Back in the arcade fighting game heyday of the ‘90s, 2D heavyweights like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat had to contend with a new brand of brawler on the block: the 3D fighter. Games like Virtua Fighter and Tekken forewent 2D sprites and single-plane gameplay in favor of 3D polygonal character models and a full range of movement within the combat arenas. Happily, it turned out that there was room for both kinds of fighters to coexist, with gamers enjoying 2D and 3D fighting games in harmony.

One of the most popular 3D fighting franchises to come out of this era was Namco’s Soul Edge, and more prominently its sequel SoulCalibur, both of which were noteworthy for their focus on weapon-based combat. SoulCalibur hit arcades in 1998, and was then ported to the Sega Dreamcast to launch alongside that system in 1999. The Dreamcast version was remarkable, featuring even better graphics than the arcade version and a wealth of additional modes and characters. In 2008 SoulCalibur was again resurrected for Xbox Live Arcade, boasting a high definition makeover but lacking any sort of online play.

And now in 2012, almost a decade and a half after the original arcade release, SoulCalibur [$11.99] is now available in the palm of our hands on iOS devices. The iOS version appears to be based off of the most recent XBLA version, utilizing those excellent high definition visuals for Retina Display and iPad screens. The framerate and animation is also incredibly smooth, another hallmark of SoulCalibur, and everything looks bright and crisp running on iOS. For those that didn’t already know, you would never guess that this was actually an almost 14 year old game.

However, just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean the iOS version doesn’t have its share of drawbacks. Most glaring is the lack of any sort of multiplayer mode, an integral component of any good fighting game. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Namco Bandai would omit such a feature, but the iTunes description does state that additional modes are planned so I’m still holding out hope for multiplayer sometime in the future. For now though, it’s sorely missed.

As for single player content, SoulCalibur comes with quite a few modes. There’s the standard Arcade ladder, Time Attack, Survival, Extra Survival, and Practice. Sadly, the Team Battle and Mission modes from previous versions aren’t in this iOS version. There’s also a Museum mode where you can set up matches and watch two AI players battle it out or watch an Exhibition where you choose a character and watch them go through all their moves solo. Finally, there’s Game Center integration with leaderboards for Time Attack, Survival, and Extra Survival modes as well as 11 achievements to unlock.

A big factor when considering fighting games on iOS is controls, and SoulCalibur comes through in this department about as well as you could hope for. That is to say the virtual controls aren’t perfect, but they’re entirely workable and just as good as any other iOS fighters out there. If you don’t have any trouble playing games like Street Fighter IV Volt [$2.99] or King of Fighters-i [$6.99], then you shouldn’t have any trouble here either. The button positions and opacity can also be adjusted however you like, which is appreciated. One problem I did have though was with some of the menu UI being a bit too small on the iPhone screen, thus making it hard to make a selection sometimes. A minor complaint, but annoying nonetheless.

Whether or not you need SoulCalibur on iOS will depend on how fond of the original you are, and how important multiplayer is to you. It’s at the higher end of App Store pricing at $11.99, and that’s at a 20% off introductory price. But, I loved the original on my Dreamcast and think the price is absolutely worth it to be able to carry SoulCalibur around in my pocket. As for the lack of multiplayer, it’s a shame, but there’s still plenty to do by yourself. There’s the Game Center leaderboards and achievements, and half of the game’s 19 characters need to be unlocked first, as do several other goodies in the game, giving some good incentive to continue playing.

If you can deal with its shortcomings, SoulCalibur on iOS is actually an excellent port. It looks great, runs smoothly, controls as well as a fighting game can without buttons, and offers a decent amount of single player content to play through. If we can get some kind of multiplayer or other missing modes via updates in the future, then we’ll really be in business.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Matthieu Dietrich

    Same opinion here: solid port, but with a few missing pieces to be great (multiplayer and Team Battle; Mission mode was not in the XBLA port, so I really doubt it's coming back).

    Also missing is iCade compatiblity. Again, it could come later.

    Oh, and of course, brace yourselves, the price posts are incoming. 🙂

  • Brendan Charles

    Great port. Having a lot of fun and bringing back a lot of nostalgia playing this so far.

  • John

    Ooh icade compatibility would be a game changer. As it stands its still a little too expensive for my blood. I can relive the classic on my dreamcast in the meantime.

  • michael bluth

    When the hell did my ipad1 become obsolete? Facesmash.

    • Anonymous

      not to worry, pretty soon us iPad 2/3/4... folks will be asking the same question about our devices; invest in the iPad continuum (iPadX) if you want to stay relevant...

  • Cat Astrophy

    Play Blades of Fury instead

    • Anonymous

      Well if you don't mind paying the higher price, Soul Calibur is many leagues better than Blades of Fury. I've enjoyed Blades of Fury, but the original Soul Calibur is a pure classic 3D fighter and imo BoF doesn't closely compare to how good Soul Calibur is.

