This soul doesn't burn so brightly anymore.
With the recent fighting game revival taking place during 2008 it's no surprise that Namco saw it fit to re-release the game that sent the Soul series to super stardom on a modern day console. Despite the odd numerical scheme, Soulcalibur is actually the second game in the series. Following Soul Blade for the PlayStation 1, and complete with name change and a significant roster update, Soulcalibur took the the Dreamcast by storm. The original Soulcalibur is arguably the reason why the series is so well known to this day.
It's unfortunate then, that this Xbox Live Arcade port of Soulcalibur feels like half of a game. Soulcalibur for the Xbox 360 is significantly lacking in features and modern day enhancements, which essentially makes this port feel incredibly lazy and it comes across as a half-assed effort to cash-in on the rising popularity of fighting games.
Over the years fighting games have evolved to certain standards where the exclusion of such features can generally be summed up as lazy and completely unacceptable. Online play is a must for any current generation fighting game. Unfortunately Soulcalibur is having none of that. There is no online play whatsoever to speak of, so unless you have a friend or two who is willing to throw it down with some old school Soulcalibur then you're not going to have too much to sink your teeth into here. Soulcalibur lacks the mission mode from the Dreamcast version of the game, which is the mode that actually gave people a reason to play the game by themselves. Without any sort of single-player component aside from arcade mode, Soulcalibur is significantly lacking in replay value, and anyone who picks this up will find themselves bored with it relatively quickly.
Soulcalibur plays almost identically to later games in the series, so if you've played any of the newer iterations of the franchise then you will be surprised by how similar this game is to the rest of them. In fact, if you've played any of the later games then you've essentially played Soulcalibur altogether. That's not to say that Soulcalibur does not provide an awesome fighting system - because it does. The core fighting mechanics featured in Soulcalibur are exceptionally well executed and it's not difficult to see why the game was so highly regarded when it launched on the Dreamcast.
You will only have a very basic assortment of modes at your disposal however. There is an arcade mode with a relatively nonsensical plot line that is hardly explored beyond extremely brief what-if ending scenarios, as well as a few multiplayer modes; you will have access to a basic versus mode, as well as what is arguably the best mode in the game: team versus battle (which is a mode that has gone mysteriously absent and sorely missed since its exclusion from Soulcalibur III). Team versus battle functions the same way as regular versus with the exception that you can have up to eight characters battling against another team of up to eight characters in an all-out battle to the death. There is also a survival mode which pits you against an endless stream of opponents until you are killed, and an extra survival mode that functions the exact same way except for its sudden death properties which sees all combatants die in one hit. Last but not least, you have a museum mode that comes complete with character artwork, biographies, and more.
Soulcalibur features updated graphics presented in HD, which is arguably the best feature about the port. Unfortunately there is no support for widescreen, so if you are playing on an HDTV you will have to play the game in 4:3 with a rudimentary wallpaper filling up the sides of the screen. Naturally Soulcalibur features a soaring orchestral soundtrack much like every other game in the series, which is suitably epic and appropriate. The sound effects are great, with weapons clashing and clanging off each other as you'd expect. Soulcalibur has no English voice language option for the characters though, so the entire roster is presented with their original Japanese voices.
Soulcalibur is ultimately just simply disappointing. For a fighting game that is this highly regarded you'd expect Namco to take the proper effort and resources to give this legendary fighting game a proper rebirth on a modern day console. There simply isn't enough to sink your teeth into here. With every thing being unlocked from the beginning, the removal of mission mode, and the lack of online play or any other sort of significant upgrade such as widescreen support makes this port come across as nothing more than a blatantly lazy waste of time for anyone but the most ardent fan.