Soulcalibur Legends Review

A revered series takes a nosedive in this embarrassing, tedious excuse for an action game.

There comes a point while playing Soulcalibur Legends, after fighting the same boss you've already faced five or six times, when you're left wondering if the game will ever end. Yet against all odds, it keeps throwing one quest after another at you, sending you back to the same levels you've visited over and over again. Brevity is not often considered a strong selling point in an action adventure game, but this one would have benefited from a good pruning. As it is, Soulcalibur Legends is a boring, mind-numbingly ugly game that melds monotonous remote-waggling combat and cheap deaths into a single disappointing package.

So that's what she calls them.
So that's what she calls them.

The narrative starts off promisingly with a nice cutscene and an interesting tutorial level, and then directly plummets into the depths of Hades. If you are a series fan, you will probably have at least some passing interest in Siegfried's discovery of the sword Soul Edge and his subsequent transformation. But any curiosity will quickly devolve into boredom as you follow an odd handful of adventurers brought together by one implausible twist after another, to the point where you wonder what possible coincidence will usher in the next unlockable character. Dialogue is clichéd and overblown, but at least you will get to ogle Mitsurugi's scowl and Taki's spectacular and peculiarly oval breasts.

Prior to most levels, you can choose which two characters you want to take with you (you only play as one at a time, though you can switch between them at will). Then, you fight a lot of dudes. Some of them are skeletons, some of them are ninjas, and some of them are lizardmen, but for the most part, you run into the same ones time and time again. To fight them, you wriggle the Wii Remote around to swing your weapon. Granted, certain motions result in a more or less equivalent onscreen swing of the sword, so flinging the remote upward will result in a corresponding upward slash, and so on. You can also block using the Nunchuk's Z button and jump with the remote's B button, and once you build up enough power by collecting orbs or defeating baddies, you can hold the C button to execute a charged attack. Yet while late-game battles do benefit some from a firm grasp on well-timed slashes and blocks, you can slice your way through the majority of the campaign by slashing about randomly without much regard for these differences. There's nothing inherently wrong with the control scheme, but there is little subtlety to it. You can string together combos, but it's just as easy to do it at random as it is to do so purposely.

The levels you hack your way through are short (many take just a few minutes to get through) and entirely linear, and you revisit the same ones ad nauseam. Sometimes when you return to one, you may be starting at the opposite side from where you first completed--but apart from a few surprises (a few spacey, alternate-reality levels jump to mind), you will navigate through the same unsightly ice caverns, narrow grassy paths, and ugly brown corridors time and time again. A typical level consists of entering a small area enclosed by doors or force fields and pounding on a bunch of respawning enemies until you slay enough for the door that leads you to the next area to automatically open. It's a common gaming convention to be sure, but in Soulcalibur Legends, it happens many times in almost every level--even the shortest ones--and is one of many examples of the game's complete lack of imagination.

In an apparent effort to mix things up, the game throws a few traps and puzzles at you from time to time. Actually, calling these tasks "puzzles" is generous, since they essentially boil down to unnecessary busywork. You may need to slice through ropes to lower a drawbridge, knock some statues around until they face the proper direction, or fan the flames of a fiery goblet to open a door, but there's no inherent challenge to any of these chores. At least they're inoffensive, whereas the trap elements are inherently terrible and easily the worst facet of Soulcalibur Legends. Oftentimes, a collection of enormous boulders will come rolling down the stupidly narrow pathway in front of you, forcing you to backtrack to find a corner to hide in, dodge them (often entirely impossible, when there are three of them rolling at you), or simply take the huge amount of damage they inflict and hope there are some health orbs nearby. The rolling rocks are terrible ideas in and of themselves, considering the claustrophobic level design, but the awful, sluggish camera rubs further salt into this gaping wound. At times, you won't even know the boulder is coming because the camera hasn't turned yet to let you see the corridor you are entering. By that point, it's usually too late, and all you can do is let the stony hand of fate mete out its undeserved punishment.

Other traps like wall daggers and bursts of acid dole out similarly annoying harm. Much of the time, these things are easily avoided, whereas other times, the slow camera and constricted corridors again conspire against you. In some levels, the harmful substances spewing from the walls or floor have no obvious conduit (wouldn't it be nice if a pipe were there to show you what spot you needed to evade?). In others, pillars will topple over without warning, bringing with them the same cheap damage Soulcalibur Legends makes it a habit to impose on you. You'll also need to deal with the occasional wall of fire, though you simply need to swing your sword to extinguish it. The game explains that the gust of air from your powerful swing is enough to put it out, but for all intents and purposes, to defeat flames, you attack them.

Not all of the skeletons you encounter are the same. Some have red eyes, and some have blue.
Not all of the skeletons you encounter are the same. Some have red eyes, and some have blue.

Along with ugly gameplay, you'll have to put up with unattractive visuals. Character models are the only saving grace--they animate well and look like the well-known characters they represent. Otherwise, Soulcalibur Legends is an ugly game, featuring blocky geometry, dreadful ground and wall textures, environments often completely devoid of any objects (save the occasional barrel or urn), and the aforementioned repeated enemy and map designs. Sound comes across a little better, thanks to a pleasant-enough soundtrack and some decent voice acting during the interstitial cutscenes. The grunts and groans of combat wear thin very quickly, though the levels are over so fast, you will likely not grow too annoyed by them.

If all this droning hack-and-slash combat is your thing, you can join a buddy and play through the story cooperatively. Alternately, you can compete for high scores in one-off levels, or even swing swords at each other in the yawn-inducing versus mode. Don't let the title of the mode confuse you into thinking there are fighting elements to be found, though. You just hammer on your opponent using the same dull mechanics you use in the rest of the game. Considering most games benefit from the addition of a friend, it's just a further nail in Soulcalibur Legends' coffin that the addition of another player can't make the game more fun to play. It's too bad the revered fighting game franchise had to be besmirched in such spectacular fashion, but even if you're a Soul Calibur fan--actually, especially if you are a Soul Calibur fan--you are better off pretending that this spin-off never existed.

The Good

  • You slash up bad guys using the Wii Remote

The Bad

  • Cheap deaths in lieu of real challenge
  • Boring, repetitive combat
  • Lame tasks that masquerade as puzzles
  • You muddle through the same short, linear, ugly levels over and over again

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.