I think part of what makes a game good, especially with franchise games such as this, is the world they’re set in and the mythology that they provide. And a lot of what allows the player to buy into that is character development. It’s the reason I became so entrenched in RPGs like the Final Fantasy and Xenosaga series. But this trait isn’t reserved just for RPGs — series like Devil May Cry and God of War got it done in the action/adventure genre, and Namco themselves did it quite well in Soul Calibur III.
So what am I left with? A game built for nothing more than online or versus play. You can make your character, assign a fighting style to it (oh right, you’re restricted to only the main characters’ styles and less options than SCIV), then hit Xbox Live or the PSN. I’ll call it the console fighter version of Unreal Tournament. Now don’t get me wrong, that definitely carries some value on its own, being able to play with friends online or in your living room is part of what makes gaming fun. In college my friend and I would play Edge Master vs. Edge Master to see who could win 99 rounds first. We had a ton of fun (and as a fun and true side story: we once tied 98-98 with a double KO in the next round).
It’s still fun, but without the media gallery or single player story modes or really much of anything to unlock, the game is sadly a shadow of what it could actually be.