The thing most noteworthy to me about Soul Fighter is that it serves as a reminder of how far the industry has gone. Years ago, no one would have cared if a game was released without a two-player mode because that was the norm then. But nowadays, if an action game doesn't have a two-player mode, a red flag goes up and the game will be judged harshly. In fact, this was the case even back in the Super Nintendo days when the arcade multiplayer, Final Fight, was first ported over. It was Capcom's first attempt at porting an arcade hit to Nintendo's new system, but being that they were green with the hardware, they didnt incorporate a two-player mode because it would have bogged the game down too much. This caused uproar in the gaming community and, as a result, the game, while a very good single-player game, was universally panned by all but the most die-hard Nintendo fans. Bringing this back to the present with Soul Fighter for the Dreamcast; I unfortunately dont play 128-bit games for nostalgia.

Soul Fighter comes with a rather standard ensemble of characters: a moderate warrior of medium strength and speed named Altus, a quick and nimble warrioress named Sayomi, and a hefty strongman named Orion. Each comes with the also standard kick, punch, jump, combination (complete with jump punch/kick moves) and their very own special moves, which arent really worthy of description. Besides being unimaginative, the games controls also arent very capable. Attacks execute with molasses-like speed and the characters have an annoying tendency to skid (regardless of terrain). Couple those factors with the enemies exceptional speed and timing (they had a knack for attacking when I was in the middle of a combo) and what youll get is your ass whipped a lot. Oddly enough, a lot of this is easily remedied by repeatedly using the jump kick/punch moves, but after about the third level, it had the worse side effect of numbing my mind and fingers. It really would have helped if I were able to bring in a friend to ease some of the action and, hopefully, a whole lot of the boredom.

As awkward as controlling the characters was, it was not at all helped by the games curious choice of camera angles. Anything but dynamic, the camera was always slow to adjust itself and allowed the enemies to sneak up and attack me either from behind or from just off the screen. The developer, Toka, did include a cool first-person perspective mode, but my excitement was short-lived because it was really only useful when throwing knives or other projectiles and, given the infrequency of finding such items, it squashed my hopes for some Shinobi-type action. Given the games above average graphics, it would be hard for anyone giving the game a glancing look to notice all of these problems, but sit through the game's opening intro and youll get a major indication (or warning) of whats in store. The opening narrative lasts nearly ten minutes and, get this, consists of nothing but one guy sitting in a foggy room talking to himself (and with no subtitles!). But as bad as that is, the game's cut-scenes really takes the cake. It is pure blasphemy that Toka, with the power of the Dreamcast at their disposal, chose to use footage that looked as if it was rendered for the Nintendo 64. There is no mistaking the blurry textures and simplistic character models when compared with the high-resolution graphics used everywhere else in the game. The only way this could make sense to me was if Soul Fighter was originally a Nintendo 64 game that was ported over to the Dreamcast at the final minutes, but who knows. All you need to know is that this game isn't worth any of your time. Rating: 3.5 out of 10

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