SoulCalibur recently launched for both iPhone and iPad, calling upon many nostalgic gamers to dive back into the classic 3D fighting title. The screenshots show many of the characters players will readily recognize, like the gruff samurai, Mitsurugi, the eccentric and mysterious Voldo, and the enlightened Kilik. There are 10 characters available from the get-go, with another 9 available through unlocks. All of 'em have alternative costumes too, for those that are sensitive to combat fashion.
There are a ton of game modes, like the classic arcade style, where you plow through challengers one-by-one until reaching the final boss, a time trial where you try to get through them all as quickly as possible, and survival mode, to see how long you can play before being defeated. Practice mode is an essential and welcome addition for those that want to learn every little nuance of their favourite characters. Namco Bandai promises that even more game modes are on the way.
Unfortunately, SoulCalibur's asking price at launch was a little on the high end: $12, and that's with a 20%-off launch discount. That's a hard pill to swallow when the game doesn't offer multiplayer support, and sound quality is a little on the sketchy side...
For the most part, the gameplay is fantastic and classic. You have an overlay of a joystick, and the four standard buttons - vertical attack, horizontal attack, kick, and guard. Control options let you customize button placement and opacity, as well as add a multi-button of your choice. This is particularly important, since a lot of SoulCalibur moves require you to hit two buttons at once, which is only really possible otherwise if you lay your device flat on a surface, so you're playing with your fingers instead of thumbs. The extra button is helpful in that regard, but since you can only add one, a character's full arsenal won't be available to you when thumbing it out.
The animation is altogether great, and having played SoulCalibur plenty on the Xbox 360, I can say that all of the moves and animations have been faithfully recreated. The models themselves can be a little jagged at times, but given the speed and complexity of many of the animations, I'm happy enough that everything runs smoothly. Although the menus are laid out clearly, I occasionally had issues getting presses to register. Bigger buttons for each option would be really helpful.
The one downer for SoulCalibur on the iPhone was the audio. The music was tinny and MIDI-style, the announcer's audio files seemed low-quality compared to everything else, and the character taunts before and after each round are still in Japanese (even though the announcer and UI is in English). These are all things that could be fixed in a future patch, though, so I'm holding out for Namco Bandai to update the game sooner rather than later.
The lack of multiplayer is a a bit of a kick in the teeth, seeing as my favourite part of SoulCalibur, and really any fighting game, is beating the snot out of your buddies. There is Game Center support though, so at least your high scores are posted where your friends can see them and feel inadequate.
While SoulCalibur has buckets of nostalgia going for it, $11.99 is a lot to ask. While you won't have as easy of a time playing on your iPhone or iPad as you would with a real console controller, you learn quickly and before long you'll find your ass-kicking stride. There are some significant feature gaps, namely multiplayer support, but if Namco Bandai follows up with significant patches, SoulCalibur may very well merit this hefty pricetag.
The ConclusionWhile SoulCalibur has buckets of nostalgia going for it, $11.99 is a lot to ask (and that's the 20%-off release sale price). While you won't have as easy of a time playing on your iPhone or iPad as you would with a real console controller, you learn quickly and before long you'll find your ass-kicking stride. There are some significant feature gaps, namely multiplayer support, but if Namco Bandai follows up with significant patches, SoulCalibur may very well merit this hefty pricetag.