If you would’ve asked me to provide a list of games that are so good it would be impossible to screw up an Xbox Live port, Soul Calibur would be at the top. The Dreamcast version is the most epic fighting game of all time, after all, and screwing with such a highly successful formula would be detrimental to the memories of an adoring fan base. Only a year removed from the travesty that was Soul Calbur Legends on the Wii, Namco Bandai decided to give their diehard fans the finger once again with the release of a Dreamcast port almost a decade following the original, lazily abandoning several key features of the Dreamcast game without substituting anything to make the 800 point download worth your while.
By removing the game’s only interesting single player component in the form of the Battle Mission mode and rushing the development cycle to the point where Xbox Live multiplayer wasn’t even implemented, what remains is the excellent local multiplayer, and the same memorable cast of 19 characters, each specializing in their own form of weapon based head-to-head combat. Only one problem: you no longer have to unlock any of the characters, as you would have in the original game, nor do you have to unlock the 300 art pieces showcased in the in-game museum. While I’m glad that it’s all made the cut, it’s kind of a downer booting up the game to find that there’s no incentive to play through single-player, aside from achievements.
Thankfully, the porting process is redeemed by the fact that there’s still no way to screw up the fighting engine, which is all that should count anyway. The graphics look good, fully realized in HD and the game has aged extraordinarily well. Even up against modern full-retail fighting games, Soul Calibur proves to be the standard for the way weapon-based 3D fighters ought to be designed. If you can overcome the sad fact that the port was rushed out the door to generate a buzz for Soul Calibur IV, you’ll still find plenty to love about this arcade classic.
The fighting still feels good. It’s as satisfying as ever to send your opponent flying off one of the game’s deliberately shaped platforms and even more so in local multiplayer. Your favorite fighters from Soul Calibur have all returned, with their alternative costumes intact. However, having no way to bring Lizardking and company online on a console which has found room for such features in lesser fighting games like Ultimate Mortal Kombat III is a let down.
Make no mistake, Soul Calibur’s just as awesome today as it was a decade ago, although if you still own the Dreamcast version, you’re probably only looking into this for the competition on the leaderboards or the achievements, at this point. It’s a nice looking game and plays well, only it comes off as too little, too late. What is represented in this download proves that the game still holds up and that it would’ve been a perfect port, if it didn’t have to be released a full month ahead of Soul Calibur IV, which is unfortunately the superior Soul Calibur experience on the Xbox 360.
Your money would go a lot further purchasing a Dreamcast and the original game, or feeding some coins into a local arcade machine for a few hours and entering gaming nirvana.