Soulcalibur (ソウルキャリバー Sōrukyaribā) is a weapon-based 3D fighting game developed by Project Soul and produced by Namco. It is the second game in the Soul series, preceded by Soul Edge (1996). Originally released in arcades in 1998, it ran on the Namco System 12 hardware. In 1999 it was ported to the Dreamcast with improved graphics and new features. The North American version was released in September 1999 as a launch title for the Dreamcast and was part of the successful launch of the new console. It became available as a downloadable title on Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Marketplace in 2008.
Developed closely with Namco’s Tekken development team, it is one of few home console ports that outdid their arcade parent graphics-wise. The title brought many innovations to the fighting game genre that include a heavy emphasis on weapons and a unique eight-way movement system. Soulcalibur is widely regarded as one of the best Dreamcast titles and is one of the most critically acclaimed fighting games of all time.
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The mystical sword of the legends, the “Soul Edge”, ended up in the hands of the dreaded pirate Cervantes de Leon of Spain. For the next 25 years he stayed dormant on the remnants of a Spanish port town, taking the souls of those who reached him during their search of the sword. His reign of terror was soon to start, but through the joined efforts of Greek divine warrior Sophitia Alexandra and Japanese ninja Taki, he was stopped and killed, with one of the twin Soul Edge blades being shattered in the process. As it was about to tear itself apart, young Prussian knight Siegfried Schtauffen approached the port town and battled Cervantes, whose corpse had been momentarily reanimated through Soul Edge’s will. After emerging victorious, Siegfried’s attention turned unto the sword. The moment he took the hilt of the cursed blade, Soul Edge released a bright column of light into the sky. This was known as the “Evil Seed”, bound to bring calamity and death in its wake.
Three years after those events, Soul Edge uses Siegfried as its host, and now Siegfried is Nightmare, a knight wearing azure armor and sporting a hideously deformed right arm. Europe plunges into a vortex of slaughters as he and his followers claim souls to strengthen the blade in its weakened state. Unknown to them, a group of warriors met on their journey to stop Soul Edge, and with them three sacred weapons join once again.
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The Dreamcast port of Soulcalibur was released in Japan on August 5, 1999; and in North America as a launch title, on September 9, 1999. The North American Dreamcast version of the game removes one of Voldo’s suggestive codpieces featuring a bull. However, the codpiece is present in the European and Japanese versions, as well as the North American Xbox 360 version. The European Dreamcast version was distributed and advertised by Sega Europe.
The Dreamcast version of Soulcalibur is one of the first examples of a home conversion of a game being graphically superior to its original arcade counterpart. Among the differences were the improved graphics (including the addition of 3D backgrounds), tweaked gameplay, new game modes, new costumes, and the inclusion of an extra character, Cervantes de Leon. The Dreamcast version features new modes such as the Team Battle, Survival and the Training Mode. In Missions Mode the player completes various missions to attain points, which can be used to buy various art and costumes. Another feature added is the artwork section, containing official artwork, fanart and high-res pictures. Also unlockable are a “liquid metal” version of the characters’ costume and a “Battle Theater” mode, plus a way to modify the opening introduction theme by changing the characters appearing in it, and an “Exhibition Mode” displaying characters performing their katas (in Mission Mode it is possible to add more characters to the “Exhibition Mode”, such as Taki and Seung Mina).
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Soulcalibur was named as the number one best Dreamcast game by Game Informer. In 2009, IGN ranked Soulcalibur as the fifth best Dreamcast game, while ScrewAttack ranked it sixth. GamesRadar named Soulcalibur the best Dreamcast game of all time on their list. In 2005, GameSpot ranked Soulcalibur as the sixth best launch title yet, calling it “not only one of the greatest launch games or one of the greatest fighters, but one of the greatest games ever. Period.”
In addition, it is often considered to be one of the greatest games on all platforms, including:
- Game Informer (2001): “The Top 100 Games of All Time” (74th place).
- IGN (2003): “Top 100 Games” (38th place).
- Retro Gamer (2004): “Top 100 Games” (75th place).
- IGN (2005): “Top 100 Games” (43rd place).
- IGN (2006): “Readers’ Choice The Top 100 Games Ever” (sixth place).
- Electronic Gaming Monthly (2006): “The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time” (22nd place).
- ScrewAttack (2007): “Top Ten Fighting Games” (seventh place).
- Cinema Blend (2008): “Top 10 Best Fighting Games of All Time” (fourth place).
- UGO.com (2010): “Top 25 Fighting Games of All Time” (second place).
- Complex (2011): “The 50 Best Fighting Games of All Time” (fifth place).