Soul Calibur's Same Old Story

The new Legends version of the popular fighting game doesn't live up to its potential, despite rich graphics and some athletic Wii moves

Death By Degrees, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces are failed attempts at taking a popular fighting game and trying to do something more. The latest try from Namco Bandai, Soul Calibur Legends, fares much better than those games, but it's not nearly as exciting as its fighting counterparts.

In Legends, you initially control Siegfried, who seeks out the power of the Soul Blade to save a doomed kingdom. He sets out on a journey that adds members to his group, including the voluptuous (and dangerous) Ivy, the swift Taki and several others. You start out only playing as one character, but as the game continues, you add a second member to your party, switching off between the two at any time. This is useful, particularly if one character runs low on energy without a chance to refill it.

Never mind the story. It's pure backwash, a flaccid tie-in to the stronger story elements from previous Soul Calibur games. Your job here is to travel from room to room, clearing the bad guys dwelling inside it and moving on. This is one of Legends' biggest flaws, as very little happens to stir up the in-game action. On occasion, you'll run into a tricky platforming segment, along with a spectacular boss fight or two. Outside of that, you beat up the same groups of baddies, solving sporadic puzzles and repeating the process throughout the game.

That's sad, as the gameplay holds a great deal of promise. You attack using the Wii remote, swinging it different ways to execute combo attacks. You can also jerk the Nunchuk around for evasive maneuvers, which works well against combo heavy enemies. The lock-on system could've used more efficiency, as sometimes it's hard to switch between targets during a fight. Past that, though, the controls are solid, even if the mundane rhythm of Legends' design isn't.

Even the presentation rocks. The graphics are right on tone with previous Soul Calibur games, with beautiful backdrops, rich animation and wondrous character design. The battle camera takes getting used to, but keeps most things in perspective. The music is also a great listen, a sweeping score that changes with each new room you visit. The sound effects are acceptable, although the dialogue is downright laughable. Ivy's taunts come across as if she's an angry dominatrix. Then again, maybe she is.

As for multiplayer, it's nothing much. While the versus multiplayer game has potential at first, it really comes down to who's quicker with their "swinging away" combo and dodging skills. The co-op mode is slightly better, as you compete against your friend via split-screen to see who achieves the higher body count. Still, you're bound to get bored with it over time, returning to versus action with Soul Calibur II for the GameCube.

Soul Calibur Legends isn't a horrible game, but it could've been so much better. Being able to fight with various characters and weapons is great, but not when the story sucks. Tacked-on multiplayer modes do little to bolster the game either. As it stands, Legends wears the crown in the fighter-turned-brawler game category, but it's a shallow victory.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.