During the sixth generation of video game consoles, one of the most promising up-and-coming features was online play. Xbox Live showed game studios that there was a huge market for online games, though not every developer was as quick to embrace the new idea. Most fighting games, however, did adopt online features, as the idea just made sense with the genre as a whole. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat both had notable sixth-generation games that featured some fairly groundbreaking online compatibility.
Unlike its competitors, however, Bandai Namco’s fighting game, Soulcalibur, stuck to designing modes for a single-player experience. Specifically, Soulcalibur 3 was one of the few sixth-generation fighting games to release without any kind of online multiplayer mode. While this made the game feel behind the times back when it was originally released, many of Soulcalibur 3‘s single-player features have aged quite well. A dated design choice created some of the most interesting solo-focused fighting game modes out there.
Soulcalibur 3 Set a Standard for Fighting Game Story Content
When talking about Soulcalibur 3‘s single-player options, it’s hard not to focus on the story mode. Tales of the Sword featured a full story for each of the main roster characters, complete with branching choices that could actually change a character’s ending. Tales of the Sword also featured some infamous boss fights against the likes of Abyss and Night Terror. What makes this such a noteworthy mode is how much attention was given to each character, with each one having fully animated ending cutscenes.
Tales of the Sword wasn’t the only story-focused mode available in Soulcalibur 3, however. Almost serving as a precursor to Soulcalibur 6‘s Libra of Souls, Chronicles of the Sword told the story of the player’s custom character as they led an army through a strategic battle. It played like a simpler version of Fire Emblem. Players could move soldiers in their army across a map to take strongholds. Chronicles of the Sword’s light RPG elements give the otherwise simple mode some surprising depth.
Chronicles of the Sword helped Soulcalibur 3 stand out from other fighting games of the time due to how unique the mode was. While other fighting games had experimented with integrating a custom character into their own storyline, Chronicles of the Sword did so with such a unique mix of genres. It’s not a perfect blend, as the transition between the strategy elements and the fighting elements is pretty jarring, but that doesn’t take away from its charm. There really isn’t much out there like Chronicles of the Sword, even 18 years later.
Unlockable Characters and Fighting Styles Give Soulcalibur 3 Replayability
Reinforcing the already solid story mode was Soulcalibur 3‘s massive roster of characters, which still remains the largest of the series. Along with the 24 main roster characters, there was a solid number of secret fighters that were made using the game’s Create-a-Soul mode, including the first playable appearance of fan-favorite character Amy. These characters even had their own unique fighting style and unlockable weapons. However, many of these fighting styles lacked things like taunts and side throws, making them less than viable in a competitive setting.
The unlockable fighting styles were more than just a neat bonus, as Soulcalibur 3 technically continues the series trend of crossover characters that started with Soulcalibur 2‘s inclusion of Heihachi Mishima and Link in certain console versions. KOS-MOS, from Xenosaga, can actually be recreated in Create-a-Soul by unlocking the Type-X Armor parts. While KOS-MOS doesn’t have a unique fighting style, it’s still a neat crossover for Xenosaga fans. While certainly not an intended crossover, many of Link’s moves from the GameCube version of Soulcalibur 2 are reused for the Sword and Shield fighting style.
There are a lot of secrets to find and things to unlock in Soulcalibur 3. The best part is that much of this content is spread across multiple different modes and has multiple ways to unlock it. A lot of what could normally be unlocked through the previously discussed story modes could also be unlocked by playing a certain number of fights in the game’s other modes. Soul Arena, one of Soulcalibur 3‘s more notorious modes, also had a few secrets hiding within it.
Soul Arena Had Some Brutally Difficult Missions
Of course, players aren’t always in the mood for story-heavy gameplay. Sometimes they just want to play a fighting game without any fluff getting in the way. Soulcalibur 3 had plenty to offer on that front, including a full-blown tournament mode called World Competition. For those who wanted an arcade-like experience without the storyline from Tales of the Sword, they could always check out the game’s Soul Arena.
On top of being the game’s arcade mode, Soul Arena also featured several challenge missions that players could compete in. While some of these missions featured fights similar to what could be encountered in Tales of the Sword, there were also plenty of original challenges for players to take on. Whenever fans talk about the infamously difficult Night Terror boss fight, they’re referring to the one from the Final Battle mission in Soul Arena.
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