Developer(s) – Project Soul
Publisher(s) – Namco
Director(s) – Jin Okubo & Yoshitaka Tezuka
Producer(s) – Yasuhiro Noguchi & Hiroaki Yotoriyama
PEGI – 16
Released back in 1998 to widespread acclaim, to the point where it would be regarded as the second most critically acclaimed game of all time after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, SoulCalibur was a fighting game series that spun off from the PlayStation game Soul Edge, improving on the former game in significant ways, and later going on to become one of the most recognizable fighting franchises in all of gaming. As a child, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game trying to unlock all the extras and secret characters, and to me, it still stands as one of the best games on the Dreamcast and one of the most definitive fighting games of all time.
Graphics – 9/10
Seeing the game’s sixth-generation graphics on the Dreamcast whilst at around the half-way point of the fifth generation, the game in this respect was years ahead of its time. Everything from the character sprites to the stages is wonderfully polished and beautifully rendered; the attention to detail in this respect is staggering. It’s evident that this was as much of a labor of love as many of the best games released in 1998, such as Banjo Kazooie, Tekken 3, and Crash Bandicoot 3. The soundtrack to the first SoulCalibur may also be my favorite soundtrack to a fighting game ever; the intro to the game makes the very clear statement that all these characters have a purpose and that this is a fighting game unlike any other, and it certainly delivers.
Gameplay – 8/10
Although it wasn’t the first fighting game to do this, SoulCalibur’s appeal is the ability to use weapons in combat as opposed to bare fist fighting as what is perpetuated in most fighting games. It also has a ton of unlockable content; the game is comparable to Super Smash Bros Melee in this respect. It has a load of characters and alternative costumes to unlock as well as artwork and beautifully told backstory, which whilst playing this game as a kid, did exceptionally well to endear me to this series to a greater extent than what I could’ve possibly imagined after having p[layed the like of Mortal Kombat and Tekken.
Controls – 10/10
As well as there is no problems with this game in any other respect, the game’s control scheme is also flawless. Playing this game, was the first time I found myself being able to string proper moves together instead of merely button-bashing, which is what I’m normally used to doing whilst playing a fighting game. It made me feel like I had genuine skill playing it, and there’s never been another fighting game that’s made me feel that way since truth be told.
Originality – 7/10
Though it did definitely perpetuate many ideas that had been adopted in fighting games long before it’s release, the developers took these elements and made it into their own fully cohesive concept in the respect of every element down to the fighters, the combat style, the range of locations and the mythology behind it all. It lay the foundations beautifully for what was to come, whilst also still holding up as an enjoyable game to play even after all these years.
Overall, the original SoulCalibur remains to me, one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. There are other genres of gaming that I’ve taken to better than fighting games, but I still revisit certain titles within it including Tekken 2, Dead or Alive 4, Ready 2 Rumble, and my favorite game in the series, SoulCalibur IV; the first SoulCalibur still fits into that category for me.