On a technical level, Soul Reaver was an achievement for the Playstation, sporting large open areas with complex geometry while never stopping to load. Even more impressive is how quickly and easily the world shifts and contorts when accessing to and from the spectral realm.
All of these qualities are retained for the Dreamcast version though there have been several improvements. The resolution has been bumped by quite a bit and an anti-aliasing effect has been added onto it, making the overall presentation much sharper. The framerate has now been set to 60, an enhancement to be sure but not without its drawbacks. When traversing through larger areas or walking through several lighting effects it's not uncommon to experience slowdown.
Now granted, slowdown was present in the Playstation version as well, but the change is more pronounced this time around and therefore, more noticeable. Worse still, it seems to occur more often than it did on its 32-bit counterpart. Kain and Raziel's character model have been touched up, and while Raziel looks nowhere near as good as his Soul Reaver 2 counterpart he does look closer to what one would expect from the Dreamcast. Kain on the other hand still shares too many traits with its PS1 roots, looking only slightly improved. Lighting effects and draw distances have also undergone enhancements, offering players a better view of post-apocalyptic Nosgoth.
Sadly, these enhancements aggravate areas left untouched. Wall textures and enemy/human character models being the worst offenders. Murals remain nigh-unreadable, wall, door and floor tiles will look pixelated and blurry contrasting with a better defined Raziel and improved lighting and enemy vampires terribly low-poly when compared to our anti-hero. Some veteran vampire foes even lost their trademark red eyes, though the manual still mentions this feature.
All game design specific frustrations carry over to this version, namely the block puzzles. While most locations make good use of Raziel’s abilities, all dungeons seem to feature a common theme of having to drag giant stone blocks around. Sometimes they’re used as platforms, other times these serve as sliding puzzles or players must simply replicate a drawing by once again, dragging more blocks around. Regardless of the objective, these are a chore to move around and grind the pacing to halt. Worse still, some plot-required locations can have as many as five or six of these.
As new abilities are gained, players may revisit old areas or discover new optional ones in search of secrets. These come in the form of health upgrades, glyphs which enable you to cast magic, mana upgrades and even a fire upgrade to your soul reaver. Considering Soul Reaver features a relatively low difficulty setting none of them are particularly necessary but still serve their purpose of extending gameplay time.
Soul Reaver for the Dreamcast is something of an underachiever. Graphically it looks superior to its Playstation counterpart, but too many areas were left untouched making for a disjointed experience. Worse still, the framerate, while higher is not as stable as its predecessor and the Dreamcast controller strains to properly handle this game. Regardless, this is still a highly enjoyable experience; combining the best elements of Tomb Raider and Legend of Zelda while still crafting its own entirely separate identity. The game provides an engrossing, lore-rich world to explore while still being a technical achievement for the system. Perhaps just as important, the plane shifting and environmental hazard-centric combat is still unique 16 years after and though the latter is a bit clunky by today’s standards it still feels like a breath of fresh air today.
Anyone looking with a higher tolerance for slowdown and less precise controls may want to play this version due to its graphical improvement and overall higher framerate.
- Plane shifting and combat are still hold as highly unique to this day
- Slightly improved graphics and now runs at 60FPS
- Framerate drips more often and drastically than before
- Untouched graphical areas stick out like a sore thumb
- Too many sliding block puzzles
- Dreamcast controller isn't ideal for this game
The instruction booklet also features screenshots and artwork though sadly, it's all in black and white. With that said, an enticing, expanded lore and a hologram cover make Soul Reaver's packaging stand out of the crowd. If only we'd see this level of originality in today's non-special edition releases.
Packaging Grade: B