Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Look to the Past: Games of the Years 1999 - Soulcalibur


Soulcalibur (Dreamcast)

I have to say that I'm happy to see at least one Dreamcast game make it on the list, and this is the best the gone-but-not-forgotten console had to offer. Beating its fellow Dreamcast games (Sonic Adventure) and other fighting games (Super Smash Bros.), Soulcalibur deftly snatches up this year's prize. This powerhouse was so far ahead of its time it's a wonder it didn't come packaged with a flying car. The visuals were phenomenal, sporting fine detail, fluid animation, and incredible hair and clothing effects. It was a jaw-dropping experience to simply sit back and watch the characters perform their stylish and impressive maneuvers as they leaped, spun, and sliced through the air. The fact that such a good-looking game could come out on a console in 1999 was definitely something special. The music pushed boundaries as well, for Soulcalibur's epic score got the blood pumping with extremely exciting, steel-clashing songs that begged to accompany a dynamic duel. The fighters themselves welcomed such duels with a diverse array of cool weapons and fighting styles, and they rank up there with the classics of fighting game casts. Even though Soulcalibur unleashed the abomination known as Voldo unto the world, it more than made up for it with rad characters like Maxi, Nightmare, and Astaroth. And even more admirable, it was a launch title, too. That's really, really impressive. I mean, what would you prefer to purchase for your shiny, new Dreamcast: Soulcalibur or Ready 2 Rumble Boxing?

I'm pretty sure that's not a very protective pose to strike when facing a samurai warrior.

One of the main reasons Soulcalibur was so memorable was due to its approach to the genre. While other games, such as Tekken and Virtua Figher, might have been competent and well-made in their own manner, Soulcalibur focused on crafting a flowing combat system that looked super awesome. Siegfried's elaborate swings of his sword would clash against Kilik's whirling staff as the two combatants danced through the fight with all the grace of a ninja. Although accused of being a button masher, Soulcalibur quite obviously required strategy and wits to master, and it was a heck of a lot more entertaining to watch than its competitors. Using the revolutionary eight-way run mechanic and incorporating sensible combos that weren't impossible to pull off, Soulcalibur melded form and function together to create an experience that could be entertaining right off the bat but had real legs in the long run. Never before had combat in a video game been so fun, and the entire package still holds up beautifully today. Soulcalibur set the bar ridiculously high for both the Dreamcast and fighting games in general, and taking only its sequels and the later Super Smash Bros. games out of the equation, I still hold it up as the greatest fighting game of all time. So come on now, you have say it:

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