Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: TBA 2007
With Soul Calibur IV blazing a trail to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 next year, Namco Bandai wanted to bring the franchise to the Wii, as well, but according to Product Manager Wayne Shiu, a simple port wouldn't cut it — they wanted to take full advantage of the unique control scheme of the Wii to offer a new play experience to fans of the long-running series.
Which brings us to Soul Calibur Legends, the first entry in the franchise to focus solely on a third-person action/adventure experience. Previous Soul Calibur sequels have included a simplistic dungeon crawling mode as a diversion for those tired of the standard one-on-one battles, but Soul Calibur Legends looks to take that concept several steps forward by taking a couple of steps back within the series mythology.
Soul Calibur Legends takes place between Soul Blade and Soul Calibur, painting a more vivid picture of the actions taken by series regular Siegfried Schtauffen in his quest for the Soul Edge, the legendary sword that would transform him into the evil Nightmare. Like with the film "Titanic," the ending is already known from the start, but it shouldn't hinder the game, as Legends is first and foremost an action experience.
Due to its work-in-progress status, Legends was not playable at Namco Bandai's recent pre-E3 event, though we were able to watch one of the game's producers battle through several rooms of what looked to be an Egyptian tomb.
Legends utilizes the motion-sensing abilities of the Wiimote to execute attacks, which may vary wildly depending on which character you are controlling. It was unclear as to whether the Nunchuk would also be tasked with motion commands, though its analog stick will be used for movement, while the buttons allow players to guard and charge attacks. Additionally, the A button on the Wiimote can be used to target enemies, which may be essential when facing a horde of goons. Shiu claims that the battle engine will be deep enough for the hardcore fans, yet easy enough for grandmothers to pick up on.
Isuka, a teenage male, is the lone new character revealed to date, though he will join a heap of familiar faces, including Ivy, Mitsurugi, Taki, and, of course, Siegfried. The player will choose two characters prior to each stage, and can swap between the two at will by pressing a button on the Wiimote. When determining the makeup of your duo, be sure to consider their respective sizes and move sets to create a team of complementary crusaders. Additional characters will be selectable throughout the campaign, and both the characters and their weapons will evolve and grow stronger as the game progresses.
Boss fights are expected to be an impressive affair in Legends, with Shiu mentioning a battle against a massive version of Astaroth, though the lone match-up we saw was against a floating sarcophagus. Seriously, it floated. With luck, the vast majority will recall the amusingly mismatched Pharaoh Walker battle in Power Stone 2, where the towering boss had to be systematically defeated by exploiting weak spots.
A dual-character setup naturally lends itself well to two-player gameplay, so it comes as little surprise that Soul Calibur Legends will feature both cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes. Both will utilize a split-screen display, and Shiu mentioned that the game would include additional co-op stages outside of the main campaign.
At this point, Legends packs about as much visual appeal as Soul Calibur II, which is reasonable for a last-gen title, but still a bit underwhelming on the Wii. Improving the situation may have less to do with the number of polygons than it does the quality and variety of the environments and the enemy characters. Unremarkable effects and character models can be forgiven so long as we're not seeing the same three lizards and four walls in every room.
Without hands-on time with the game, it's hard to say if Soul Calibur Legends is shaping up to be a truly worthwhile experience on the Wii, but the series has a terrific pedigree, completely free of obvious failure. With a little spit, polish, and some truly unique and responsive waggle controls, Legends could be yet another success story for the premier fighting franchise.
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