I’ve been a fan of the Soulcalibur series since the beginning, because it combines two things I love: fighting games and hitting people with swords. Considering the origin point of the series, Soul Edge, also had the benefit of being released when I was a teenager (and thus rather interested in the… bulging characters), I was hooked right from the first scene of… I want to say there was a dude riding a raft? Huh, you’d think I’d be able to remember memorable scenes. I can probably draw Sophitia from memory, though… for… some reason…
Soul Edge/Blade was kind of a weird mix of 2-D and 3-D fighting sensibilities (as an easy example, it was definitely a 3-D fighter, but your character could jump thirty feet in the air), but Soulcalibur (1) was where the series really landed. This is where the true tale of swords and souls began, and, with its eclectic cast of lizard people and kabuki ninja, this was also the game that wound up sticking in most players’ brains. Maybe it was just because it was yet another amazing Dreamcast fighting game, but I want to say Soulcalibur was somehow both the start and pinnacle of the franchise.
But, if you’re anything like me, that creates a funny problem. When one entry in a series is so iconic, it creates a dissonance with everything that comes after. This is probably most obviously seen recently with Ghostbusters, which has had a myriad of comics, books, and animated tie-in materials, but when anyone that hasn’t dedicated their lives to memorizing ridiculous trivia about Slimer mentions “Ghostbusters”, they’re talking about the original 80’s movie, and not, say, that time when Egon hired the cute goth chick. There have been female ghostbusters, guys! There was one in Ghostbusters 2! But, no, that’s not what people think about, so who cares? Soulcalibur gets much the same treatment: the cast of Soulcalibur (1) gets recycled and revitalized every chance the series gets, but anyone that premiered later is entirely auxiliary.
This leads to my own personal problem with Soulcalibur: when confronted with every Soulcalibur game that isn’t Soulcalibur (1), I glance at the cover, and groan “Ugh, this is the Soulcalibur game where they introduced that idiot.” And I have that reaction to every single Soulcalibur game!
Soulcalibur 3 might not be as bad as its siblings. It was Soulcalibur 2 that introduced Raphael (history’s first Vampire LARPer), Talim (let’s make a version of Sophitia that is even more sickeningly saccharine and give her a useless weapon!), and Necrid (who never returns thanks to the dread curse of licensing issues). Soulcalibur 4 only had two new characters, but they were both about as generic as possible: “Queen Boring” Hilde and “King ‘o Swords” Algol. Soulcalibur 5 presented a number of new characters, which, despite introducing at least one werewolf, mostly whiffed with insufferable children related to the “real” characters. At least one of those new souls was Goku, though.
And I’m not even going to acknowledge Soulcalibur Legends.
But Soulcalibur 3 does have its cast of all new duds.
Tira is number one, as, since her introduction, she’s become the Harley Quinn to Nightmare’s Joker. Actually, scratch that, she’s clearly modeled after Harley Quinn in every conceivable way. She’s sadistic, wholly dedicated to her maniacal master, and even has a penchant for influencing the kiddies. And, oh yeah, she’s dressed like a damn harlequin. As an extra bit of ridiculousness, modern DC comics Harley Quinn has been randomly characterized as having a split personality: the intelligent and calculating Dr. Harleen Qunizel, and the sadistic and “crazy” Harley Quinn. And what’s Tira’s trademark? She’s got a dual personality! Neat!
Oh, and her weapon is a hula hoop. We’re four games into the franchise, and we’ve completely run out of viable weapons.
And it probably goes without saying that “Harley” here became the most popular debut character of Soulcalibur 3.
The other new lady is Setsuka. Do yourself a favor and look up Lady Snowblood. Done? Great! There’s everything you need to know about Setsuka. Just switch a deceased and desecrated mother for a fatally wounded master, and you’ve got pretty much the exact same character: beautiful (mostly) Japanese woman revengences herself across the nation with the assistance of a kimono and umbrella-sword. Bonus points for this character wielding a pretty cool weapon/fighting style, but serious points off for creating a character that has pretty much nothing to do with the main plot of, ya know, that whole Soul Edge thing. It’s little wonder that this character was dropped for Soulcalibur 5 and was replaced with… one of Sophitia’s kids? That raises… questions.
