Soul Calibur iPad Review

Few console launch games have dropped as many jaws as Soul Calibur. Released for Dreamcast in 1999, Namco Bandai's brawler possessed an aura previously unseen in fighters past. Not only did it look gorgeous, without question one of the most graphically intense titles at the time, but it was feature packed, incredibly enjoyable and had an epic soundtrack.

That said, we're proud to say the soul still burns 13 years later on iPhone and iPad in this excellent port. It costs $11.99 ($50 by iOS standards) and the absence of multiplayer is quite odd, but if you're a longtime fan, Soul Calibur needs to become part of your collection.

What impresses us the most is the near flawless translation to Apple's devices. Just about everything's here. You have 19 characters with unique fighting styles and move lists, warriors like the staff wielding Kilik, the dual sword brandishing pirate Cervantes, the axe-carrying brute Astaroth and the nimble Taki, before Namco Bandai gave her breasts the size of hot air balloons.

Jump into a match, and you'll marvel at the fast and fluid action, as both competitors pull off a dizzying array of maneuvers with no performance hiccups.

To that end, we feel this port is even better than the Dreamcast one, with visuals that trump the Xbox 360 edition released in 2008. The colors really pop off the screen, while character models and environments are both crisp and sharp. All of the locales, from a volcanic stage to the one with the castle and pirate ship, help give Soul Calibur much personality.

The virtual controls, meanwhile, are much better than we expected. Namco Bandai went with a virtual arcade stick and four buttons; you can change the layout. We struggled a but pulling off grabs and walking within a 3D space, but for the most part, we had little trouble keeping up with our A.I. opponents and flattening these punks on the default setting.

As for modes, the majority made the cut. You have Arcade, Survival (limited amount of life), Extra Survival (one hit kills), Practice and Time Attack, which the developers tie to online leaderboards through Game Center.

That said, multiplayer would have completed the package, and it's a shame Wi-Fi and/or online play didn't make the cut. The review score would have been higher, for sure; Namco Bandai promises additional (and unspecified) modes in the future via DLC.

Finally, we cannot find the art gallery that was so much fun to view on the Dreamcast. Instead, the Museum only contains Battle Theater (watch two computer opponents duke it out) and Exhibition Theater (characters showing off their moves). Perhaps we missed something.

All told, it's tough to find serious fault with Soul Calibur. The price is a bit hard to swallow if you prefer $0.99 fare, but on the positive side, this award-winning beat-em-up made a smooth transition to mobile. If Namco Bandai achieved this with a Dreamcast game, imagine the possibilities if other third parties and even Sega dived into the system's celebrated library.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (4th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, and iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G.Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Download Soul Calibur

What's Hot: Nineteen different fighters, surprisingly effective touch controls, vibrant graphics, epic soundtrack, universal support, Game Center.

What's Not: No multiplayer mode, costs $11.99.

4/5