      I would definitely get this game if it had iCade support, and maybe a 6.99 price tag for a single player only fighter.

      • Cat Astrophy

        You mean if you don't mind paying a high price AND lack of MP. Just because SC is older and one of the first good 3D fighters, does that mean Blades of Fury can't be as good?

      • Anonymous

        It's all subjective of how good of a game is, but to me it's like saying Gameloft's Modern Combat 3 is as just as good as Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 3 on Xbox 360. While one game is amazing (MW3, Soul Calibur), the other just pales in comparison (MC3, Blades of Fury)

      • Cat Astrophy

        Sorry but SC for iOS is nothing like SC for consoles. If my comparison of an iOS game to an iOS game led you to compare an iOS game to a console game, then this discussion is FAR beyond your comprehension.

      • Anonymous

        @Cat Astrophy - I just bought SC for iOS and unfortunately for you, other than the multiplayer portion which we hope will be one of the added modes and another, it is exactly just like SC for consoles - the gameplay, characters, levels, the way it moves and reacts, smooth animation, and so forth - so what the hell are you talking about it's "nothing" like SC for consoles when it feels like a real good direct port of the Xbox 360 XBLA version? It is like the console version, a good one, and works great on the iPad 2. Namco did an excellent job on the virtual controls to boot.

        Jeffy had a good point in his comparison because you too were comparing an iOS game, BOF, to being as good to what basically is a console game on iOS, SC. His comprehension seems fine, it's yours that is FAR lacking

      • Anonymous

        Do yourself a favor next time and don't use Blades of Fury and Soul Calibur in a topic again.  Blades of Fury doesn't deserve to be mentioned when you're talking about a AAA++ game like Soul Calibur.

  • Anonymous

    that's one genre i could never stand, but alas, there's plenty who can't stand tower defense/RPG/CYOA/etc. either i suppose, so nothing's perfect for everybody.

    • Jay

      Yeah, I'm one of those that reads an apps description and when I get to the line that says "Tower de-" I exit out and forget that game ever existed.

  • John McCollum

    I picked this up for my iPad 2 last night. It's awesome with great graphics, and fun gameplay. I've been playing it on my iCade using the Cydia app Blutrol. That's the ideal way to play this game. Also love that there is an option to turn off the on screen controls so I can enjoy the game full screen on the iPad without seeing buttons while I'm playing.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I have to agree it was awesome to play on my iP2 and iPh4 without that much of a difference in feel and gameplay.

  • Anonymous

    What!!! The graphics are dreadfull!!! And the lack of multiplayer in a fighter makes me really scared about the iOS gaming.

    • Anti-Archonist

      Dreadful graphics? How so? This looks better than 98% of the app store. Are you comparing to infinity blade?

      This is one of the only iOS games I have ever played that uses anisotropic filtering. Look at the floor in the distance. Or the distant textures in general. Plus it is double IB's framerate. I am pleased, it's worth the price for me even if only single player. Obviously this is against the app store status quo and there are some gems on the app store. But there is more crap then gems and fremium stuff is the worst. Perception must change and gamers need to stop making excuse to praise garbage over good games. IB sucks compared to this from a gameplay standpoint. Yeah I said that. Disagree? Not surprising considering 99.9% of the world is a bunch of sheeple asleep at the world.

  • Matthew

    Sega, PLEASE bring us Panzer Dragoon Saga!  It costs an arm and a leg to buy a copy for the Saturn, and we all know it's one of the best games ever, but nobody can get their hands on it.  Heck, if you release it for iPad, I might even buy an iPad!

    • Anonymous

      They cannot bring that game over to any console or portable cause they lost the source code...

  • Anonymous

    now why can't we get a port of KI (Killer Instinct), God knows I love the sound of Ultra...Ultra...Ultra...and "C-C-C-Combo Breaker!"

  • Dani

    Here's one who doesn't mind the price tag, because I want to see great console quality titles coming to my iPhone. Yes, of course, I'm not an idiot and the cheaper the better, but I think that console quality has to be paid. I bought Final Fantasy 3 last Christmas in the sale SquareEnix held and I'm very happy I did so. The price tag was the same as this one. What I really hope with these price tags is:

    - No added IAP's appear.
    - Quality titles arrive, instead of "GainLoft's" freemium rubbish (hey, Tiny Tower and Forever Drive are good freemium titles IMHO, but GL has lost their way in the freemium model...).

    Also, I don't mind the absense of multiplayer because I'm a "lone star" who plays in the public transport, but I understand that people want MP. Namco, my recommendation is that you add MP, at least locally.

    • Jay

      I'm of the school of thought that iPads simply aren't powerful enough to handle the kinds of games I want to play.  I believe that they'll be very, very powerful in the future, and I can't wait until that day, but most of the games for the iPad are essentially small tech demos of what could/ will be.  Most, not all.

