Have you ever played a game, thinking it was the best thing since Stacy Keibler lovely 42" legs? Did you ever pick up that game a couple of months ago and realize that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, or perhaps you thought "wow, this game is just as good as when I bought it a couple of months ago!" It's happened to many people, be it because of the hype surrounding the game or because of some newly discovered glitch. You buy into a game for whatever reason, but reflecting on it afterwards may yield a totally different opinion than what you initially had. Replay! seeks to find out just that.
· · · The Next Level
Returning to the stage of history..
Today we take a look back on one of the most anticipated games of the year, Soul Calibur 2. Released in the arcades in 2002, Namco's secondary fighting franchise (Tekken obviously being their main series for now) made its way to console in March 2003 over in Japan, with the North American release on August 27. Although the home versions did not feature the addicting Conquest Mode found in the arcades, it did feature all of the characters, along with nine new characters, a bevy of gameplay modes and balance solutions.
The home versions of the game introduced Soul Calibur regulars Seung Mina and Sophitia, as well as Beserker, Assassin and Lizardman. Of course, who could forget the four console characters, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Heihachi from Tekken, Spawn from the comic book, and Necrid, an original design by Spawn creator Todd MacFarlane? In addition to the new characters, Weapon Master Mode, something that should be familiar to fans of the Soul series, replaced Conquest Mode. Here you could purchase new costumes, weapons and other goodies by completing a variety of missions. Of course, there were many changes to the gameplay itself. Modifications to damage, speed as well as adding in new attacks are all Namco standards for their home conversions, so it should come as no surprise that these were present when the game hit all consoles earlier this year.
Changing the competitive landscape
What was not fixed were the numerous gameplay glitches that popped up into the game. The most glaring glitches are two techniques called Slide Step and Instant Guard. Although Slide Step has been around since Soul Calibur 1, it wasn't a major problem until it showed up again in Soul Calibur 2. With SC2's enhanced sidestepping system, Slide Stepping allowed a player to get completely behind an opponent by repeatedly tapping any diagonal in any situation. What made this completely dangerous is that the system of "Sidestepping beats Verticals which beats Horizontals which beats Sidestepping" was rendered irrelevant in several situations, as Slidestepping allowed the player to avoid horizontal attacks as well. Instant Guard is a new glitch that was found in Soul Calibur 2, and allowed the user to instantly block an attack when the circumstances would normally not allow it. For instance, if the user of Instant Guard had their attack repelled with a Guard Impact, they could use Instant Guard to instantly block any attack thrown at them, with the exception of throws and low attacks. This greatly affected the landscape of Soul Calibur 2 competition-wise, as the character balance of the game was significantly altered. It's an oddity that these two glitches were not removed from the game, despite their early discoveries. Both techniques were known to have existed during the early part of 2003, and could have been taken care of with the North American and Europe releases of the game, but they weren't while other glitches were.
But it wasn't all about glitches, no sir. Aside from the inclusion of more characters and dual voiceovers, the home conversion of Soul Calibur 2 did seem like a ho-hum effort. Perhaps it was because of the fact that Namco had to port the game to three systems, but the end product felt a little bit rushed. If you need any evidence of this, look no further than Practice mode. Anyone who wishes to put a serious effort into learning a game such as Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution would have been advised to go to Practice mode and start the excellent tutorial that's included in the game. Unfortunately, anyone interested in learning how to play Soul Calibur 2 would have no such fortune. Not only does Practice mode not tell you how to play the game, but also simple functions such as Record (which has been around since Tekken 3) are nowhere to be seen. Something much more grand than Weapon Master Mode could've been done for the home conversion, considering we've done this type of run with Soul Edge and Soul Calibur in the past. In fact, you could say that everything Namco did include in their home conversion was purely flash, with little substance.
An old foe returns
Of course, it only looks like a puny effort when compared to Sega's Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution. To say that VF4e contribution to the fighting genre is significant would be an understatement. It is now the standard by which all other fighting games will be measured, both in gameplay and presentation. Not only was a fantastic tutorial included, but Quest mode is undoubtedly the best mode in either game. It gives you plenty of challenges and rewards, and also forces you to learn the game. You can't beat that combination. Sadly, Soul Calibur 2 isn't quite up to snuff on paper. That's the key word here, folks. On paper.
The truth is that VF4e and SC2 target very different audiences. While VF has always been a game that appeals to those looking for a good challenge and a complex fighting system, SC2 appeals to a slightly more mainstream crowd who can appreciate the visible depth the game has. The characters of Soul Calibur have so many attacks, feints and special techniques that it's easy to see why the game is considered to be complex. On the other hand, you'll often find people saying how complex Virtua Fighter is, but many can't even say in what ways it's complex because it requires a different process of thinking. They know it's deep, but they can't really explain why.
Another point that's always brought up is that Soul Calibur 2 is not very different from its predecessors. Many detractors say that the characters have many of their old moves and not much else. It may be true for some characters, but what fighting game series doesn't have this problem? Does Ryu lose his fireball or Dragon Punch for every Street Fighter sequel? The changes made to SC2 have been significant, which included walled arenas, Guard Crush attacks and a new sidestep system. Some say that with the 4 year span between Soul Calibur and Soul Calibur 2, more should've been done to enhance the gameplay. The real question is, what else could have been done?
The end of the legend?
In the end, Soul Calibur 2 wasn't all that it was hyped up to be. It could be that people were terribly spoiled by the Dreamcast version of Soul Calibur 1, or it could be the fact that Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution was released about a week before, which exploited some of the weaknesses in Soul Calibur 2's overall package. That's not to say that SC2 is complete trash, it's far from it. Most of the arguments brought up here would hardly matter to the large majority of people who own the game, but the fact is that they do exist. Looking back, Soul Calibur 2 could've been much better than the end product we got, but that doesn't mean that it's not fun. I personally still enjoy playing the game, and I'll continue playing it until the next Soul game comes out. It's merely disappointing that Namco didn't take advantage of their opportunity to provide gamers with a better experience.
Read our Soul Calibur 2 review here!
· · · Reno