Geek Out 

Who Put Star Wars in My Soulcalibur?!

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No, I have no idea why, with this installment, the makers of Soulcalibur have decided to turn two words into a single, bizarre compound noun/verb-jective thing. But that doesn't matter, just as it doesn't matter if this review is positive or negative: Soulcalibur IV preemptively sold a billion copies the moment it was announced that Yoda and Darth Vader (né Anakin Skywalker) would be the stars of the fighting game's Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, respectively.

Those looking for deeper meaning from their inclusion need only remember how much George Lucas loves comically oversized bags of cash (as evidenced by everything the man has done since the year I was born). Thankfully, Lucas' insatiable cashlust doesn't detract from the game in any way: True, at first, it's a bit jarring to see Vader Force Choke a bipedal lizard, or to watch Yoda hop around the fighting arena like a squirrel on diet pills. But ultimately, neither character comes off as overpowered or wildly unmatched among the game's other combatants. And while the storyline weaving the two characters into the game is a thing of pure idiocy, who plays these games for story?

Once you get past the blatant pimping of Lucasfilm, the game easily lives up to its predecessors, though often it does too little to differentiate itself from them. The online play is a nice touch, and it generally works very well—but the story mode, arcade combat, and even the character creation modes seem largely recycled. That last mode, which was the highlight of Soulcalibur III (yes, Namco Bandai retroactively altered the official spelling of previous games, too), actually lost a few options in the transition: Instead of creating original characters based on classes and weapon styles, you're now restricted to crafting new characters whose moves are identical to those of the game's cast. Lame, right?

Still, even with such minor improvements, the game's combat remains as solid and fluid as ever. That, combined with the glossy coat of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3-style graphical magic, make the game worthy of your fighting game dollar, though people who've never thrown a virtual punch probably won't understand the series' glowing reputation purely based on this one.

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