Title :Soul Blade
Platforms :Sony PlayStation
Publisher :Namco
Game Rating :4 stars
Review by :Ken Gagne

Namco has dominated many fronts with its line of fighters and racers, such as Tekken and Ridge Racer. It now delivers another hit to the Sony PlayStation in the form of Soul Blade, a translation of the arcade game Soul Edge. 

The storyline behind this fighter is different from standard fare: in the 16th century Earth, ten warriors from across the globe are each searching for the mystical Soul Edge sword, each for their own purposes. Their motivations and intentions are as diverse as their fighting styles, which will be seen as the plot develops. 

Soul Blade is an amazing title from the instant the disc loads its introduction sequence. The visuals bespeak of evolved characters and shadowy backgrounds, to the tune of a nifty music number. One of several play modes must then be selected. The most interesting is Edge Master, in which a single character is chosen and their story followed as they battle the other fighters. The tale is captivating, but more importantly, defeated opponents give up their arms to the victor. The player earns diverse attack forms from which to choose through these triumphs. 

Soul Blade is more like Tekken with weaponry than it is Toshinden or Street Fighter. There are few, if any, mystic fireballs or other phenomenal moves. What is provided are dozens of combinations and techniques for each character. Two attack buttons, a kick, and a guard can be used in conjunction with each other for any number of assaults, block-piercing counterattacks, and defenses. It takes awhile to master any one combatant's repertoire, which may make this a game tough to just pick up and start playing. 

The graphics and great for what could be a typical 3D fighting game. The camera doesn't swing wildly, but zooms for interesting perspectives on certain hold- and throw-type moves. The number of animation frames for each character ensure a fully-detailed battle each round. The backgrounds to conflicts range from a majestic cathedral to a plateau with grass swaying in the wind; its extra touches like these that add to an excellent overall effect. 

Soul Blade's music is also top-notch. Each character has their own fighting theme, and digitized audio samples with which to gloat over fallen foes. Several soundtracks are not used by the game, but are included in a test mode for listening anyway. 

The controls can be customized, making it simple to find a proper fit for the many buttons. Frequent combinations can be matched to a single button for easy use in the heat of combat. It can be hard to follow one attack with the appropriate next one, though, as certain striking conditions may not be met without the player's knowing. 

The difficulty level is also an option to be set. On average, this is one tough game. The situation under which struggles occur in Edge Master mode vary. Sometimes a fighter must be defeated in under 10 seconds, or three times in a row, or struck down with a specific series of moves. But to those who will win comes the strength necessary to triumph over a greater challenge. 

Patient gamers looking for an intense fighter without superheroes will find it in Soul Blade. With some innovative elements and a great mix of audio and visual, it'll become a staple of any serious fighter's game library.

This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 12-May-97