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Welcome to the 11th Really Pathetic News Network Game Review, circa 2/7/2006.

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Soul Calibur III for the Playstation 2
By, Cozmic

The king of weapon-based beat 'em ups is back! Grab your sword/nunchaku/umbrella/fan/agricultural tool and join in on the hacking!

Someone might point out that Soul Calibur III was released months ago, but here's the deal: I still have about a ton of things to unlock, a ton of missions to finish, and a ton of weapons, bits of armour and images to buy. Soul Calibur III is by far the most extensive beat 'em up I've played, and yes, I do enjoy Super Smash Bros. Melee and its insane trophy hunt.

So basically, the legendary, highly evil, ultimate weapon is back, this time only on the PlayStation 2 for whichever reason. Yes, this means you can't play as Link. No, it doesn't matter anyway. As for background story, it's there. It has a man facing his dark past, seeming to forget his even darker past of killing his father, but Soul Blade seems to be almost entirely forgotten these days.

The story of each standard character is told in the Tales of the Souls mode. This isn't quite as epic as it sounds, but you do get to make some interesting choices on which ways to take, there are some funny bonus fights, and the stories are all a decent excuse for bashing away at someone with a gigantic sword. Plus, each character has an alternate ending, so you're always going to be playing through this mode at least twice with each character.

For the money gained in Tales of the Souls or the other game modes, you can buy new weapons for your characters, extra game modes and illustrations of characters, or new armour pieces. Why do you need armour pieces?

To decorate your very own custom character of course! This is definitely the biggest addition to the Soul Calibur franchise, or any beat 'em up for that matter. Basically, you pick a “job” for your character, such as barbarian, saint (because every holy person needs a mace..), dancer or ninja, which decide which weapons your character will use, such as giant swords, tambourines, or daggers, or the highly strange grieve edge style of weapons, which means there's a set of knives on your shoes. Pick a gender, customise the looks, give it a name and viola. Your very own Soul Calibur character. At first, the options seem rather limited, but the more you play the more classes, faces, and spots to store the characters in you will unlock. And trust me, there's quite a decent bit of armour to use. My copy of Cloud Strife has changed hair countless times as I've gotten additional hairstyles, coats etc.

Unfortunately you can't play Tale of Souls with your own characters, but have no fear. There's always Quick battle, which is the old school Arcade Mode, beat up your opponents twice, beat the boss, only care about what buttons to use and nothing else style hack and slash, as well as the mission battles, where you have a particular condition needed to win, and the classic survival mode, practice etc. etc. And of course a versus mode.

There's also the “mini”-game, Chronicles of The Sword, which is a campaign set in another world, about four countries at war. Here's where you HAVE to make your own character and then take command of several other soldiers in something of a real-time strategy/beat 'em up hybrid. The way it's played is fairly simple, you can only move on the defined paths, and you have to conquer an enemy fort to move through it. And of course the fights are resolved in tired and true fighting mode. With experience points to gain levels available. This could make a game all of itself, and certainly is a great way to get more value for your money.

Now that we've concluded, Soul Calibur III contains more goodies than I can count (so, like, five...), we can also conclude that all of them would be pointless if the fighting itself isn't any fun. You can calm down right now. While it isn't Dead Or Alive, where every move has a perfect counter and inexperienced button mashing is brutally punished, it also is, in no way, bad. Button mashing can still save the day, but for the most part, if you don't know what you're doing, prepare to face the sharp end of something an awful lot. My only real complaint is that ring-outs seem to be too easy for the computer and too hard for the players to achieve. Other than that, characters seem balanced, until you get beaten up by a character that feels like he moves way too fast for swinging a sword twice his size. Then you learn what to do, and then it's back on. So the combat system works.

And it looks incredibly good too. Xbox 360 games look even less impressive when pitted against the oldest console still out on the market, at least when it looks this good. Yes, sometimes things go through each other, but this would happen on ewer console as well, and other than that, it flows on great, looks great and the design is incredibly fun and stylish. Imagine murderous neon-coloured goth chicks and twelve-year old, 4 ft. tall girls wielding rapiers. That last one is particularly fun to beat people up with, but she's only one of the many funny bonus characters.

So, what does cool character design, an almost endless supply of things to do, great graphics and a fun fighting system add up to? A game well worth buying, that's what! This might be the last great beat 'em up to the current generation, so if you enjoy fighting and own a PlayStation 2, what ware you waiting for?

Past Entertainment: Sylvester Stallone’s Career Officially Over

1031 B.C. - 2010 A.D., Really Pathetic, LLC.