Premium Edition case art
|Publisher(s)||Namco (Japan, Europe and Australia)
Namco Bandai Games (North America)
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
Soulcalibur IV (ソウルキャリバーIV Sōrukyaribā Fō) is the fifth installment in Namco's Soulcalibur series of fighting games, released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2008. Soulcalibur IV included three characters from the Star Wars franchise as playable fighters.
Soulcalibur IV features Story, Arcade, Training, and Museum modes. A new mode, Tower of Lost Souls, requires the player to win battles in order to gain rewards.
The Character Creation mode from Soulcalibur III returns in Soulcalibur IV. However, instead of including original weapon styles for use with certain classes of fighters, Soulcalibur IV only allows players to choose which character from the series they would like to have their created character mimic. This differs from Soulcalibur III, where there were many unique styles such as "Grieve Edge". The styles of Algol, the bonus characters and the Star Wars guest characters cannot be used by player-created characters. A wide array of new pieces of equipment are available for use in Soulcalibur IV's Character Creation mode, and new options include a wider range of character voices and the ability to change their pitch. The player may also change a character's general physique and muscularity.
In addition, equipped items now also affect a character's statistics. Armor, weapons, and accessories may increase health, attack, or defense; they may also grant skill points that allow the character to equip special traits that affect the character's playstyle. These traits may include automatically triggered guard impacts, the ability to cause damage against a blocking opponent, or even a statistic increase based on parameters such as an opponent's alignment or gender. Standard characters may also be modified in this manner, albeit only modestly, allowing custom costumes and skill sets to be used in Special VS. mode. Custom characters may still be used in Standard VS. mode, but without any of the special abilities gained through equipment or weapon choice. One profile is allowed for Offline VS. mode, meaning that only one profile's created characters can be loaded at any one time.
Multi-fighter battles in Soulcalibur IV use a different structure from its predecessors, nicknamed Active Matching Battle (AMB). Similar to the tag system of games such as The King of Fighters 2003, the AMB system allows players to switch to other members of a party of fighters mid battle. Instead of starting a new round for each opponent defeated, new opponents simply run into the battle immediately after a K.O., with the exception of certain combatants. Matches utilizing the AMB system only appear in the Story and Tower of Lost Souls modes.
Soulcalibur IV features an all-new Critical Finish system. Next to a player's health meter is a colored gem: the Soul Gauge. The gem changes color when the player blocks an attack or has his or her own attack blocked by a Guard Impact. The color gradually changes from blue to green, then to red and eventually flashing red. The player's own Soul Gauge regenerates if he or she makes an attack and hits the opponent, guarding or otherwise. If the character manages to empty out the opponent's Soul Gauge, the enemy is destroying a piece of armor (characters now show permanent signs of visual damage such as broken and torn clothing) and producing a short stun during which the character can perform a powerful Critical Finish move, which is able to defeat the opponent instantly, by pressing all four face buttons at the same time. Each character has his or her own personal Critical Finish move. Namco developed the Soul Gauge to decrease the benefits from constant guarding, thus giving the game a faster tempo and making the matches more offensive.
The Star Wars guest characters, Darth Vader, Yoda and the Apprentice, utilize unique attacks using the Force. Darth Vader is able to utilize Force-based blasts, punches, and chokes; Yoda can use the Force to launch himself into the air for complex aerial attacks; and the Apprentice is able to use Force lightning and other dark-side moves. These moves drain a special Force Meter, which recharges gradually when not in use. If the Force Meter is depleted, the player momentarily loses control of the character.
For the first time in the series, Soulcalibur IV includes an online multiplayer option. Versus modes available in online battles are Standard VS (for classic matches) and Special VS (for customized characters). Created characters are playable in the online multiplayer mode. A player's wins and losses are recorded and used to establish a ranking level, which reflects online skill.
The Soulcalibur storytelling is in many respects related to the Warhammer 40K franchise. First, both Algol and the Emperor are legendary ancient conquerors, reluctantly and remorsefully slayed their beloved sons who betrayed them despite the hopes and faith of their fathers, had their greatest weapons, Soul Edge and the Space Marine Legions respectively, turn into their worst enemies, and were trapped in the realm of chaos for countless centuries between life and death. In addition, Darth Vader denied his mentor and became the most loyal enforcer of an oppressive empire, just like Nathaniel Garro who opposed Mortarion, the Primarch of the Dusk Raiders who turned traitor and became a worshiper of the Chaos God Nurgle and the leader of the Death Guard, founding the Inquisition where its elite apprentices, the Grey Knights, lose the memories of their past just like Galen Marek. Moreover, Heihachi Mishima is gentle and kind and his ruthlessness and cruelty is displayed only in his pursuit of the Devil Gene which he wishes to use for himself after killing his son and grandson bearing it, similarly to the Imperium purging the Daemons of the Immaterium while intending to use it for extended transportation with smuggled alien technology, specifically the Eldar Webway. Also, Kratos is in pursuit of vengeance from the Olympian deities for the death of his family as a result of being manipulated by them, like the humans hating the Aeldari for usually exploiting and deceiving them while they are the most reliable ally against the Forces of Chaos to prevent destruction similar to the end of God of War 3. Last but not least, the greatest enemy of Ezio Auditore are the Templars, who attempt to impose the regime of Warhammer 40K, as they are led by Grand Master like the Dark Angels, and the Black Templars are the exception of the strict rule of only a thousand Space Marines allowed to serve in an Adeptus Astartes Chapter at a time. Conclusively, Soulcalibur takes place during the era of the Ottoman Empire, which succeeded the Byzantine Empire, the source of inspiration for Warhammer 40K, which was predominantly Greek exactly as Sophitia, the protagonist of the series.
