SOULCALIBUR ($11.99) by NamcoBandai Games Inc. is the iOS port of the original 3D, weapons-based fighting game that was in arcades in 1998, before making its way to the Dreamcast.
If you’re a fan of fighting games, then I’m pretty sure you’ve played at least one of the installments of the Soul Calibur series. Personally, Soul Calibur is my favorite fighting game franchise (especially Soul Calibur 2), so I was excited to see this on iOS.
A word of caution though: the game requires at least iOS 4.3 or greater and must be on the following devices: iPhone 4 or 4S, iPod touch fourth generation or above, and iPad 2. Unfortunately, if you don’t own at least one of these devices, you won’t be able to play Soul Calibur.
The graphics and visuals in this iOS port are beautiful. It was hard to imagine 14 years ago that we would be able to play this game on our mobile phones and tablets, but here we are. The graphics should be as you remember them, perhaps even better than the last time you saw them, since they are optimized for Retina displays. The environments are beautifully rendered, and the characters look awesome as well. Animations are fluid and smooth, with no hiccups. The soundtrack is just like the original, and we even have that soothing announcer voice at the beginning of the game and during battles. Every bit of this game just oozes with nostalgia.
For most players of fighting games, controls are key. Soul Calibur for iOS features a digital joystick on the bottom left of the screen, and the four buttons on the bottom right: B, K, G, and A. The controls are configurable from the main options menu (from the main screen). You can configure the controls to Type A (four buttons in a diamond shape), Type B (A, B, and K in a line, with G under and slightly to the left of A), or even do Custom controls (place the buttons where they are comfortable for you).
Players can even change the opacity of the joystick and buttons so that they are completely solid, invisible, or a tad transparent. If you are extremely picky with the configuration (my boyfriend is one of these types of people), you can even change it to AB, AG, AK, BG, BK, KG, or ABK.
The best way to play the game on an iPhone (this was how I played, since I do not have an iPad 2) is to cradle the device in your left hand, with your thumb on the joystick, and have your right fingers above the buttons so you are ready to tap furiously away at them. Yup, it’s the old-school method of playing fighting games.
There is complete customization, so the controls work for you, not the other way around. Though there is still the fact that your fingers may be covering part of the screen, which can make things difficult at times. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that there is iCade support at the moment, which is a shame, since this would be a perfect game to have physical arcade controls.
Within this iOS port, there are a total of 19 characters for you to fight with. Starting characters include: Voldo, Ivy, Sophitia, Mitsurugi, Kilik, Xianghua, Maxi, Nightmare, Taki, and Astaroth. Of course, some characters (Siegfried, Rock, etc.) will have to be unlocked (along with other content), which you can do by playing the game with Game Options (main menu) set to defaults or higher (default is Medium).
There are six game modes that are included: Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, Extra Survival, Museum, and Practice.
Arcade is the original battle mode that was in the arcade version of the game – just battle your way until the end of the game. Time Attack is when you want to beat the game with the shortest time possible. In Survival, you only get a limited amount of health (non-regenerating) and must defeat as many opponents as you can. Extra Survival is just like Survival, except that these are one-hit kills; one wrong move and it is over for you. In Museum, you can view Exhibition or Battle theater. Practice is where you will want to go to hone your skills, especially with the touch controls.
The game includes Game Center support for leaderboards (Time Attack, Survival, and Extra Survival only) and achievements. This is nice to have though, since I don’t even get trophies on the PS3 version of SCIV. It’s nice and adds a bit of replay value.
If you’re interested, you can also watch a trailer for Soul Calibur V by tapping on the small banner underneath the main menu.
Now, the biggest flaw in this iOS port is the omission of Versus mode. I mean, come on! This is Soul Calibur – it needs Versus mode. Given that the game already costs so much, it is missing the mode that makes it truly worth it. I’d love to be able to play this with my friends via online through Game Center or even just locally via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Namco did say in the iTunes app description that more modes are planned, so I definitely hope one of them is Versus mode. It’s the sole reason most people play fighting games to begin with, and if it can be in Street Fighter IV and Volt, then it certainly can be done in Soul Calibur.
The high price is a bit tough to swallow though. Unless you are an absolute die-hard fan of Soul Calibur, I’d probably hold off and wait for a sale (especially since Versus mode isn’t here yet).