Posted by Curto on September 3, 2008 at 11:00 PM CST
From the packaging....What's Within Your Soul?
- The premier weapon based fighting game reinvented featuring new and favorite characters and guest stars from the Star Wars galaxy: Yoda and Darth Vader's Secret Apprentice!
- For the first time ever, challenge players online in head-to-head VS. Mode!
- Customize your characters from visual appearances, character stats and fighting styles, or even create your own original character!

A long time ago, in another dimension far, far away...
When you think of fighting games, you don't think of Star Wars. Sure there's the controversial Star Wars: Masters of T�r�s K�si from 1997, which truthfully was kind of fun to play (even if the game engine was clunky and the face-offs didn't really make sense) then-roommate and I spent hours controlling Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Arden Lyn, and yes, even Hoar. But there's never really been a really good head-to-head fighting game featuring characters from the Star Wars saga. Until now.

Continuing the tradition of bringing in guest stars from other games, Soulcalibur IV has opened the pathway to some of the most powerful Force users from that famous galaxy far, far away... Enter Darth Vader and Yoda, two of the most famous faces from Star Wars, as they each join the struggle for control of the universe. Also keeping with the Soulcalibur tradition, each character appears on a different platform: Darth Vader is exclusively on the PS3 version, and Yoda is exclusively on the Xbox 360 version. Plus, as an added bonus (and a brilliant promotional move!), Starkiller, Vader's Secret Apprentice from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an unlockable character on both platforms.

Since I have an Xbox 360, that's the version of Soulcalibur IV that I played for this review, and you can see in the above photos what's inside. The directions are fairly straightforward, with some basic combo moves to practice with, and then you can learn more as you play the game.

There's lots of beautiful environments, special effects, character renditions, all highly detailed with the latest technology...but c'mon, this is a fighting game! That's what you REALLY want, and that's what you get. In spades. The combat engine allows you to move very smoothly through the fights, with some dazzling effects for each character.

But just in case you want to feel like you are doing something besides crushing your enemies (after all, what is best in life?), there are a few different player modes to help you set goals while playing Soulcalibur IV:

Story Mode
The epic struggle between the spirit sword, Soul Calibur, and the cursed sword, Soul Edge, has brought powerful warriors from across the galaxy together to claim these powerful weapons. Enter into the struggle are three characters from the Star Wars galaxy....Darth Vader, Yoda, and Starkiller (Vader's Secret Apprentice).

Learn the legend of Soulcalibur while playing through this game, through unlockable scenes and text that explains just what's going on with the struggle to control the swords.

Tower of Lost Souls
If storytelling just isn't your thing, then try this mode, where you can travel through a 60-story tower and either Ascend of Descend. Lots of opponents to defeat if you can survive long enough. According to the booklet, the game can actually adapt to your gameplay as you continue through the levels of the tower, making it that much harder. Which is I write this, I haven't yet gone through the whole tower yet.

This is an 8-stage mode where you can rack up some points and some serious bragging rights.

This is where you can take your character and have him face off against an opponent, who just stands there and takes the hits, or will fight back as you increase his skill level. By setting your opponent's skill level higher, you can also learn their moves as well, without the danger of getting killed too quickly. This is a nice way to learn some strategic moves in advance.

Versus Mode
Like any fighting game, the true fun is facing off against another person in the same room. However, my kids are way better at games than I am, so perhaps the less said about this section, the better.

Character Selection
There are dozens of characters to choose from, but being the Star Wars fanboy that I am, I always stuck with Yoda. Although a big dude named Nightmare is also one of my favorites, and the two make for a funny combination when paired up in a tag-team combat.

There's also an option to create your own character, but I haven't tried this yet.

What exactly is going on here, anyway?
There's something about Star Wars fans that makes us NEED to know the why and how of every aspect of the universe, and this is no exception. It's not enough to just throw in some Star Wars characters and call it a game: no, we need to know WHY there are Star Wars characters in the world of Soulcalibur IV! To this end, a storyline has been created for Yoda (I can only assume there's also a storyline created for Darth Vader as well).

Yoda is still in exile on Dagobah, where he is using the Force to keep his presence hidden from the Sith, but he can sense the power of the swords. He can sense that Darth Vader is trying to track down this power for his own evil ends, and therefore stop him Yoda must.

By using the Force, Yoda can enter this dimension to face off against the other warriors that are fighting for the same thing: to claim the Soul Calibur and the Soul Edge. So basically, Yoda is trying to keep these weapons out of the hands of everyone else, which is very much a Jedi way of thinking.

To get a visual look at the background story, check out the online comic book, Star Wars: Visions of the Blade, which shows how Yoda, Darth Vader, and Starkiller each separately join the struggle in their own way.

Yoda is very much in character as well in Soulcalibur IV. He begins every fight with "I have no desire to fight you", and (when he wins), his victory is very calm and subdued. The combat moves are very much like what we saw in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, with the Jedi Master jumping around a lot, using the Force to successfully defeat each opponent. Best of all, YOU'RE controlling his every move!

PS3 Contest
I was able to get a copy of the PS3 version of Soulcalibur IV, and on tonight's live show of The Force-Cast, I gave it away through a trivia contest to one of the live listeners in the chatroom. Congratulations to Matt Schweigerdt for correctly answering the question!

Here's a look at the cover art for the PS3 version of Soulcalibur IV:

I Need More Yoda!
Here are some screenshots of Yoda in action!

Soulcalibur IV is out in stores now.

For more Soulcalibur IV trailers, screenshots, and more, check out the special widget below!

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