Giant Bomb Review


Soulcalibur Review

  • XBGS

Soul Calibur gets the fighting right, but without online play or the single-player mission mode that made it fun to play alone, this XBLA re-release is a flimsy package.

But the soul still burns?
You know, my least favorite thing about the Soul Calibur series has been Namco's unwillingness to stick to one spelling and capitalization scheme for the series. At some point, Soul Calibur became SOULCALIBUR and, in some cases, was also listed as SoulCalibur. But regardless of how Namco is spelling it this week, all you really need to know is that this Xbox Live Arcade release is a lightly updated remake of the first game in the series that offers the same gameplay that made it such a hit on the Dreamcast back in 1999. But the featureset is more in line with the arcade version, and it lacks online play, making it feel like a $10 teaser or a demo for the latest game in the series rather than something you might actually want to add to your collection.

For those unaware, this is a weapon-based 3D fighting game featuring all manner of characters, from samurai dudes with samurai swords to armored ladies with a sword and shield to a dude with nunchuks and a hairdo that screams "rockabilly date rapist." Then there's a sword ghost, a bondage fiend, a dual-wielding pirate, and Yoshimitsu from Tekken. There's a pretty good variety overall, covering the standard range of speed and power.

But chances are you probably already know a thing or two about Soul Calibur, considering how popular it was on the Dreamcast. This version faithfully duplicates the gameplay and looks reasonably nice for a cleaned-up version of a game that's been around for close to a decade. It's sort of lame that the game doesn't let you expand to fill 16:9 displays by just showing more background or, as an alternative, cutting off the top and bottom a bit to change the aspect ratio. Instead, you're left with a tastefully mute Soul Calibur wallpaper that surrounds the game screen.

The real problem with this re-release is the lack of features. Modern releases of fighting games have online play. Even the remakes and downloadable re-releases of the classics on Xbox Live Arcade have adhered to this standard, and Soul Calibur feels pretty empty without it. If you're living in a neighborhood full of people who are down to play Soul Calibur, maybe this isn't an issue for you. In my neighborhood, where I'm the only one who's even remotely interested in any fighting game at all, it's a deal breaker.

It's like salting a wound, then, that this version of the game also lacks the enhanced single-player options that made the Dreamcast version so rich. You get team battle and a pair of survival modes, as well as practice and a basic museum mode full of concept art and voice tests. The mission mode from the Dreamcast game isn't here, which was the sole reason to care about playing this game by yourself in the first place.

In highly conditional situations, I could see recommending this re-release to someone. It's a quality fighting game and it's $10. But all the caveats weigh heavily on the full package, and left me feeling like I was playing half of a game.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Posted by Schizoid

I have to agree with every point there, what was Namco thinking by taking out the mission mode and not putting online play in?

Posted by MaternalBloom

I agree, This game should have online, they shouldn't have released it without it.

Posted by SentientMoustache

vow 2 out of 5 thats alittle harsh dont you think I mean the versus fighting is still there

Posted by orshick

They can't let you have online play because Soul Calibur 4 is practically the same thing, and then people wouldn't be as eager to get it, if it wasn't the only way to play Soul Calibur online. I'm really not sure about why the mission mode isn't in there though, the game is useless without it when playing alone.

Posted by the_illuminati

Man that's too bad - I never got into Soul Calibur when it first came out and I was hoping this re-release would be a good introduction.  That's really a shame.

Posted by Kush

I see 2 out of 5 yet Jeff is still giving the thumbs up...My mind has just been blown.

Posted by Icewind

Soul Calibur Is one of my favorite Dreamcast games. However to release a package that has even fewer features than the nearly 10 year old original is unforgivable. Another bonehead move by Microsoft and Namco. And Microsoft wonders why they are losing to Nintendo and are actually starting to lose sales to PS3 also. Still it was a great game back in the day. Thanks for the great review as always Jeff!

Posted by dogbox

I was really excited about this release because I never really got to play the original Soul Calibur much. Looks like it got some pretty shoddy treatment, though.

Posted by CARL

even though it lacks features its still one of the best fighting games out there even today. I would recommend anyone who hasn't played this amazing game to DL it.

Posted by imayellowfellow

lol i guess the review avatar pictures arent in place yet (jeff why are u giving a thumbs up!!?

Posted by Changgo

Totally agree; great review.

Posted by Mourne

Dead on, Jeff. A lack of online play and many missing features? No thanks.

I love SC, but I hate how they've went about this port.

Posted by LiK

Jeff,  I agree that the lack of online really sucks, but this is still an excellent port of the Arcade game and it's still fun and the HD graphics look great. Two stars is just way too harsh. I would give this 4 stars cuz it's an excellent port for old school SC fans. Besides, they could always patch in an online update for this game just like they did with Tekken 5 for the PSN. There's still hope.

Posted by Shadow

Soul Calibur 2 for the xbox is better.  It's backwards compatable, has more characters, has many more features, has better graphics, and costs less.  Go with taht one.

Posted by Scooper

The best thing about SC on the Dreamcast was the questline and adventuring the map, without it half the fun is gone.

Posted by TheJollyRajah

oK, at first I thought you rated the Dreamcast version a 2, and I was about to go crazy on you, Jeff.

Posted by fryedrycestyle

The reason this game doesn't have mission mode or online play is because by the time Namco had it certified the size limit on XBLA had not been increased from 150 to 350...

But even if it's lacking those features it's still a fantastic game and I think it deserves at least a 3...

