Friday, September 11, 2009

Broken Destiny And An Epiphany: Why Soul Calibur Sucks (And Always Has)

You may recall yesterday I wrote a review of Final Fantasy Dissidia, the game that shits all over the once good Final Fantasy series (even more than all the other recent Final Fantasy games shit on the series, I mean). That got me to wondering what other great series have been shat on by their developers, which led me to the PSP's Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, the newest installment in the series. While planning a review of Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny I suddenly had an epiphany. I was mad at Dissidia because I had hoped it could get me interested in the Final Fantasy series again. I wanted to get Dissidia. I didn't really want to get Broken Destiny, I just did. The fact is...

Soul Calibur is not a great video game series and it never has been.

No, really. Let's be totally honest here, the Soul series trudged in obscurity for six years from the time Soul Blade was released in 1996 to the time Soul Calibur 2 was released in 2002. Sure there were people who knew about it, but it wasn't until SC2 that the series really gained any fame and even then it was only thanks to a gimmick: the inclusion of guest fighters Link, Heihachi Mishima, and Spawn.

But the game that really put Soul on the map was Soul Calibur 3 and this was almost entirely because of one thing: character creation. Up to this point the video game industry as a whole had never really taken the concept of character creation seriously. It was there, sure. Sometimes it took the form of Final Fantasy's system of picking from pre-made characters and giving them names. Sometimes it was more like Dynasty Warrior's system of creating a character by combining a weapon and a character model with about 5 different options in each. More often it was along the lines of Champions of Norrath where you pick a class and a hair color. The only video games that really took character creation seriously were wrestling games. Here, for the first time, was a game that people would actually care about, that wasn't just a wrestling game, that had a character creation system that actually worked and wasn't just a shitty afterthought.

It's easy to say that Soul Calibur 4 and Broken Destiny squelched the good will that Soul Calibur 2 and 3 brought but the truth of the matter is those games should never have garnered that much fame to begin with. The series got attention thanks to gimmicks, there was never a decent game to go along with them. Don't get me wrong, I do like the storyline, but the Soul Calibur games lack gripping gameplay. I loved Soul Calibur 3 for the character creation and the story, but I never really enjoyed playing it. I didn't like the game, I just tolerated it because I liked the character creation system.

I'm sorry, Namco Bandai, it looks like the honeymoon is over. You really had something with the character creation system and the guest characters. It's too bad you only used them as a pathetic attempt to vitalize a shitty series instead of pairing them up with gameplay that was as innovative and fun as they were. I'm well aware that this isn't the end for you. You'll keep on making Soul Calibur games, just like Square keeps on making Final Fantasy games and just like Square you'll probably be successful, but your popularity will only go downhill from here. As for me, I think I'm going to jump ship now and say adieu, just as I did to Final Fantasy.


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