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Soul Edge was created prior to the introduction of the so-called 8-Way Run, which allows the player to move their character in a complete range on the Y-axis. The characters can sidestep to either side by double-tapping down to move to the foreground or tapping down then up to the background. The jump maneuver (which in Soulcalibur is more like a hop) moves the player higher into the air, even allowing it to pass above the opponent (much like in Tekken). The game uses an active block system performed by pressing the block button, and a combat system based on the three attack buttons: horizontal attack, vertical attack, and kick. Character moves retain a feel of Namco's Tekken series. Each character has in his or her arsenal one or two slow but unblockable attacks. Each character is also capable of performing one or two "Critical Edge" attacks, consisting of a long series of linked hits, usually ending in a strong high attack. These moves require the input of a special combination of two parts: they are activated by pressing all three attack buttons together, and if it connects, the player has the chance of extending the combo with a character-specific sequence, which must be input during the attack. This attack depletes one-third of the Weapon Gauge when used. One of the most notable gameplay aspects is the Weapon Gauge. This bar is found under the character's lifebar and is comparable to the equipped weapons' resistance. Each time the player blocked an attack, the bar depletes. If the bar is totally emptied, the character loses his/her weapon and be forced to end the match unarmed; the unarmed move-lists are the same for every character. Another feature that was removed from Soulcalibur's engine is a rock-paper-scissors situation when two character strike at the same time, locking their weapons; those who press the right button have the advantage. Soul Edge uses an optional offensive block maneuver called the "Guard Impact" that would allow players to intercept incoming attacks and push them back, resulting in a momentary opportunity for a free counterattack. Opponents, however, are also able to return a Guard Impact after receiving a Guard Impact, allowing for stalemate clashes until one opponent missed the subsequent timing. This gameplay feature is expanded in future Soul series games. The game uses the ring out system, which is a forcible maneuver that ejects the opponent from the arena and gains an automatic victory for the round. To achieve a ring out, a character must be knocked outside the ring by an enemy (the player cannot accidentally or deliberately get a ring out by hopping out of the ring). The only exception to this rule is Cervantes and SoulEdge, who can get a ring out by themselves upon performing a certain special attack, as long as they are near the edge of the arena.
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