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When Namco Bandai Games first announced that they were going to make a Soul Calibur game for the Nintendo Wii, fans who were lucky enough to own the system were ecstatic. After all, the Soul Calibur titles comprise one of the most popular and beloved one-on-one fighting game franchises on the planet. That ecstasy was short-lived, however, when fans learned that it would not, in fact, be a one-on-one fighter but would rather be an action-adventure spinoff set in between the events of Soul Edge and the first Soul Calibur. Probably due at least in part to the disappointment, many fans and critics have panned the resulting game, entitled Soulcalibur Legends -- quite unfairly, as it turns out. It is actually rather enjoyable as long as you're willing to accept it for what it is.
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According to the game's official website, "Soulcalibur Legends follows the 16th century exploits of Siegfried and other Soulcalibur characters, new and old. Siegfried finds himself on a quest for ultimate power in order to save an empire from destruction, bringing him into conflict with other warriors seeking to unify the pieces of the Soul Edge sword. This fateful quest leads to his inevitable possession by the cursed blade." So essentially, the game chronicles the tale of how Siegfried became Nightmare. However, in doing so, it kind of rewrites some elements of the franchise's backstory, as established through the first three Soul Calibur games. Purists may not like that, but everyone else won't care too much. Then again, nobody but hardcore fans of the franchise will probably care much about the story in the first place.
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No, this isn't your traditional Soul Calibur game. Get over that fact and free your mind, and you can have a lot of fun with what is a rather solid third-person action adventure game. Soulcalibur Legends features hack-and-slash gameplay somewhat similar to Koei's Dynasty Warriors games, pitting you against hordes of enemies in a white-knuckle battle for survival. It includes both single-player and multiplayer modes and features seven different playable characters, including Siegfried and other series favorites Ivy, Cervantes, Astaroth, Mitsurugi, Taki and Sophitia, as well as Lloyd Irving, the hero of Namco's Gamecube RPG Tales of Symphonia.
Single-player is fun, though it can grow repetitive after repeated play. The real highlight is when you grab a friend and try out the multiplayer. There are three different two-player modes: Cooperative, Competitive and Versus. Cooperative allows the two of you to team up and complete one of three different levels, while Competitive is a head-to-head competition in which you need to be the first to complete a specific objective, such as defeating a set number of enemies or collecting a certain amount of coins. Both are exceptionally fun. The third and final multiplayer mode, Versus, is a one-on-one fight between combatants more in line with classic Soul Calibur gameplay. However, it is severely hampered by the fact that it's done in split screen instead of showing both fighters together at the same time like most fighting games.
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A motion-controlled take on the hack-and-slash formula is most welcome, and thankfully everything is responsive and handles well. Soulcalibur Legends requires both the Wiimote and the Nunchuck attachment. To attack, you waggle the remote, and to move you use the Nunchuck's control stick. The Z button is used to guard and the B button jumps. Pressing the C button give your character a temporary power-up, while holding it and making an attack motion with the Wiimote performs a special attack. Sword play is a breeze thanks the Wiimote. Moving it up and down allows you to use an overhead slash, while moving it side to side is good for short, quick cuts and jabbing it forward is, as you'd expect, a thrust. You'll need all of these skills and some others, including the Guard Break (move the Nunchuck while holding the guard button), to overcome all of the single-player challenges.
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Graphics and Sound
Okay, so the game isn't incredibly visually striking. If you're expecting something on par with Soul Calibur IV, you're going to be sorely disappointed. You're also delusional, because the Wii just doesn't have that kind of processing power. They are, however, at least as good as Soul Calibur III, which is perfectly acceptable to this reviewer. The game contains a lot of voice acting, and most of it is pretty good, and the music is decent but ultimately rather forgettable. On the whole, the game's presentation is pretty average. It does nothing outstanding, but on the other hand, it doesn't adversely affect the other elements of the game.
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Sure, Soulcalibur Legends doesn't provide the same kind of intense one-on-one fighting action fans of the series are used to, but just because something is different doesn't necessarily make it bad, and this is by no means a bad game. In fact, it's quite good if you're willing to give it a chance, especially in the multiplayer Co-op and Competitive play modes. The graphics are a little dated and the motion controls may not be quite as precise as one might hope, but the core gameplay is a lot of fun, especially if you're a fan of the Dynasty Warriors games. Rent it if you're still not convinced, but definitely make sure you give it a shot. This is just too good of a game to write off sight unseen.