We're big fans of the SoulCalibur series, so we're curious to see how a 3D arena fighting game with 19 playable characters will translate to a touchscreen device. But before booting it up, our teeth were gritted over the frankly extortionate asking price. Even with an "introductory sale" offering a 20% discount, punters are being charged a whopping £7.99.
How does it play?
This is a port of the Sega Dreamcast version, first released in 1999. Each of the fighters are toting weapons, and they can side-step in a complete 360 circle around their opponents. This adds a whole new level of strategy to the fighting game, whether it's concerned with the weight and reach of your weapon, or whether you're quick enough to duck around your assailant and then smack 'em upside the head.
Given that the software is over ten years old, the graphics haven't aged very well. The background graphics are indistinct and blocky, with a smeared grey colour palette, while the animations on the fighters look a bit stiff. Nonetheless, the underlying mechanics remain as correctly attuned as they ever were, and they're complemented with touchscreen controls – a joystick nubbin on the right and four buttons on the left – that actually work really rather well.
Players might prefer the larger screen estate of an iPad, but then again the retina display on an iPhone 4 might provide more "pop". Either way, if you're a longtime player of the franchise, putting together the combo moves will feel delightfully familiar. In no time at all, you'll be hacking and slashing and unceremoniously dumping your opponents out of the arena, just like on the bigger console versions.
Why do we like it?
Actually, we're not entirely convinced that we do like it. Namco have done all the necessary when it came to mapping out a decent control scheme, but for some crazy reason they didn't implement a two-player mode. This is a staggering omission, and a single player game is nowhere near as satisfying as going head-to-head with another player and (virtually) kicking their arse.
Perhaps this revival is intended as a promotional tool for the impending release of SoulCalibur 5 on the major consoles; indeed, there's a trailer for the new game embedded on the title screen. But if that's truly the case, Namco need a reality check. SoulCalibur succeeds as both a museum piece and a demonstration of how capable the iOS platform has become. But unless they lower the entry price, there's not going to be anyone here to actually appreciate it.
SoulCalibur is available now on the App Store (£7.99)