Soulcalibur Legends

Soulcalibur is a popular franchise of three dimensional fighting games which swirl around a highly dualistic metastory. A tale of two swords, Soulcalibur depicts a series of conflicts over the possession and destruction of the demonic sword Soul Edge, and its counterpart, the equally powerful blade known as Soul Calibur. Legends is the first title in this series to break with the fighting game genre. It is a action/adventure game which marks the events leading up to Siegfried’s discovery and assembly of the Soul Edge.

Dualism & Plot

The Soul games have always been imbued with the theme of dualism–the notion of good and evil as opposing, equal forces which are constantly fighting for dominance, keeping each other balanced. In this case, the two are embodied in the two swords. The characters within this game are slightly more complex than that. Most of them have shifting alliances or secret plans. They all desire either the unilateral destruction of the evil sword, or wish to harness its power for their own ends. This has been the catalyst for the Soul games since their inception over a decade ago.

This dualism is further expanded upon when a character seizes the Soul Calibur and attempts to use it for personal gain. The power of that good sword does not cancel out the evil of Soul Edge, rather, it works in concert with it. This is a common depiction in media, where instead of good and evil being light and dark, they are both depicted as different sides of the same coin– both capable of monstrous things, both needing to be kept in check.

This character complexity has always been a strength of the series. The characters have relationships with one another, and this adds to the drama and depth of the series. In previous games these relationships had to be assumed from brief snippets of dialogue or cut scenes between matches. Other than reading mounds of side story in books or on websites, it was not really possible to infer the entirety of the story.

That changes in Legends, as the unfolding tale is an integral part of what is going on. Unfortunately the game underutilizes cinematics and in-level dialogue which best convey the tale with the emotion and flavor of the voice actors. Instead most of the exposition is given by banal conversations between levels, where all the characters seem to gather around for a weenie roast between slaughters. The conversations move the story forward, but clunky translation of the Japanese source text leave the conversations feeling forced and over done. They could’ve been pared down in order to achieve their desired outcome more effectively.

The characters working together seems to be another contrivance. Each character does have his or her own motives, which they all seem to abandon, just for this game, in order to achieve their own end. A singular story following all the characters each working independently or in smaller bands would’ve made for a much more interesting story, and much more interesting game.

Nightmare

Siegfried is the main character in this game. He is depicted as a young man who slashes through wave after wave of evil incarnations, still angered by the death of his father. He appears in other Soul games both as himself, and as the monstrous creature known as Nightmare. Nightmare is conceived in Legends when Siegfried succumbs to the power of the Soul Edge, thus further disfiguring him with the grotesque arm famous to games which take place later in the series, (Soulcalibur II, III, and IV). This transformation from hero to villain is a tragic one. This is not surprising as this series borrows not just from Japanese and other Eastern mythologies and storytelling traditions but from numerous Western cultures as well. Siegfried’s father was a knight for the Holy Roman Empire. In the image at right, Siegfried is standing beside the Masked Emperor, the regent of the Holy Roman Empire. It is the betrayal of this character and that of the harlequin jester Iska which pushes Siegfried forward, towards his ultimate fate in transformation into Nightmare.

This game tells a compelling story, continuing an enigmatic franchise. Repetitive level design and game play distract from that message, but they do not saturate it. With a little more polish this game could have been better on the interface level, but at the narrative level it is a strong piece

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