In need of a .45 caliber lobotomy.
"The pen is mightier than the sword," English playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton once wisely surmised, presumably having never been stabbed. Well, en garde Soul Calibur Legends — because I’m about to run you through. Falling far from the heights of the highly lauded fighting series, Namco Bandai has unsheathed one hell of a dull action game in Soul Calibur Legends. Bland, uninspired, and wholly lacking in depth of any kind, this failed effort to capitalize on the growing Wii fan base is more likely to slice up your wallet more than anything else.
[image1]Replacing the series’ slick weapons-based brawling, an action-adventure story mode sits at the center of Soul Calibur Legends. Wielding the immense power of the titular holy sword Soul Calibur, the Ottoman Empire has begun a campaign to overrun Europe. Siegfried unwittingly gets roped into the effort to break the Ottoman siege, sent on a journey to activate the infamous Soul Edge sword. While it may not be as sharp as a Chef Tony meat cleaver, Soul Edge is the only weapon capable of countering Soul Calibur. He doesn’t have to go it alone on his quest, however, as Siegfried is aided by a cast of playable characters pulled from the main series including Sophitia, Ivy, Mitsurugi, and Astaroth among others.
The story is compartmentalized into stages selected from a static world map. Each stage sets up a simple objective such as locating a specific person or capturing an object, but the focus lies more on hacking enemies to bits. You’re always thrown right into the action when attempting a stage and you can be sure it won’t take a lot of time–stages tend to run no longer than 10-15 minutes from start to finish. This is the only thing that Soul Calibur Legends does right: bite-sized stages that zero in on the action. Everything else is as shallow and stinging as a paper cut.
Before you’re allowed to jump right into the action, you’re forced to sit through horribly-written dialogue forwarding the game’s largely incoherent story. A poor translation contributes to the problem, but it’s more likely a result of plain poor writing. Soul Calibur games have always been about fighting, so it comes as no surprised that this unintelligible spin-off fails in its pathetic attempt to weave a story. You’re welcome to skip through conversations by jamming on the A button, yet all you’re doing is fast-forwarding to what truly makes Soul Calibur Legends a total drag: the action.
[image2]Stripping away complicated button presses and convoluted combinations, Soul Calibur Legends fully utilizes motion-controls for combat. Swing the remote to the left or right, for example, and you trigger a horizontal slash. Flick it down and a vertical slice is initiated. Chain movements of the remote together and you can build combination attacks for extra damage. Sadly, there’s little skill required to create a combo; in fact, flailing your arm about is usually good enough to get some attacks going. Timing is of little importance as long as you move the Wii Remote enough to instigate a series of attacks. Considering the sophistication of the fighting systems employed in the main series, Soul Calibur Legends deals disappointment by means of a thousand motion-controlled cuts.
Insubstantial efforts to deepen combat come in the form of special spirit break attacks and upgradeable weapons. Collecting spirit stones from fallen enemies and broken jars enables you to unleash spirit breaks capable of exacting massive damage. Spirit breaks aren’t at all powerful and as a result feel tacked on. There never arises a need for them since you can easily dispatch enemies using basic attacks (read: waving the Wii Remote around vigorously).
[image3]A diverse line of weapons seemingly instills depth until you realize the arbitrary nature of the upgrading process. Each character has four weapons that become available through the course of the game, which all can be enhanced to a maximum of four levels. Upgrades aren’t dependent on how often you use a weapon in battle; rather, they occur whenever you find upgrade markers hidden in breakable jars. If fighting the game’s half-baked bestiary isn’t any fun, don’t expect smashing jars of clay to find power-ups to be any more fulfilling.
As if Soul Calibur Legends hadn’t already sullied the franchise with its single player story mode, it certainly gets dragged through the mud in multiplayer. Cooperative play through the story is supported, as well as a laughable versus mode. Instead of offering single-screen bouts, versus mode unwisely splits the screen vertically for competitive play for a mere two players. It gets worse–accessing versus mode arenas requires unlocking them by playing through story mode.
We won’t even waste time criticizing the presentation. It doesn’t take a pair of Coke bottle glasses to see how ugly a game this is. Legends imply greatness; but Soul Calibur Legends is only the greatest loser — a throwaway hack-and-slash action game. Unattractive, lacking depth, and generally not fun, this dull blade can’t parry its long list of flaws with anything worthwhile.