Soul Calibur was a great game back in the day - it certainly blew away all the competition when it launched alongside the Dreamcast back in 1999. It combined fluid graphics and animation with a combat system that catered both to first-time button mashers and those looking for depth and strategy. Anyone could pick it up and play it, but there was also a lot to master if you so desired.
I'm speaking in the past tense here, but the truth is my flat and I still have a Dreamcast plugged in and continue to play Soul Calibur to this day. I've now owned the game for almost a decade, and it's still going strong. While two sequels have come and gone, we've found ourselves always going back to the original (discounting Soul Blade for a moment).
However, there's one problem: my aging Dreamcast now has a tendency to restart itself over and over again at inopportune times (such as when you're about to beat your friend). So when Soul Calibur for LIVE Arcade fell into my lap (in a virtual kind of way), I was eager to give it a whirl - our 360, after all, is marginally more stable than my decade-old Dreamcast.
So what's the game like? For those who are familiar with the original version, you'll find some changes. The most significant one is the lack of a Quest Mode (reportedly due to Microsoft's size restrictions on Arcade games, which was dropped too late in Soul Calibur's porting), which had you choose a character and travel around a world map in a vaguely non-linear fashion, taking on missions that involved fighting varied enemies. It was a surprisingly fun (although somewhat repetitive) mode that also acted as the primary way of unlocking most of the game's content, and gave the whole package a bit of meat for those looking to play on their own.
In this version, every piece of content is unlocked right from the start, which completely removes and kind of objective to sink your teeth into. For those without nearby friends, there's really not much to do other than try and work your way up the online leaderboards, as full online multiplayer isn't included. So if you don't have any other people to play Soul Calibur with, this version's probably not for you.
If, however, you're like me and have a whole bunch of friends who grew up with Soul Calibur, you're going to be spending all your time in Versus mode. Thankfully, the core gameplay remains unchanged, and is just as fast and fluid as ever. In fact, all the loading times are much quicker now, which is an added bonus. The only thing that has changed is the controller. I'll have to play a bit more to really make sure, but I found the 360 controller slightly inferior to the original Dreamcast one, if only because the d-pad is much less accurate, making some moves harder to pull off. Still, aside from that, the developers have done as good a job as possible recreating the feel of Soul Calibur on a different console.
So should you get this game? If you've got friends to play against on a regular basis, then yes. Despite various sequels, the original Soul Calibur still shines strongly. But if you're looking for a meatier overall experience, perhaps you should wait until Soul Calibur IV comes out in early August - just remember that it'll be a lot more expensive than this one!