SoulCalibur III

Year: 2005
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Namco
Genre: 3D fighter
Review Date: 12/4/05
Rating: ***

Welcome to the new stage of history... Except that it's pretty much the same as the old stage. Deciding to play it safe and leave behind the disappointing taste of "SoulCalibur II" (2003), "SoulCalibur III" does little to evolve the franchise from the original "SoulCalibur" (1999). For the most part, the characters are the same, the stages are the same, the animations are the same, the music is the same, and even the awkward victory poses are the same. The move sets have been slightly tweaked to balance the characters better, which means that Taki's and Xianghua's most effective moves are now gone. Damn. While a new boss character has been added, he is little more than a pumped up version of Inferno and he even uses the same animation sequences. Has the SoulCalibur team completely run out of ideas?

Raphael, Talim, and Cassandra return from "SoulCalibur II," and the new roster includes Tira, Setsuka, and Zasalamel. Unfortunately, it looks like the same character designers that worked on SC2 worked on SC3, and the costumes are downright hideous. Have they gone insane or have they just given up trying? The characters themselves are slightly more attractive than their SC2 counterparts, but the series continues to stray into embarrassing and offensive cheesecake territory. Not only do we have enormous ballistic breasts that slosh and sway like water balloons, but now the male characters' breasts jiggle as well. At least Namco is an equal opportunity jiggler. The new characters also feature panty flashing, considerable undercleavage, and butt cleavage as well. I'm sure Ivy's ass still undulates like a gelatin dessert, but I haven't studied it closely enough to find out. It strikes me as odd that a series as sophisticated, serious, and respected as "SoulCalibur" treats its characters so disrespectfully, as if borne of utter disdain and contempt. The difficulty has been ramped up to the point where it's often impossible to win matches even if you're cheating, which makes this the least accessible game in the series. Fortunately, the unlockables are considerably easier to obtain than in SC2, and you can unlock most of the characters in a matter of hours instead of months (so I can finally play Lizardman again!).

There is only one feature that makes "SoulCalibur III" more compelling to play than the original, and that's the ability to create custom fighters. Unfortunately, most of the cool parts are locked and the job classes are rather weak. It's also inconvenient that you can't switch your job class once you've selected it, and you have to create a whole new character if you want to try out different moves. SC3 also offers a bizarre real-time strategy game mode that takes your custom character on a campaign to conquer enemy strongholds. It's amusing for about twenty minutes, and then it becomes annoying. Unfortunately, it's the only way to unlock some of the cooler custom character parts, so it becomes a necessary chore. Ultimately the question becomes "why does this game exist when it's so similar to the previous entries, and why should I bother playing it?" Indeed, a question worth pondering...

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Copyright © 2006 Alex Smits