General Tips - Soul Calibur IV
Choose your Character - With a cast of 28 unique fighters, it's nigh impossible to excel with every one of them. For this reason, it is best to pick a character that suits your play style and stick with them until you feel you have mastered their fighting style. Take your time before deciding on a character, and don't be afraid to abandon them if things aren't working out. Once you are competent enough with one character, branch out and pick another to keep things fresh.
Practice, Practice, Practice - Be sure to spend some time in Training Mode with your character of choice. Take a look at their move list and practice each move; be sure to make note of moves with unique properties, such as moves that put the character into a crouching animation or moves that duck under high attacks/jump over low attacks.
High and Low - Take advantage of any high-to-low (or mid-to-low) strings available to your character, as such moves can be difficult for your opponent to block if they're not familiar with that character's fighting style.
Seamless Link - Most characters with more than one stance have several moves that can link to that stance, usually when the last input of a move is held. Use such attacks—especially those with hitstun properties—to perform combos. A combo is a string of two or more attacks in which it is impossible for the player to escape from until the combo's conclusion. To perform extensive combos, you'll have to make use of moves that stun on a normal or counter-hit, or moves that can launch your foe up into the air.
Brutal Evasion - Make use of attacks that cause your character to duck under high attacks or jump over low attacks. Such moves are especially useful as they can serve as an offensive opening against an overbearing attacker. Furthermore, some moves change a character's stance, such as moves that put the character into a crouching animation, effectively ducking under high attacks and allowing a follow up “While Rising” move. A character is “rising” when he or she is between crouching and standing. Many While Rising moves come out quite fast, so take advantage if you ever find yourself crouching after performing an attack.
Stay Down - It isn't always best to immediately rise after being knocked to ground. Take advantage of 8-Way Run and roll to avoid follow-up attacks from your opponent. Getting up and immediately guarding high is something to be avoided too, since your foe can then hit you with a low attack or a throw.
Long-range and Close-range - Generally, vertical attacks are best used when an opponent is further away, as they tend to be slower and sometimes linear. Horizontal attacks and kicks tend to come out faster and have shorter reach, and are therefore best used during mid-range or close-range combat. When fighting at close-range, both fighters must use their quickest attacks to win out. Note that certain attacks are “unsafe” if blocked, meaning the character is put at a disadvantage when the attack is guarded against and their next attack will come out slower.
Style or Substance - With the addition of armor and weapon stats in the character customization mode it becomes essential to select armor pieces that offer the biggest stat boost rather than what looks best. Equipment stats and skills are only active in the Tower of Lost Souls, Story Mode, and special versus mode. For this reason, it's a good idea to design a character with the intention of using him or her exclusively in the aforementioned modes so you can focus on their stats and skills rather than trying to balance stats and aesthetics.
Know your Foe - When facing a human opponent, mind games become a big part of the combat in Soulcalibur. Knowing how your opponent tends to act is difficult if you're playing the game online, though you may be able to get a sense of their general routine after the first couple of rounds. You can attempt to “condition” your foe as well, which is to use a certain move on them until they adapt to it, and then start using an entirely different attack. A basic example of this is a player who frequently runs at their opponent and performs a low sweep, knocking them to the ground. Player two is wary of this the next time his opponent is running towards him, so he crouches and guards low. Player one, however, hits player two with a mid-hitting attack instead, breaking through player two's guard and knocking him to the ground.
Control Scheme - If you're using the default Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 control, certain moves can be difficult to perform due to button placement. For example, many characters have moves that require the input of A K, which is equal to the X and B buttons on the Xbox 360, and the Square and Circle buttons on the PlayStation 3. These buttons are difficult to press at the same time, so it would be a good idea to alter the default control scheme to suit your needs. Enter the “Control Settings” menu from the Options or pause menu to change the controls. Leave the standard A B G K inputs as they are, but setting either A or B to one of the shoulder buttons can make things much easier.