Gameplay, Story and Value:
It’s kind of amazing, after so many years of Soul Calibur, to go back and see how little things have actually changed over time. In high school my friends and I played A LOT of Soul Calibur II on the PS2, and my wife and I still fire up that same game on the Gamecube as well as the sequels on the PS3. Jumping into my first match in Soul Blade took virtually zero effort, as the controls and playstyle were nearly identical to its successors. Not only that, but there’s a respectable roster of fighters here, all of which have appeared continuously throughout the franchise. Game options include standard Arcade, Multiplayer and Practice modes, as well as Edge Master Mode which serves as a sort of story mode for the game.
So does all this familiarity make Soul Blade a great game? Well, maybe. All the mechanics are on tap here: parrying, sweeping and vertical attacks, special combos, but it’s also very much a Soul game. By that I mean if you’ve never been a huge fan of the fighting engine used in these game, like I’m not, then you’re going to have the same issues in this one. Fighting seems slow, blocks and parries are hard to time, special attacks feel lackluster and aside from the somewhat boring Edge Master mode the game’s arcade nature make it feel a bit shallow.
The characters all manage to feel unique and there’s generally something for everyone. Larger characters like Siegried and Rock have a nice weight to their attacks, while more nimble characters like Sohpitia and Li Long have much more freedom to their movements but less force behind their attacks. There’s also everything in between… and Voldo.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Visually the game looks pretty reasonable on the PS1. Animation is fast and fluid and character models are decent. There’s also very little texture warping compared to other 3D fighters on the console. Soul Blade’s intro video is a flashy pre-rendered animation that actually looks really good, though clearly indicative of the era.
The Soul series (is that even what it’s called?) has always had really over the top orchestral tracks to fight to, the problem is they all sound sort of samey and in the end nothing really stands out. The music is fun and adds to the combat nicely, but it’s not something I’d want to listen to outside of the game. Sound effects are fight but the voice-overs, specifically the English ones, are hilariously terrible. Every time Siegfried or Sophitia speak I die a little on the inside while I’m doubling over. The announcer is equally amazing. It’s like they bring in another voice-over to announce whatever names he couldn’t pronounce. It’s something special.
Fun and Afterthoughts:
For someone who’s not really a fan of this series, I actually enjoyed this game more than I thought I would. This is mostly because of well it stands up compared to its successors, almost feeling like a modern fighter in its own right. Ultimately though, like more recent Soul Calibur games, I just couldn’t learn to love the slower fighting engine. It’s a nice change of pace to engage in slower, more strategic combat that emphasizes blocking and dodging, but sometimes those mechanics don’t work in quite the way I feel they should. Even so, it’s a solid fighter and I had a good time playing it.