With the fourth iteration of the series going to the other consoles, will this Wii-specific slash-‘em-up fill the void?
Soul Calibur has a long history, but Nintendo fans have only ever seen one game: the fantastic Soul Calibur 2 on GameCube. It fast became one of the system’s best-loved fighters, most probably due to the solid controls, loads of unlockable bonuses through the "Quest" mode, and of biggest of all for Nintendo fans - the inclusion of Link.
But here we are now with a completely different style of game, naturally without Link, in fact with a heavily reduced roster of characters overall. Will Wii owners end up getting a good deal out of Legends?
At heart, the game plays like a scrolling beat ‘em up set in the Soul Calibur world. Most of the time you’ll be running and slashing your sword, with moves looking very similar to the ones you saw in the fighting game. Controls are very much what you’d expect. Players move the Wii Remote left to right to get the horizontal slash or up and down to get the uppercut/vertical slash. Hitting the B button causes you to jump, which opens up another set of combos and attacks. Dashing/dodging can be achieved with a quick flick of the Nunchuk in the appropriate direction. The controls feel very much like Twilight Princess "plus"; nothing groundbreaking, but they are competent and respond well.
The best thing for Soul Calibur 2 fans is that, despite it being a completely different kind of game, it actually feels nicely familiar.
For the single player option of the demo, only Seigfried and Mitsurugi were playable, and a quick press of the C button let you change between them instantly. Their moves were exactly how I remembered them from SC2, with animations looking almost identical. Whether this is being faithful to the series or just laziness on behalf of the developers remains to be seen.
Bad guys came in the form of slow-moving, stone golem-type creatures. They were slightly more than just sword fodder; they dodged and attacked with a decent degree of skill. It would have been nice to have more visual variety, but as this version is very early on, it’s easy to forgive.
The one level I played in the demo was visually uninspiring, with very simple backgrounds and textures. They even had slightly less detail and crispness than the GameCube fighter. Granted, the levels are bigger and probably require more horsepower, but they definitely felt a step backwards. However, this is early code, and there is plenty of time to spruce up the graphics. I really hope they do.
The best thing about the demo, graphically and gameplay wise, was battling the huge end-of-level dragon boss. This required skilful dodging to avoid his attacks, whilst unleashing as many combos and hits with your sword as you could in between his bursts of fire breath. This is something new to the Soul Calibur world, but it doesn’t feel out of place in this environment. It’s nice to have something not possible in the confines of a fighting arena. I’d definitely like to see more of these battles in the final product.
In the end I came away with what I’m hoping is just a small taste of lots more to come. There’s a solid action adventure game to be made out of this, with good fighting mechanics and decent gesture control. It’s up to Namco to show that they are making a worthy Wii-exclusive alternative; we Soul Calibur fans all hope that they do.