Archive for June, 2008

Fighting Game Retro-View: Soul Calibur III

Posted in Fighting Games, Gaming, PS3, Soul Calibur, Soulcalibur IV, Xbox360 on June 30, 2008 by thelonegamer

Last night I dusted off my copy of Soul Calibur III and got to playing again, as a way of warming up for Soulcalibur IV later this July. I played the game on my PS3 and HDTV, and so I got to thinking… why not do a retro-view? Of course, it’s not fair to judge the game against the new Next-Gen sequel, but this isn’t a bashing of the installment, but more of a way to look back at where we were, and hopefully a bit of insight into where we’re going with the next Calibur.

Soul Calibur III, for starters, still looks pretty slick, even after several years and on a HDTV and PS3. It still is one of the best-looking PS2 games, although on an HDTV you can easily see the PS2 level of graphics. The presentation though is top notch, and the game certainly still lends itself to hours and hours of play. As a Lone Gamer, I totally appreciate the game’s huge emphasis on the single-player experience.
The Story of Soul Calibur III takes up on a relative high note- the evil sword Soul Edge was sealed by the knight Siegfried, who had regained his own mind and sanity. However, Soul Edge’s evil was not easily contained, and a new, but temporary host for it’s power, Nightmare, had been reborn. Siegfried and Nightmare were seeking each other out, ready to face off once again. Meanwhile, new players entered the field, including a dark-skinned, scythe-wielding mystery man named Zasalamel, who moved to manipulate the events around the two swords of power for his own purposes. The maniacal Tira, a servant of Soul Edge, is also introduced, along with her deadly bladed hoop. Finally, the beautiful, kimono-clad Setsuka makes her debut, with a lethal blade hidden within a decorative parasol.

Tales of Souls, the expanded Story Mode which contains a choose-your-own-adventure type of interface with branching paths and the occasional interactive cutscene, is one of the cooler additions that debuted in SCIII. It encourages repeat plays, and there are stuff you need to really work at, such as making your way to the game’s hidden True End Boss. I myself haven’t found the bastard, but maybe in the weeks heading into SCIV I’ll give it a shot again.

Chronicles of the Sword is easily the game’s most controversial mode, and a lot of flack was thrown at SCIII for it. COTS was an unwieldy melding of an RTS, complete with large, zoomed-out maps/battlefields to navigate around in, and the usual Soul Calibur one-on-one matches. The mode put you in the boots of a young cadet fighting in a vicious war between empires, with your protagonist eventually working his/her way from taking on training missions to fighting for the fate of a country. If that sounds epic, it’s actually not. For one thing, your ‘army’ consists usually of three to four fighters (that you either create or recruit) and you’ll spend most of your time staring at the map as your tiny fighters’ icons run slowly from garrisoned fortress or town to the next, bashing down doors to get at the enemy holed up inside.
In fact, an enemy outpost doesn’t even need to have anyone inside- you’ll still have to bash down a door or gate to get through. This is, to say the least, pretty boring and tedious. Generally though, this is a much-expanded (or perhaps bloated is more like it) Mission Mode, with the basic goal of defeating all enemies being the norm the whole time, in about 20 or so levels. Well, at least the story is kinda interesting…

Speaking of CAS, the Create-a-Soul or Character Creation Feature is certainly a mode that most players liked from SCIII. While the Character Edit was pretty bare-bones (you could tweak the colors of three parts of each of the established fighters… whoopie), the Character Creation was solid. After choosing the gender of your warrior, you select from various occupations, which range from the speedy and agile Assassin or Thief to the flamboyant Dancer or Pirate, to the formidable Samurai or Barbarian (other classes are unlocked after a while, as are the movesets of the main cast). Once you decide, you then go about fashioning your character’s look, outfitting them with clothing or armor, hairstyles, faces and voice-type, and colors.

The whole thing was, as mentioned, solid and pretty robust, but it had lots of limitations. The variety of clothing and parts of outfits wasn’t as exhaustive as I would have liked, and you couldn’t change the physique of your character- every man and woman had the same body, whether they were young or old. I also found the selection of faces and hairstyles pretty limited (All my CAS girls in SCIII used one face, the best-looking one). Still, it was great and I had hours and hours of fun creating various samurai and ninja babes. You could only store about seven or so characters on a memory card though, with some slots bought from the in-game store.

