The first in a series of critically acclaimed weapons based 3D fighters. At the time the game was pretty impressive, but Soul Blade has not aged well.
The story follows a group of samurai, ninjas, knights, and other blade-type wielding people as they all fight over the Soul Edge, an evil sword wielded by the pirate Cervantes. The characters are all pretty well designed. Each has a unique weapon, alternate costume, and the usual ten billion specials that 3D fighters all seem to have. The stages are mostly made up of a flat plane with mountains or something in the background. This is when 3D fighters still had ring-outs (which I always thought was lame) but at least they try to integrate the ring into the environment somewhat so it doesn't look totally artificial.
The problem I've always had with 3D fighters in general is that while each character will have a page and a half of different moves only two or three of them are effective or even worth remembering. Thus most people tend to use the same moves over and over and over again, which leads to some pretty boring matches. There is a lot of depth to be found if one is devoted, but honestly who the hell has time? Used to be back in the day a fighting game character would have three specials, and you could conceivably within a reasonable amount of time learn all the characters and thus "master" the game. Now a fighting game has 75 characters in it, each with 27,000 moves each, plus some of them even have create-a-character modes (like Soul Caliber III)... to a completist like me these games are nightmares. Ugh. There's a reason people keep going back to the classic systems and games, they didn't take so much damn work to play. But anyway ...Thankfully this particular game is still of a reasonable size to where one could master more than one character within their lifetime. There is also a practice mode that actually displays the button presses on the screen to help you out.
Speaking of game modes there are several, in addition to arcade mode and practice mode, there is also a (now standard, but new at the time) team mode, as well as an "Edge master mode," which is like a glorified story mode where your character finds additional weapons as the game progresses. All of this does a lot to up replay value, although the real reason any of us buy fighting games is to play against friends. Computer A. I. is pretty intelligent for an older game. The first three guys are cake, then around the 4th one you have to like start actually trying. Overall the game isn't too hard and can be enjoyed by everyone on the medium difficulty level.
As for the actual gameplay, most of it consists of finding a hole in your opponent's defenses and nailing him with an auto combo. Seems each character has a very simple combo that can be shot out quickly as well as chained into other more powerful moves. Larger Characters like Rock or Sigfried go for distance, while smaller, quicker characters like Taki must get inside to do any damage.
Overall a well rounded game worth picking up for fans of the series, although it's rather primitive compared to it's sequels.
Graphics: Soul Blade has not aged well. While the CG opening cinemas still look good the in game graphics are glaringly primitive compared to what we have today (or even other later Playstation games.) Still they do their job and are comparable to other PS1 fighting games like Tekken 2 and others.
Sound: Clear voice and steel on steel sound effects pepper a very well done orchestral soundtrack. The announcer's voice is strange sounding and muffled however, like he's shouting at you from the next room.
Gameplay: The bare bones of what would eventually become a very deep and intricate fighting system. Well designed specials keep most fighters from being useless. Multiple game modes does a lot to up replay value.