Thunderbolt logo

Soul Calibur III

Good and evil. Who or what are they? Is the gallant knight in shining armor the epitome of all righteous idealism, or is it merely someone with unconquerable courage and willpower? Is there such a thing as a sanctimonious killer? Does stealing a loaf bread make a poor person bad? Is there such a thing as absolute good or evil, and if there were, would you know for certain? It’s a bit hard to pin something down as unquestionably good or bad, as every aspect of our lives can be deemed relative. There are not merely two sides to every story, but a myriad of different viewpoints representing each and every person’s perception of existence. Indeed, finding that fine line between good and evil is hard to find. Thankfully, Soul Calibur III makes the distinction crystal clear.

It’s been years since the Soul Edge first appeared on the grand stage of life. Boasting incredible power, its allure has ensnared plenty of hosts to fulfill its evil bidding. A man named Siegfried once found the blade, and let its raw power consume his very soul. He became Nightmare, a monster with unparalleled skill, might, and a will to anihilate anything that stood in his path. However, Nightmare’s reign of terror was not to be. In a struggle of epic proportions, Siegfried and Nightmare were split into two distinct beings, each half representing good and evil. While each side sought redemption or destruction, a new face has stepped into struggle for ultimate power. A warrior named Zasalamel desires the Soul Edge, intending to use it to end his eternal life. But now that the race for the mystical weapon has been revived, all of the world’s greatest fighters have risen once again. With the fate of humanity balanced between good and evil, the Soul Edge is ready for the taking.

Fancy plot aside, Soul Calibur III is the latest installment in a critically acclaimed fighting game series. Unlike countless other 3D fighters out on the market, each character on its roster sports a different weapon and a corresponding fighting style. You’ll be able to wield katanas, nunchakus, broadswords, rapiers, maces, axes, scythes, whips, and plenty of other sharp objects. All of these weapons require different strategies and gameplay options, offering rich and diverse movesets that will put your gaming skills and abilities to the test. Want to cut a few quick holes into someone? Xianghua’s awesome swordplay will make mincemeat out of any foe. Feel like smashing a few skulls in? Astaroth’s axe will get the job done nicely. With the majority of all the old characters coming back onto the battlefield, you’ll have plenty an opportunity to find a fighter that will cater to your sadistic needs.

However, fans of the previous game won’t be too thrilled with the initial lineup presented to them. Not only does this game have a far steeper learning curve than its predecessor, but it lacks a few features as well. Console fans will not find Team Battle, Link, Heihachi, Spawn, or Necrid in this game, something that will likely depress a few gamers out there. But fear not, for Soul Calibur III comes with more unlockable characters than you can shake a stick at. You’ll be able to acquire characters that can use steel fans, sickles, lances, and plenty of other nifty little toys. When all is said, done, and unlocked, you’ll be facing a roster of over 40 characters, each ready to be mastered. You’ll be able to try out the Tales of Souls, a convoluted story mode that allows you to learn the backgrounds and travels of your character. The choices you make will determine whom you fight, from the lowliest soldier CPU to some of the nastiest foes ever to step foot into the brawl. With interactive cutscenes, descriptive storylines and some excellent endings, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

But just in case you get tired of playing through the tried and true Soul Calibur story, the latest installment in the series offers a brand new gaming mode that is sure to raise a few eyebrows. In Chronicles of the Sword, you will be given the chance to play as a new soldier recruited into a nation’s army. Your goal is to conquer your enemy’s territory, one fortress at a time. Once you’ve gotten enough characters, you’ll be able to send them out across the terrain, and command them to attack enemy strongholds. If you clash with enemy units, you’ll be able to fight them Soul Calibur style and send them crying for their mommies. The trick is learning how to send out your forces strategically, allowing them to attack enemy forces while defending their own bases. Some stats, leveling, and classes will also come into play, making this game mode seem more like a RPG than a fighter.

While the Chronicles of the Sword and Tales of Souls balance each other out nicely, Soul Calibur III still has a few other aces up its sleeve, like minigames and tournaments. But it’s the Character Creation Mode. As the name suggests, you will be able to make and edit your very own Soul Calibur fighter! You’ll be able to choose the fighting style and appearance of your character, from his or her weapons down to the socks they have on their feet. You can choose hats, hairstyles, faces, body armor, skirts, pants, underwear, accessories, and just about anything else that you can think of. With literally hundreds of accessible and unlockable parts to use, it’s a fair bet that you’ll find a style to your liking. Once you’ve created your ideal fighter, you can set them loose in most of the other gaming modes and watch them tear through the competition with pride.

However, the intricate level of detail doesn’t end with your custom characters. Every aspect of this game is depicted with some of the greatest graphics that the PS2 can muster. Veteran gamers will be pleased to see Rock, Hwang, and other characters returning to battle in all their glory, complete with fully detailed outfits and arsenal. Many of the weapons have been revamped in design, including Siegfried’s massive broadswords or Zasalamel’s sleek scythes. Most of the costumes have been redone as well, adding new spectrums of color and style to the characters that gamers know and love. There are tons of new levels as well, including revamped spins on a few of the older levels. You’ll get to fight on canal rafts, sinking pirate ships, Egyptian temples, Greek monuments, and plenty of other strange and exotic locales. There will be gushing rivers, breakable railings, Baroque interiors, giant statues, and a wide variety of eye candy as your onslaught continues. But if that isn’t enough for you, the stellar voice acting and epic soundtrack will make the experience just dandy.

As a fan of the Soul Calibur series, I’ve been watching this game with greedy, hungry eyes. After such a long wait, this latest installment does not disappoint. Many gamers will be turned off by its demanding gameplay and harsh learning curve. Others won’t like how their favorite characters have been tweaked, or the lack of a few characters of gameplay modes. But when you look past all of that, you’ll find a fighting game with a solid combat engine, a massive roster of characters, incredible customization options, and a decent challenge all wrapped up in stylish and beautiful presentation. Yeah, it’s good stuff. In the meantime, the tale of swords and souls continues, eternally retold for gamers everywhere.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

Think you can do better? Write for us.