The Soul Arena took the place of the previous games’ Mission Modes, giving the player access to a variety of mini-games that range from simple battles on moving platforms, sudden-death duels, a fight with a giant statue and more. It was fun, and you unlocked more games, and higher difficulty levels, as you played.

The Museum was the game’s repository of stuff and swag, from artwork and movies to a Battle Theater where you could pit characters against one another under your chosen conditions, including your CAS warriors.

Along with the regular bunch of usual options and VS modes, Soul Calibur III was, in my opinion, one of the best and most complete game packages on the PS2. It was that which made it my favorite of the series (well, until SCIV comes along), despite the eventual issues of character balance that haunted the installment afterwards. SCIII was a grade-A, top-notch example of how console ports of fighters should be, and it set the bar for the series yet again.

Soulcalibur IV, which seems to take off a lot from SCIII, has a firm foundation of quality. Certainly from all that we’ve read, seen and heard about the game, it’s at least SCIII with next-gen polish, and that alone is reason to jump for joy. But of course, we can expect that Project Soul will be taking their latest game deeper, better and beyond the borders they broke in the previous game. The graphics are easily ten times better. The gameplay is gonna be faster, smoother and more flashy and exciting. The Character Creation and Customization is tons deeper and more detailed, with gobs more options. There’s gonna be loads of secrets, stuff to unlock and find.

For now, I’m going to be playing through SCIII to re-train myself with my favorite fighters, in preparation for the action in SCIV. Hopefully it’ll also make time move a little faster since I just can’t wait for July to be over. Soulcalibur IV is gonna ROCK.

Diablo III Officially Announced!

Posted in Game-related Events, Gaming, PC Gaming, RPGs on June 28, 2008 by thelonegamer

Our prayers have been answered! Just the past day, Blizzard Entertainment finally revealed that the big announcement they’ve been teasing all week was, in fact, the formal introduction of Diablo III! The long, long, LOOOONG-awaited sequel to Blizzard’s best-selling, monstrously popular dungeon crawler and epic fantasy adventure has finally been confirmed! 1Up kinda sorta gave it away yesterday with their educated guess, but well, now all the speculation can end.

A true gaming classic, Diablo II has had undeniable influence on fantasy games and the genre of action RPGs in general since it ruled PCs and Macs years ago, and though many other titles have tried, none have quite reached the addictive, life-encompassing obsession that game could inspire in gamers. Man, I didn’t just play Diablo II… I lived it.

Surprisingly enough, the game looks, at first glance, to be very similar visually to its predecessor, with the far-away, top-down, isometric view of the precedings, with your character traversing various realms filled with snarling, hostile rabble. Mainly about the human world’s battle to survive against the demonic Prime Evils (one of which is the titular Diablo), the new game will be set 20 years after the events in the last game (which ended in the defeat of Diablo’s brother, Baal) and sees ominous portents pointing to the return of the big horned one. Some characters from the past games will return, most notably Deckard Cain, the aged wandering chronicler who followed the hero’s exploits before. Of the character classes, the Barbarian will return for sure, along with a new class called a Witch Doctor. Players will be able to create male or female versions of their adventurers, and there will be a greater amount of customization than before.

Aside from that, there’s still precious little information, but surely more will be forthcoming soon. It’s safe to say we won’t be seeing Diablo III on store shelves anytime soon (Starcraft II will be out before then), but at the very least… we know it’s real. Man, good times. For now, maybe it’s time to dust off the old Diablo II box and get crawling again…

Tons of Soulcalibur IV Screens Show the Love!

Posted in Fighting Games, Gaming, PS3, Soulcalibur IV, Xbox360 on June 28, 2008 by thelonegamer

Soulcalibur’s CAS Feature looks AWESOME.

Japan has it cool! Their version of Gamespot has a truckload of screens from the upcoming fighting game sequel Soulcalibur IV to make up for all the months we’ve been starved of content. The screenshots are of course from the Japanese version, and so feature a lot of kanji… but the pics speak for themselves. Mainly focused on the CAS (Create-a-Soul) or Character Creation, the screenshots give a pretty good idea of how awesome this improved feature will be.
The sample CAS characters shown in the screens easily have the same level of quality as the game’s established characters. From the screens as well, I can see you can create pretty cool renditions of characters from other games- I saw that you can make a reasonably accurate Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, and I think I see the makings of how you can have Old Snake himself from MGS4 do some more missions in SCIV.