    • Anonymous

      With that in mind, why not make it as cheap as the $10 console port?

  • Anonymous

    Can someone tell me why I can't play this on my 1st gen iPad?  I am so mad right now!!!

  • Anonymous

    *sigh* my worst fears have come true.... it's not compatible with my iPad 1. (but for some reason, it's compatible with the iPhone 4..? WTF indeed)

    • Rob Bates

      RAM. The iPhone4 has twice the memory of the iPad1. Once you figure in OS overhead, the iPhone can provide almost 3x the RAM to an app.

      • Anonymous

        I don't think that's it all all, there are tons of games on the app store that have higher graphics than this game and you can play them on the 1st gen iPad.

      • brendan kirk

        Yeah, most of those games have been "dumbed down" for iPad 1. Infinity Blade 2, for example, is lacking significant effects such as light bloom and the textures are muddier. Not to mention the crashing issues those games have on that device. You can't argue with the hardware buddy, iPhone 4 is a more powerful device and the iPad 2 leaves the first gen in the dust. The iPad 1 has almost the exact specs as an iPod touch, minus the cameras and plus $300 for early (suckers) adopters.

  • Anonymous

    I'm all for fighters on iOS but c'mon $11.99 (£7.99) and that's special offer too!!   oh hell nah!
    I'mean the game even lacks features for heavens sake, so unless you're feeling really nostalgic for this 90s throwback... I consider this game not value for money..
    All I see this as, is a ploy by Namco to push the game app price envelope on iOS! 

  • Anonymous

    So why does it cost most than the XBLA port but with less features?

    damnit namco

  • Folk Hellfang

    A four star rating is why it's hard to take this site's critical writing seriously. Maybe someone who never played a fighting game before would find this game fun, only the price is so high that kind of iOS gamer would never buy it.
    A four star rating tells me that this writer thinks this game is exceptional, but its price and lack of features says otherwise. You guys have done your readers a disservice here.

  • Patrick Sullivan

    So far the only problem I can see, beyond its obvious omissions, is that you can't press two buttons with one finger. If they recognised that half of the good moves require you to put your thumb over multiple buttons and allowed it then it might work better, but as it is and with the the option of adding mixed buttons being limited to one extra button, it's not going to work as well as the actual game.

    • Anonymous

      Damn it, there goes taki out the window, my fave. So you have throw OR A+B... Damn I was about to buy this, thanks for mentioning quite a fuckup

      • brendan kirk

        I don't get how this complaint is valid. Are you only using your thumb for button presses? That's not how you play a fighting game! Its why people buy arcade style sticks for them- five fingers, four buttons but the most you have to push for anything at once is 3. Having independent control is also a whole lot more accurate than mashing your thumb down on 2 buttons. Unless you're using a console controller this doesn't make sense. Even then it's still better to use all your fingers, not just your thumb. This isn't some crappy 2 button platformer people!

      • Gangfeng Zhang

        no brendan, they're actually absolutely right. Idk about the 1 extra button because my version allows two of them. 

        that means, next to A B K  and G  you can have TWO of any combination of those.

        two combination buttons however is not nearly enough for the game. because unless you're not playing it with at least 3 fingers on the right side of your iphone (and believe me I've seriously tried for quite some time, its really uncomfortable, no way to play for more than a few minutes and it's obstructing the view making it almost impossible to block or counter).

        If you want to play it with two fingers or even your thumb, you'd need 5 or 6 combination buttons whereof two of them wouldnt be frequently used. I rly dont understand why they limited the combination buttons to two. for instance, i had crammed a combination button between A and B and it worked perfectly well. If they'd allow us to change the size of the buttons as well you could make a layout that is very well to play with one or two fingers..

        but as things stand its impossible to play it with all the moves a character offers...

      • rine

        If it's any problem with one button controls people are having, in customization overlap the edges of buttons together. I did mine in a bit of a diamond shape, while adding the available 2 button slots for grab combination buttons or the charge move. It's small, probably not perfect, much like our phones ever will be for this sort of thing, but I believe the customization's flexibility makes that way of getting around actually possible. At least, something not needing to be spoken for; I learned how to use sophitia moderately well exploring and able to access her moveset. While you are right about one thing, the button size, only that lacking there isn't any complaints. Go to training mode and you'll probably be able to pull off a characters' whole movelist with a proper setup of buttons for them. Flexible, and maybe in method to become as best as perfect can be. It probably sets a good standard too.
        Because there's now a multiplayer for minecraft app that connects people to eachothers games, It's probably possible with all similar local multiplayer games - if not some future app that will distinctly be for SC, than for all possible multiplayer games with at least a decent navigation and setup. That would be accessible.

SOULCALIBUR Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4