Many characters from the Soul series return for Soulcalibur IV, with newcomers Hilde and Algol added to the roster. The Star Wars characters Darth Vader, Yoda, and Starkiller are playable as guest characters. Initially, Darth Vader appeared on the PlayStation 3, and Yoda appeared on the Xbox 360 full game download; Namco later made both characters downloadable content on the opposite platform for a fee. Darth Vader's secret apprentice, the main protagonist of LucasArts' video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, is playable on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. Matt Sloan, Tom Kane, and Sam Witwer, the voice actors for Vader, Yoda, and the Apprentice respectively in various Star Wars games and cartoons, reprise their roles in all English-language versions of Soulcalibur IV. They are the only English voice actors to be credited.
Revenant, Frederick Schtauffen and several other minor Soul series characters make an appearance in battle, and most can be made in Character Creation mode. Several bonus characters designed by manga artists (Angol Fear, Ashlotte, Kamikirimusi, Scheherazade, and Shura) are also playable in the game, and use the fighting styles of returning characters. They are designed by Mine Yoshizaki, Ito Ōgure, Hirokazu Hisayuki, Yutaka Izubuchi and Hiroya Oku respectively.
The story of Soulcalibur IV, told via in-game written profiles and movies, centers around the appearance of the ancient king Algol, his tower, and his connection to the origin of the spirit sword named Soulcalibur. Every character's motivation and relationship to the other characters is diagrammed in a mode called Chain of Souls. As usual, none of the individual endings from the previous game are considered canonical events, and most of the characters' motivations from that game remain unresolved. However, a small number of characters did experience important events associated with universal Soulcalibur III events. Siegfried has died and been resurrected by the Soulcalibur sword. Sophitia's daughter Pyrrha has been kidnapped by Tira and malfested by Soul Edge, leaving Sophitia to fight for the side of evil in defense of her now-corrupted daughter. Tira is now suffering from a split-personality disorder. Most characters are still motivated by a desire to either obtain, destroy, or defend one or both of the legendary swords now carried by Siegfried and Nightmare, and most characters face Algol as the final boss of Story mode. All characters feature animated ending movies.
The game runs in HD resolution with 5.1 channel surround sound on both platforms.
The Premium Edition of Soulcalibur IV included a 48-page softcover art/comic book illustrated in full color, an XL 100% cotton T-shirt, and a tournament chart that allowed "fans the opportunity to document the battle amongst friends." The reverse side of the chart was a poster. It was packaged in a metal case and was released on the same date as the regular edition. GameSpot also mentioned exclusive access to extra customization content in this version. This extra content was the automatic unlocking of the most powerful weapons and joke weapons for each character, as well as clothing items to create a schoolboy or schoolgirl character. In New Zealand, Australia, and Europe there was a Steelbook case edition instead, including a bonus DVD containing four trailers in HD, four wallpapers, exclusive concept art, and an exclusive booklet with character biographies.
Shortly after the initial release, various pieces of downloadable content were made available, including music tracks from the original Soulcalibur, customization equipment, and weapon packs. Later, the options to play as Yoda in the PS3 version of the game and Darth Vader in the Xbox 360 version were made available.
Unfortunately both DLC were removed from PSN and XBL due to licensing from the purchase of Star Wars by Disney.
Soulcalibur IV received mostly positive reviews from media outlets. In 2014, six years after its initial release, it held an average Metacritic score of 85 for both its PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. The game was praised for its polished graphics, deep Character Creation mode, and its long-awaited online play capability. Reviewers also noted that the gameplay was accessible for newcomers and beginners but still had plenty of depth and technicality for veterans and experienced players, including an abundance of single player challenges in Tower of Lost Souls mode. The music was also praised, and Gaming Revolution summarised the game as "some of the best weapons-based fighting action in town".
Certain criticisms were directed towards the guest characters from the Star Wars franchise, with several critics maintaining that their presence was unnatural and that Yoda and the Apprentice in particular were "broken" (a reference to a perceived imbalance in fighting games that gives some characters a vastly unfair advantage over other characters in gameplay) and "absurd," respectively. Yoda's smaller size (and thus his immunity to grab attacks) is mentioned as one such design problem. At the same time, Yoda's short range and low damage output were deemed problematic, making him both overpowered and underpowered at the same time.
Awards and accolades
- IGN Best of 2008: Best Xbox 360 Fighting Game
- Spike TV Video Game Awards: Best Fighting Game
- IGN's Top 20 Most Popular Xbox 360 Games of 2008: 17th
- Virgin Media's Top 20 beat 'em-ups of all time (2009): sixth
Project Soul (the development team of the Soul series) had always given the impression that Soulcalibur IV would be their last installment as the team was rumored to have disbanded. However, Katsuhiro Harada (producer of the Tekken series) said he would seriously consider a sequel if there was sufficient interest and informed fans that he was willing to accept opinions and requests through Twitter, asking for the messages to be short and simple due to his poor English skills. While the possibility of a sequel was stronger than ever, Namco had not made any statement to solidify their commitment for the game. Fans were encouraged to maintain support and show interest to secure development of Soulcalibur V. On May 11, 2011, Namco Bandai officially announced the new game, which was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on January 31, 2012.
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