spent more time enhancing the game further. For starters, while the three new characters are fantastic additions, the look wonderful and have a great presence the game really should have had more to give returning gamers a little more reason to play the game. The new additions to the game aren't as good as we hoped, but there is so much here to see and do that even those disappointments can't detract from what is a stunning package overall.

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Chronicles of the Sword mode.
Perhaps it's the fact that Soul Calibur II looked so jaw droppingly (is that a word!?) stunning that this game didn't quite have the same impact. That's not saying this game looks bad, far from it in fact, rather that Namco were pushing the system so far last time that they clearly struggled to get more juice out of the aging workhorse. Don't get me wrong however there have been advances. In particular the backgrounds seem to have even more life and detail to them. Character animations are fluid and the visual effects among the best seen on the system with gorgeous sparks as weapons clash, motion blur as the weapons are flung around and even the odd bit of destruction of the environments.

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Yet more stunning effects.
The first thing gamers should notice when they boot up this game is the gorgeous THX logo. THX (for those of you unaware)isn't a sound format as such, but rather a guarantee that the game has gone through rigorous testing to ensure the highest quality audio at all times, and there is little doubt that is the case with Soul Calibur III. With the inclusion of Dolby Pro Logic II the game immerses you into a wonderful fantasy world which with some wonderful speech which, for once, includes some great dialogue before and/or after each bout. The music also deserves a mention with some wonderfully composed pieces that set the pace of the battles. Without a doubt this is one of the most impressive sounding titles on PS2.

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Two massive weapons.
If you're a fighting fan then purchasing Soul Calibur III should be a no-brainer. The game is brilliantly developed and includes enough depth and options that you could spend weeks and still not unlock everything. If there was a disappointment it would have to be that the Chronicles of the Sword mode doesn't meet its full potential while the games overall storyline could still do with some beefing up. Having said that, few other fighting games reach this level and if you're a fighting fan (and obviously a PS2 owner with this being an exclusive title) there's no reason not to own this game. Sensational.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSThere have been some improvements, but not as many as expected.
SOUNDGreat voiceovers and music, while THX certification ensures quality.
GAMEPLAYThe new game modes aren't as great as we hoped, but the fighting is!
VALUEThere's so much to do and unlock in this game it could last forever.
OVERALLSoul Calibur III isn't quite the perfectly built package we all hoped for. The character creation rocks, but the new game modes needed more refining. Still, this is one of the best fighting games of all time, no doubt about it and an essential purchase.

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