Be as buff or wussy a warrior as you wanna be.

The screens also show off how you can change the muscle build of your fighter, from being a bit on the thin side (but still buff) to heavy and bulky like Rock or Astoroth, or buff glamazons like Ivy. From what I’ve seen as well, you build CAS from the established character skill sets, and it’s still up in the air if we’ll see the old classes and occupations from SCIII make a return (I wager they will though). The range so far of customs, armor, clothing and options make me really believe Soulcalibur IV is something really special. It looks truly next-gen and surely is something to look forward to. Just less than a month away! More on this as we get it, and I’m sure we will.

Check out Gamespot Japan’s gallery of Soulcalibur IV images here.

Soulcalibur IV Interview: Armor Breaks, CAS Information

Posted in Fighting Games, Gaming, PS3, Soulcalibur IV, Xbox360 on June 27, 2008 by thelonegamer

Playstation Universe just posted an interview they recently did with Katsusoshi Sasaki, the producer of the upcoming Soulcalibur IV. Stuff taken on includes the new armor/clothing breaks and some nice tidbits on the Character Creation feature and online. Check it out here.

Heroes VS Heroes

Posted in Arcade, Fighting Games, Gaming on June 26, 2008 by thelonegamer

Batsu takes Ryu
Yet another crazy fighting game combo from Capcom!

I have to admit, I haven’t been paying attention much to the upcoming Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes. It’s a 2-D, cel-shaded fighter that puts together characters from the Tatsunoko animes (G-Force, Tekkaman) with Capcom’s veteran fighters. But little by little, I’m getting interested. It’s got 2-on-2 play, which should be cool and hearkens back to the VS days of yore. Granted, I was never really into the Capcom VS games, but I liked them if only for Capcom’s cool interpretations of characters into the fighting game mold; no one makes them as awesome as Capcom can, I say.

Anyway, maybe the reason why I haven’t been too interested is that up to now, the roster is quite a mystery. We have Ken Washio of Gatchaman/G-Force on, Tekkaman and Casshern from Tatsunoko so far, and Chun Li, Ryu and Batsu (of Rival Schools) from Capcom. What else is in store? With just a handful of names and faces, there’s still room for a lot of fighters, and I think it’s gonna take some favorites of mine thrown in to make me really piqued for this- gimme Ibuki or Makoto, and I’ll bite. For now though, I’m liking the art style and the look. So far, this has apparently only been confirmed for the arcade, but a console release should be inevitable. More on this as we get it.

Praying for the Devil’s Return

Posted in Gaming, PC Gaming, Retro-gaming, RPGs on June 26, 2008 by thelonegamer

No, I haven’t turned to devil-worshipping. All week, Blizzard has been teasing something online about something… BIG. It’s an announcement that many are speculating to be a sequel to their much-beloved dungeon crawler, Diablo 2. Dare we say it…? DIABLO 3. Man, I remember Diablo 2- that was the game that made me buy my first PC. I just HAD to have that game. I loved everything about it- the character classes, the combat, the stages, the enemies, the creepy music… Levelling up was awesome as you built up your adventurer with ever-more-powerful skills and powers. My first character was a Paladin- pretty straightforward and easy. Then I moved up to Necromancer, since it was just too cool to walk around with an army of undead at your beck and call. When the expansion came I of course gravitated to the martial-artsy Assassin.

Good times. I spent countless hours lugging tons of stuff, fixing up my inventory, filling up my chest… And that freakin’ awesome Cow Level. Awesome.

My gosh. Please let it be Diablo 3. PLEASE let it be Diablo 3. We all find out this weekend. Cross your fingers.

A Spartan in Soulcalibur IV?

Posted in Fighting Games, Gaming, PS3, Soulcalibur IV on June 25, 2008 by thelonegamer

In a pretty juicy rumor from the latest issue of EGM, it’s said that yet another guest character will be gracing Namco-Bandai’s hot upcoming slasher. None other than Kratos, the Spartan hero from God of War will supposedly appear at least in a cameo in the PS3 version. This is certainly something that Sony fanboys will love, and I have to say that ol’ Kratos is a much better fit than the Jedi. Anyway, it’s not yet confirmed, but we don’t have long to wait to find out since SCIV is just arond the corner. So what about the Xbox360 version? Will they have Master Chief to make a cameo? More on this as we get it.