Saturday, August 02, 2008

Soul Calibre IV

I haven't posted in a while because I'm working on a tool... more on that if I ever finish it. For now, have this piece of fluff!

I bought Soul Calibre IV yesterday, just finished beating every character's story mode (no reward). I have some thoughts, not all of which are positive.

First, the good stuff. It's a solid game, a lot of fun to play. Everything moves nicely. Basically, it's what I hoped for.

Now, the whining.

Half the stories don't make any freaking sense. Half the characters just kind of stumble across the end boss, kill him, and then wander off. Ooh! Exciting! You spend three years doing eighty pieces of clothing for each character, but you can't spend ten minutes making sure their story makes sense?

Maybe I'm just spoiled by the extensive adventure mode in the previous game, which had a world map and a convincing set of mini-stories. Maybe I'm spoiled by DOA, in which all the characters actually have a personal reason to be beating the crap out of each other. Either way, I feel a bit let down by the lame endings.

I also feel let down by the new characters. I admit that most of the character designs are pretty shaky even on the best of days: they seem to follow a particular school of character design. "Did we see that character in a movie somewhere? Yes? Put it in, but change it so nobody will be able to sue us!"

The problem is that the new characters are all pretty dull. The new end boss is basically Cervantes (an end boss from an earlier game, now become a normal character), except without any sense of style. The add-ons are Yoda and Nameless Sith Apprentice. To be honest, they're pretty cool, but they clash with the scenery and make absolutely no sense. One of the sith's throws is to grab you by the throat with the blade of his light saber and throw you fifteen feet that way. It does 10% of your health in damage. No freakin' sense at all. (Also, Yoda appears to have been voiced by someone who thought he wasn't enough like Liono. He's got a weird, smarmy undertone all the time.)

The big thing they push for this game is clothing. Most characters can equip a huge variety of equipment in a large number of layers, which can then be knocked off in combat a'la Fighting Vipers. This is all well and good, except that it's really complicated, and not in a good way. There are six different kinds of "capacity" you can have that let you load up on skills, except that you have to unlock the skills. Also, you have health, defense, and attack stats that have a direct influence on the fight.

Trying to balance all this stuff is confusing at first, and then it's just irritating. It's basically impossible to get a fighter that doesn't look like a six-year-old who snuck into a Hollywood costuming closet. "I'm a ballerina! And... a bandit! And... a witch! And... um... a crocodile!"

Dunno, maybe there's a trick to it, but all my custom characters end up looking slightly demented.

Okay, very demented.


Also, as a side note, they've officially entered the uncanny valley. Whenever there's a close-up on a face, I shiver a little. Especially about the eyes, which have become really unpleasant-looking.


Last but not least is the fighting itself.

I'm a little concerned about the depth of skill this game can support. The blocking and countering feels too easy, the throws feel too accepting (I can throw people in the middle of their swing). I haven't been playing long enough to know for sure, yet, but it doesn't feel very deep.

Also, I don't know why the hell they're still doing that "FORWARD AND ATTACK = TWO INCH PUNCH, BACK AND ATTACK = GIANT FORWARD LEAP AND THRUST" crap. If I press forward and attack, I'd like to attack forward, not do a pelvic thrust or whatever other quarter-foot range attack they do. If I press back and attack, I'd like to attack while moving back.

It's especially irritating because half the characters do it that way, and half the characters do it the other. For a generalist like me, that's really irritating.

Anyway, there's my fluff-tastic review.

Lunch time, then back to tool programming.

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