Dreamcast Games In-Retrospect: Soul Calibur
“A Tale of Swords and Souls, Eternally Retold”
Last month I had briefly discussed the Sega Dreamcast’s 20th anniversary. I mentioned how, for a console with as limited of a lifespan as this one had, the Dreamcast resonates with me to this day. It took a month for me to think about all of the games that I’ve had the fondest memories of, so I’ll get started on one fighting game that had a bit of a resurgence in the past year or so.
Although we are currently up to Soul Calibur 6 at the time of writing, there are seven games in the series.
Serving as the sequel to Namco’s cult classic sleeper hit, Soul Edge (Or Soul Blade if you played it on the Playstation in North America), Soul Calibur tread new ground on the Dreamcast.
With a different name, different leading protagonists, and a different story revolving around said characters, it is to be forgiven for most to mistakenly attribute Soul Calibur as the beginning of the series. When I was a child and I first saw this game at a friend’s house, I had initially thought the same myself. For many such as myself, this was their first foray into a series that would stand the test of time to this day and what a statement this game made.
Graphic-wise, this game was akin to catching a glimpse of the gaming future. Released on launch day in North America, the game was beautiful to look at. If there was a game to fully exhibit the power that the Dreamcast had to offer compared to already established consoles at the time, this would be the game.
Compared to Tekken, Namco’s other flagship fighter, the stage models are rendered as beautifully as the character models. There are actual 3D models in the background of some stages, as shown in Sophitia’s stage with the pillars and Kilik’s stage with a lone dock.
In stages that feature water, when a character falls in the water, ripple effects are shown. Water movement is natural. In stages that feature specific timezones, such as a lone ship at sunset, dynamic lighting is used to illustrate this.
Heck, one of the stages even has you fighting through a Japanese cave on a raft!
While moving stages has been a thing since the original Soul Blade and prior fighting games, seeing it at such a smooth framerate was exhilarating. The motions of every character in the game felt solid and unique. Each character had personality even without knowing the context of the story.
The gameplay even reflected this as a hulking beast like Astaroth who can command the mid-range with his mass and mighty axe can be overwhelmed by the more nimble and close-range trickster, Maxi. Fitting that these dualities are what stems their rivalry as well.
Soul Calibur was many things. It could be considered Dreamcast’s tech demo. In some circles, a killer app. In many circles, it was a gateway to a legendary series that was overlooked on the Playstation 1. Going immediately to Soul Edge once I was aware of its existence made me appreciate what Soul Calibur had done for the Dreamcast. Everything I had mentioned as far as graphical achievements, were details that the Soul team was doing back in the mid 90s. The Soul series always excelled in pushing the boundaries of what a game could be capable of.
Until next time! May your Soul still burn!