Posted by mrfluke

exactly it didnt make sense to charge 800 points they should have charged 400 points

Posted by MattBodega

Just go buy Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. It may be 2-D, but its probably the best fighting game on the 360. If you're still craving the fisticuffs, both Virtua Fighter 5 and Dead or Alive 4 are great fighting games, and they're also super cheap.
Still, It's kinda nice to see the Soul Calibur franchise in a time when it didn't have to be so desperate(looking at you, Vader! You killed Soul Calibur!).

Posted by Turtlemayor333

I agree with the score too. No online multiplayer, no real single player, what are you supposed to do, play practice mode the whole time? What were they thinking? They were thinking get some easy sales and make people want Soul Calibur 4. Lame.

And as far as that goes, I agree with the podcast a while back too. What is supposed to make me want to play that game? Darth Vader on the cover? "Hey guys, we've got Darth Vader! You know, Darth Vader. You guys like Darth Vader?..."

Posted by edreggae

Great Game, but too stripped down for $10.  Fire up the dreamcast instead!

Posted by berva

This game is a pretty lazy port and does the game injustice.  They need to give games such as this more respect!  There are only a handful of games on XBLA that have done that, Price of Persia being the shinning star.

Posted by Elk

Wow I had no idea it was missing both online play and mission mode. It's like it has neither single nor multiplayer, perhaps it used too much space or we'll see at as some DLC.

Ugh. :(

Posted by Barthez

'New Releases' page has this game listed as "Soul Caliber"? :Z

Posted by Xeno

We need a caricature of Jeff vomiting for games with two stars and below. Actually, that's kind of cruel, maybe only one star games.

Posted by MRBOND93

played the trial did not need to play anoymore of it

Posted by Legolas_Katarn

I was excited about this, until I heard about everything being removed and all the unlockables being unlocked from the beginning.

Posted by LK_Samurai

I agree the lack of online play and Mission mode does hurt it, but it still has a great fighting mechanic. Very few 3D fighters from that time are still as playable as this.

Posted by Bodycount

10$ soul calibur - 4/10

10$ COD4 map pack - 10/10

Only at

Posted by vgmkyle

The game was fun.I can't see a two being a good score for this game.At leas three..

Posted by CaptainCrunch

I bought this game. It was dissapointing to say the least. At least it'll hold me over until SC 4. If not I'll go back to 3.

Posted by slowpantz

i agree with this review, a very disappointing port

Posted by JDevL

The mere fact that there was no online multiplayer and that SC IV was just around the corner makes me glad that I didn't flinch when this came out. A baffling port really. If they had done it right it could have made some serious cash.

Posted by Classic_Gs

Not having online killed it for me and also equaled no sale.

Posted by AndrewB

The nixed single player is what would probably ruin this for me if I really cared all that much about fighting games to begin with. But what most people would be looking for is the 'net play aspect, and I can't see why, as an XBLA title, they couldn't take the time to port in some internet battle support.

Posted by Vaxadrin

If you're gonna have a 2 star review, it shouldn't have a caricature of you giving the thumbs up. :P

Posted by Vaxadrin

I think they left out online play because it would directly compete with Soul Calibur 4.

Posted by dantebk

I'd never played Soulcalibur aka Soul Calibur aka SOULCALIBUR before and I really enjoyed it.  Since I'm unlikely to play online anyway, I didn't miss it.  And I didn't miss mission mode either since I've no idea what it the heck it is.  This probably isn't aimed at people who have it on Dreamcast, since people who already own it are, y'know, unlikely to buy it again.  As a new arrival to the series, I'd probably give it 4 out of 5 on the Giant Bomb scale.

Posted by MrMiyagi

Personally I'm pretty happy with SC on XBLA...
It does suck that they took out mission mode, but I'd rate it three stars at least.

Posted by BestUsernameEver

Haha, yeah I just got the demo and thought the layout and graphics were decent. But not decent enough to buy. Kinda fun, but I'd rather wait it out until SCIV.

Posted by interstate78

*  A few months Ago...*

Hey guys, you know what would kick a lot of ass? huh? a remake of Soul Calibur on XBLA! Wouldn't that be THE SHIT?

* One week after release *

I can't find anybody to play ! *sad puppy eyes*

2 / 5

Posted by Dante_the_Jedi

Sounds like a lazy port, but if you don't have Dreamcast and want to play it then you could get this. Still it is more fun to fire up that good old Dreamcast.

Posted by makari

a tale of souls and swords, eternally with no online

Posted by FarCry

The lack of single player modes are because of XBLA size limit and the online play probably because of soul calibur IV but still a fun game

Posted by The_Specter

My first Soul Calibur was 2, and I have been a fan ever since. That being said, for a first timer I found this game to be a worthwhile purchase. At least for a fan of the series. I enjoyed working with the older mechanics, and competing on the leader boards was a big draw with the character specific lists.

I'd say that anyone who really like Soul Calibur, or merely fighting games in general, that has not played this iteration of the series before should definitely consider a purchase.


Posted by Angularbanjo

I'd never actually played a Soul Calibur game before this came out on XBLA, and I fell head over heels in love with it immediately. I certainly got my points' worth of enjoyment out of it, and it managed to get me into fighting games for the first time in my life.

Posted by SamFo

dissapointing, especially for 1200 MS points.

Posted by get2sammyb

Disappointing. Should have online play as standard these days - even if it's very basic. Are there scoreboards?

Posted by SlimDogg

With the lack of online and missing so many things from the console version I was use to playing. I had to pass it up.

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