Soul Blade (PAL Version)

It looks like it was worth the wait! Namco's conversion of the arcade game "Soul Edge" to PAL has been completed, and it's fast!!! Unlike sluggish conversions of Tekken and Tekken 2, Soul Blade is only slightly slower than the arcade version, and the black borders aren't as visible as they are on many games either!

Namco have once again included a variety of battle modes.

Arcade mode, rather unsurprisingly is the standard beat 'em up mode as found on the arcade unit. Here one player battles against each of the selectable characters in turn using swords, axes clubs, and various other hand to hand combat weapons (including his or herself) and then Soul Edge (the final bad guy!). As with almost all beat 'em ups a battle is won by attacking your opponent and injuring them so that their health bar goes down to zero, or there is the option of just pummelling away until the opponent goes flying out the ring. Their are 4 basic types of attack, stab(button A), slash(button B), kick(button K), and throw (A and G, or B and G, where G is the guard button), although various combos and special moves are available through combinations of pressing the 4 buttons with the D-pad.

An interesting feature is the weapon's health bar. A smaller bar beneath the character's health bar deteriorates each time you block an attack from your opponent using his/her weapon(i.e. if you block a kick of punch the bar doesn't go down.). If the weapon health bar reaches zero, then you go flying sending your weapon out of the ring, although this does no damage to yourself. Now the A and B buttons serve as jab and uppercut buttons!

Vs Mode is as usual for 2 "friends" to fight against each other and includes the more or less standard option of handicapping one or both fighters.

Team battle gives you the choice of having between 2 and 5 different fighters on your team, which can either be picked or be selected for you randomly. You start off fighting your opponent (human or CPU controlled) with equal amounts of strength, however if player one beats player 2 and loses half his strength in the process, the next round will be player one with his/her first character with slightly more than half strength, against player 2's second character with full strength. Personally I really enjoy team battles, especially using random select since it means you get to experience all the fighters, or gives a not so experienced opponent a better chance to win a couple of fights!

Time attack is purely for 1 player to fight against every opponent in as fast a time as possible. The fights are set automatically to 2 rounds, each lasting a maximum of 40 seconds.

Survival mode is easiest described as team mode, where you have a team of one person against the computers team of infinite people! You have one "life" to defeat as many computer opponents as possible, when you kill a computer opponent you regain some health, if the computer kills you, it's game over!

Practice allows you to do just that, practice. You choose who to practice with, and who to practice against (I'm not sure why that matters!), and then your opponent stands there while you practice combos, and specials to you heart's content without getting 10 sacks of shit kicked out of you! Alternatively you can change the set up so you don't have your weapon, or your opponent doesn't have his/her weapon.

Edge master mode is where things really get interesting, as it's where you get extra weapons for each of your characters! In this one player mode you are taking part in the story of your quest for Soul Edge. When you complete one stage, you read a bit more of the story, and are sometimes given a new weapon, and then have to head off to the next stage. The moving from stage to stage isn't really of any interest since it's done for you, you just have the choice of going forward to the next stage, or going back to the previous one.

The fights however can be very interesting since they're not always just a case of knocking down your opponents health bar to win. Sometime you can only win by knocking your opponent out the ring, sometimes you can only use floating combos, and sometime only the critical edge attack. Here if you use the attack you're' told to in the "book", your opponent's health bar goes down, if you use any other attack it either doesn't go down, or goes down such a tiny amount it's of no interest anyway. At first I thought this was good, because it made you learn more moves, and not stick to simple combos. However it does get incredibly frustrating, when you have to use floaters against Sophitia, whose magic weapon gives her strength back with time, and you have to win 3 fights in a row.
Typical scenario: you start to fight, you unleash a floating combo, does about half damage, she gets up , hits you a bit, then blocks your combos by which time her health is back to full again, meaning your health is down, but hers is on full.
Other typical scenario; you beat the first and second Sophitia without any problem, then face yourself, who absolutely destroys you, meaning you have to fight both Sophitias and yourself all over again!

Now obviously I want a challenge after spending this amount of money on a game, but this (to put it crudely) takes the piss!

The available options for this game are probably the best I've seen for a console beat 'em up. From the options menu, you can change the difficulty (4 settings), the ring size and size of health bar. Also it possible within all the fight modes to choose whether to use the standard weapon, or any of the weapons found in Edge Master mode, by entering the Weapon Room.

To cut a long story short, Namco have done an outstanding job of converting this good arcade game to a great console game. There is an outstanding FMV intro sequence lasting several minutes, and as usual when each character competes the arcade game, there is an FMV sequence. They do deserve credit for getting the PAL version fast, because if it had suffered a typical "Tekkenesque" slow down conversion, I feel the game would have suffered more than Tekken and Tekken 2 did. Actually, thinking about about it, maybe the thanks should go to Sony for telling Namco to make the PAL version run at a good speed without borders, and Namco should be scolded for not doing this sort of conversion for Tekken 2?

My own guide to Edge Master Mode

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