Capcom has already proved that touchscreens can allow for decent arcade-style fighting with their Street Fighter iOS games, so it’s no shock to see other classics hit a touchscreen near you. Namco Bandai has now ported over one of their beloved classics, SoulCalibur, and the results are surprisingly good.
Originally released as one of the AAA-launch titles for the Sega Dreamcast over a decade ago, SoulCalibur has always been known for gorgeous graphics, eclectic characters, and versatile playability. This one-on-one fighter distinguished itself from other series like Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, and others by being a weapon-based combat game. It’s developed a well-deserved following over the years.
It’s no coincidence that SoulCalibur is hitting the iPhone 4, 4S, and iPad 2 right before the major console release of SoulCalibur V, and Namco has done a solid job porting the classic to iOS. Adapted from the Xbox Live Arcade port of the original Dreamcast game, SoulCalibur comes packed with all 19 characters and their complete move set. Admittedly, over half those characters must be unlocked by completing the arcade mode, but it’s a sizable and diverse stable of fighters.
The great thing about this series has always been the sheer diversity of fighting styles. A wide range of swords, whips, staffs, claws, and other weapons come into play here and each fighter really does feel distinctive. The gameplay itself is remarkably different from Street Fighter, since it mostly lacks the over-the-top supernatural moves of that series. SoulCalibur isn’t as much of a finesse fighter as Virtua Fighter or Dead or Alive, and it allows novices to feel like button-bashing champs, while still rewarding hardcore fighting strategists.
Of course, none of this would matter if the touchscreen controls weren’t up to par. Thankfully, the game is impressively responsive. Namco didn’t take any chances, though. SoulCalibur presents a virtual D-pad on the left and four buttons on the right. There are no actual touchscreen-specific controls in this version at all, which is slightly disappointing, but SoulCalibur is still a highly playable port.
Aside from the arcade mode, complete with a visually stunning end boss and mostly throwaway stories, the game comes with a practice mode, time attack, and two survival modes. The ‘extra survival’ mode focuses on one-hit wins, and playing through any of these challenge modes allows players to show off their scores on the leaderboard. Extensive play also unlocks artwork bonuses in the museum mode.
The AI competition is scalable and very solid, but single-player gaming just isn’t the main draw for any fighting game. This is SoulCalibur’s biggest problem: There are no multiplayer modes at all. It’s a huge oversight and major disappointment to not have the option to play with others, even just locally.
If the lack of multiplayer and high price don’t bother you, go ahead and pick up SoulCalibur on iOS. It’s still an excellent rendition of a classic, but without multiplayer, the game just feels incomplete.