Olcadan is an owl.
I think the record will show that I have no problem with owls. Keep hooting on, you crazy avian.
Our fourth and final new combatant is Zasalamel, the coverboy of the game. Zas has… issues.
Zasalamel works within the scope of Soulcalibur 3. The Soulcalibur franchise has always been about an “ancient sword” (and, pretty quickly thereafter, another ancient sword), so, from about Soulcalibur on, the series did its best to introduce a Merlin to the cast. Initially we had Edge Master, who was ancient and bearded and talked a lot of talk about being immortal and secretly knowing what’s going on. Then he had to take a smoke break for three games, so we needed a replacement. Zasalamel seemed to be positioned to be the “new” Edge Master… and that’s actually kind of cool! You’ve somehow only got one black guy in the whole of the franchise, and he’s well-read, intelligent, and the only dude in the cast that really knows what’s going on. If you’re going to be skimpy on the representation, at least you’ve included a character that is pretty much the opposite of ugly stereotypes. Zasalamel could have been yet another “noble savage” amongst a gaggle of crazy Eurasians, but, no, he’s basically a morally ambiguous Merlin here, and the world needs more African wizards.
Then we get Soulcalibur 4, and King Algol, the Sword King, is introduced. Algol is older, wiser, and more intrinsically tied to the titular blade. Zasalamel was once a protector of the Soulcalibur, Algol literally built the damn thing. After Zasalamel’s turn as the final boss of Soulcalibur 3, Algol claims that throne for the sequel. Algol usurps everything interesting about Zasalamel, so it’s no surprise when Zas isn’t even mentioned by the time of Soulcalibur 5.
And I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Algol winds up being yet another muscular white guy.
So, while Soulcalibur 3 has a scant four new characters, two are obvious
rip-offs homages, one was a good idea destroyed by the very next game, and the other is a bird. I’m going to say that totals up to a loss, so, yes, Soulcalibur 3 was yet another Soulcalibur that introduced those idiots.
Maybe I’ll just make my own damn characters. Is there anything in this franchise for that?
FGC #153 Soulcalibur 3
- System: After Soulcalibur 2 hit all the systems that would support it, SC3 only saw the arcade and Playstation 2.
- Number of players: Two souls enter, one soul leaves.
- Personal failing: Do you know how many times I typed “Soul Calibur” as opposed to “Soulcalibur”? Infinity times!
- Let’s not even talk about: Chronicles of the Sword is an entirely too long mode that vaguely resembles a Tactical RPG. You’re responsible for moving units around the board and ramming them into invading forces, but it all winds up coming down to a 1-on-1 battles anyway… so can we just get a stupidly long arcade mode instead? This is Soulcalibur, not Fire Emblem.
- But you’d play a Fire Emblem fighting game: Oh my yes.
- Favorite Character (SC3): I’ve been fond of Seong Mi-na since Soul Edge, and this game does nothing to change that. I kind of naturally gravitate toward staff characters, and I’m sure this has nothing to do with a childhood affection for Donatello. This also may explain why I like the color purple so much. Kilik would likely win this honor if he wasn’t so mopey about killing his own family.
- Special Guests: Soulcalibur 2 got Todd’s toys and Link involved, and SC4 would one day grab Darth Vader, but SC3 doesn’t have any official guest stars. However, you can create a number of different cool cats, like Gilgamesh from Tower of Druaga and a certain Namco android that has been dominating my thoughts recently.
- Did you know? A character named Edgardo was planned for Soulcalibur 3, but apparently never made it past the modeling stage of development. It’s possible that Edgardo got recycled into King Algol in time for Soulcalibur 4, but, technically, in the ridiculous and sprawling Soulcalibur canon, Edgardo is a legitimate character, and was apparently defeated by Taki.
- Would I play again: It’s a Soulcalibur game. I’ll just play Soulcalibur (1) again, thank you.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kirby Triple Deluxe for the 3DS. Good things come in triples, right? Please look forward to it!