Soul Calibur 2


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 10

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game. Some things may change for it's release here in the states.

Soul Calibur was a title like no other. A game so good, there are thousands of gamers who still play it every day of their lives, this reviewer included. Not many games can carry such a distinction. Released on the same day as the Sega Dreamcast, it has set a standard that every 3-D fighter to date has been judged since. Following up such a remarkable title is no small feat. While the core gameplay remains relatively unchanged, Soul Calibur II not only sets a new standard for 3-D fighters, but this majestic fighter may never be matched in terms of depth, features, and outstanding detail.

As everyone reading this review should know, Soul Calibur II is a weapons based fighter crammed with impossible-to-describe looks, modes contained inside of modes, and the single greatest 3-D fighting engine ever devised. When you first pop in your disc, the features are few, but playing through the weapon master mode will unlock weapons, characters, galleries, backgrounds, and hundreds of other items too numerous to list here.

The weapon master mode is much like the edge master mode from the Dreamcast version of the game. Players take their favorite characters through countless battles, each with a specific challenge. Some are as simple as taking on your opponent with a set time limit, while others provide unique challenges like fighting in a pool of quicksand. Dreamcast Soul Calibur vets will find many of these challenges familiar, but a few new ones have been tossed into the mix. Some of them can be frustrating at times, just know a little patience is well rewarded.

Weapons are now accessible through the master mode, a great change lifted from the first iteration of the game, Soul Blade (released in the arcades and the PS One). Each weapon has specific properties that affect the characters strength, speed, and other categories, adding a unique strategy element not found in any other fighter. Instead of these simply being unlocked, players earn gold which can then be used to purchase them along with characters, galleries, and alternate costumes. Not every weapon can be purchased from the start as most are only available in later chapters. The arcade mode still serves it's purpose, but since most of the characters are unlocked through the weapons master mode, it seems almost meaningless. Thankfully, the master mode is extensive, and just when you think it's's not. Not by a long shot. Other standard modes include team battles, survival, and practice.

For those hesitant to tackle the GameCube version of the game due to it's controller, never fear. It works excellent. While die-hards may take a few rounds to get adjusted to the button placement, it's near perfection after this. The D-pad does remain a bit smaller than desired, but it handles the free 3-D movement without any issues. Side note: If you don't want to use the standard pad and really want the arcade feeling, Hori makes a very solid arcade stick, specifically tailored for this game. It's a little pricey, but true Soul Calibur fans won't want to be without one.

Thanks to the excellent controls, executing counters, throws, and the abundance of other moves that make this the deepest fighter on the planet, come off without a hitch. Countering the enemies attacks seems even easier than the previous installment, giving any player a fair chance to take on veterans. This does create some issues with the A.I., however. Playing through the entire arcade mode can take only a matter of minutes on the normal level, and the weapons master mode hardly puts up a challenge. The computer's obvious attack patterns, poor countering skills, and the occasional cheap shot does not make for great A.I. It's predecessor also suffered from this same difficulty issue and it's a crying shame it wasn't addressed for the sequel.

As far as the core gameplay is concerned, not much has been changed, the best thing about the game. The full 3-D movement is completely intact, even better than before. Each character has retained a majority of their attacks, with a few tweaks to keep with the spirit of the sequel. Air combos seem slightly easier to perform at times as characters fall a little slower when tossed into the air, but this could simply be this reviewers own mind playing tricks. Parrying attacks, as mentioned above, are also easier to perform, but still require precision timing. Only the best player will actually be able to take full advantage of this feature and pull off huge combos. Simple button mashing won't get you anywhere in this game.

Character design has been hyped up to unsurpassed levels for this release. The inclusion of exclusive characters to each of the platforms has been a major focus. GameCube owners get Link from the Legend of Zelda series. Simply put, he looks impeccable. He actually looks highly similar to a render that was released before the Wind Waker received it's cel-shaded look. Link's ability to use projectile attacks, the first for the series, is a bit of a shocker, but actually hitting someone with an arrow blast or bomb is next to impossible.

Todd McFarlane also took a crack at the game creating Necrid, a massive beast with a glowing jewel in the center of his chest. Though he doesn't actually have a weapon, he is able to mimic other fighters and can create their weapons out of thin air. While the design is spectacular (especially some of his alternate costumes), his abilities as a fighter are limited. Returning favorites include Mitsurugi, Astaroth, Taki (with a massively enlarged, uh, "chest area"), Maki, and others. Sophita has been replaced by her strikingly similar sister, Cassandra. Only those players who religiously played the first game will notice any differences. Hwang Sung Chun has also been replaced by a look-alike whom, again, only the most hardcore gamers will notice any differences.

If the character designs don't grab you, rest assured the backgrounds will. It's obvious that a ridiculous amount of time went into designing some of them, and the on screen results show it. Looking around the stages, players will notice sharks swimming beneath the surface of the water, actual working windmills, dust rising from the surface while the fighters engage in battle, and humungous statues that tower over just about anything in the game. Also, never fear. The opening CG intro is shocking to say the least, surpassing even Disney's feature length CG movies.

If there was anything disappointing about Soul Calibur, it was the music. While it was by no means bad, it simply couldn't stand up against the engaging music of Soul Blade. Soul Calibur II not only surpasses SC 1, but also conquers Soul Blade. The moving music tracks could psyche up any gamer for a battle, each seemingly better than the last. GameCube owners also get a bonus as the famous Zelda theme song makes a rousing comeback, fully orchestrated. The announcers deep, resounding voice, begins each battle with a various quote that took some serious thought from the designers. The game also supports Dolby Pro Logic II, a plus for those with great audio set-ups.

When it's all over with, it's really hard to find anything wrong with this game. A few of the character designs aren't as solid as the former release, the A.I. is still not quite up to par, and some people may not like the GameCube controller, but rest assured everything else is flawless. It's rare we get a game as majestic as this one. It's even less common that a sequel can actually surpass the original in terms of overall quality. It may have taken a while to get here, but rest assured that every minute the developers had, they used. The perfectly balanced characters, incredibly deep gameplay, and some of the greatest assmeblence of polygons make Soul Calibur II the supreme sequel.

Second note: For those worried about Japanese text ruining their experience, the menus are completely in English. The only issue comes during the weapons master mode which is entirely in Japanese. It becomes a trial an error event to figure out how to damage the enemy at times. Also, trying to figure out how to save your game can be an issue until you get it right. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.


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Last updated: Monday, September 26, 2005 01:03 PM