SoulCalibur Review (iOS)

When SoulCalibur came out for the Dreamcast over a decade ago, it defined what a next generation fighter should be, between its amazing presentation, slick gameplay and stacked modes.  Looking back on it now, it really hasn’t aged that badly, though we have to wonder why Namco Bandai would cut corners bringing the game to new platforms.  That’s what it did with the Xbox Live Arcade version, and now the same thing has occurred with the iPad/iPhone 4 versions that hit the App Store last week.  Worse yet, a new problem has surfaced…but more on that later on.

soulcalibur ios

For now, let’s talk about the merits that SoulCalibur still brings to the table.  All 19 combatants from the original make a return here, from the big-boobied vixen Ivy to the traditional Mitsirugi, and every one in between.  You’ll need to unlock a few of them by playing through the game’s main Arcade Mode, but gaining new access to this content, along with other accessories, prolongs the replay value.  In addition, you can also try your hand at other modes, including Survival, Extra Survival, Time Attack and Practice.  (For those who “like to watch”, Museum Mode and Exhibition also make a return.)

Now, being that the game’s on a touch-screen device, the controls have changed up quite a bit.  Character movement, attacks, and guarding are all performed using an on-screen digital pad and buttons.  While it’s hardly the same as gripping the old school Dreamcast controller, they still work pretty well, especially when it comes to executing Soul Charges and pulling off nifty, little combos.  As a bonus, you can also move buttons around in case you prefer your own layout.

In terms of presentation, Namco has done an adequate job translating the game to the mobile front.  Yeah, it isn’t as fluid as the 60-frames-per-second Dreamcast version, and some of the milder details are missing, but the stage layouts are still fantastic (especially the lit-up indoor caves and temples) and the animations are killer (Voldo is still a trip to watch as he bends his body in ridiculous ways).  The excellent soundtrack is still intact, though the announcer’s timing is off by a few seconds – and he still says the same comments in that somewhat muffled tone.

So, the gameplay is good, and the presentation better than most App Store fighters, so why the low score?  Two reasons.  The first is the lack of particular pieces of content.  Like the Xbox Live Arcade version, SoulCalibur on iOS is devoid of the outstanding Mission Modes that made the Dreamcast version such a joy to play.  Worse yet, it’s strictly a solo tour.  You can’t play against a friend locally, nor can you get online to challenge newcomers.

These would be easy to overlook had the game come with a budget price of, say, $2.99, like what Capcom’s Street Fighter IV Volt currently goes for.  Sadly, it doesn’t.  Namco has slapped a default price of $16.99 on this game -- $7 more than the XBLA version – making this one of the highest priced software offerings in the App Store.  Even with its limited time “sale” price of $11.99, that’s a lot of money to fork over for a condensed port.  Like Square Enix has done with its software (namely the expensive Final Fantasy games and the $12-priced Rayforce), it’s completely unfair price gouging.  Five bucks, maybe.  But twelve?  That’s hard to swallow.  ESPECIALLY without a Lite version to convince buyers first.

soulcalibur ios

Namco’s got the technical know-how nailed down when it comes to its iPad library, and SoulCalibur continues to show this.  The more-than-adequate presentation and solid gameplay make up for some of the missing content.  However, with a hefty price tag attached to it, it’s likely to burn your wallet much worse than your soul.  Proceed with caution.

Above Average

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Robert Workman
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