Darth Vader, Yoda bring the pain in ‘Soulcalibur IV’

Gaming, PlayStation 3, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Xbox 360

Soulcalibur IV, Soulcalibur 4, Namco Bandai, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, screenshot
IMAGES COURTESY OF NAMCO BANDAI.

Soulcalibur has come a long way since its glory days on the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. Back then, the weapons-based fighting game by Namco was a huge hit for the short-lived console and set itself apart from similar games by offering superior controls and gorgeous graphics.

Ten years later, Soulcalibur IV raises the bar again with improved visuals, elaborate character-customization options and the long-awaited ability to play against others online. Throw in some Star Wars characters and you’ve just made a fighter’s dream come true.

Soulcalibur IV, Soulcalibur 4, Namco Bandai, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, screenshot

If you are already a fan of the Soul series of fighting games, then you’ll be happy to hear this is the best. The same cool characters and fighting styles are back; Mitsurugi (samurai style), Taki (short-sword style), Siegfried (big-ass-sword style) and many more. Click here for a full list. All characters have new moves, combos, costumes and abilities that can be customized.

Using “Character Creation,” you can make some pretty crazy costumes for almost all of the characters. (Sorry, you can’t put spiked armor or a silly hat on Yoda.) With a seemingly unlimited number of ways to change your appearance, the game has improved its already stellar and unique visual style. It’s a blast playing online and seeing what costumes other players have created. (One guy I fought last night customized his character to look like Sephiroth from Final Fantasy. Very cool!)

Soulcalibur IV, Soulcalibur 4, Namco Bandai, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, screenshot

In addition to the standard lineup and some new manga-inspired fighters, several Star Wars characters have made their way into the Soulcalibur universe.

Darth Vader is currently a playable character for the PlayStation 3 version of the game and Xbox 360 owners will get to command Yoda in battle. It has been announced that both characters will be playable on both consoles via downloadable content coming soon.

You can also be Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, star of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game. He’s a really powerful and well-balanced character, unlike the slow Vader and short/quick-hit Yoda.

Soulcalibur IV, Soulcalibur 4, Namco Bandai, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, screenshot

Playing online is loads of fun, even though there are lots of good fighters out there waiting to kick your ass. I’ve played many hours on Xbox LIVE and it was a smooth experience except for the occasional round where the game was lagging.

Matches can be set up many different ways, but the four-player tournament where the winner keeps playing seemed the best. In a four-player room, two players fight while the others spectate. Everyone in the room can chat or talk trash.

I actually liked this style of play quite a bit because it gives you time to take a break and watch other people fight. That break is something you’ll need since this game is so intense. The fighting is extremely fast and full of explosive color, making it difficult for any gamer to process.

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Soulcalibur IV is an excellent fighting game that features extremely cool characters, weapons and the most beautiful (high-definition) graphics you’ve ever seen. It’s a must own for fans of fighting games and those interested in seeing the best game of the genre.

I’m always looking for some competition on Xbox LIVE. Send me an invite if you want to get your butt kicked. Gamertag: skirchi