Soulcalibur 2 Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
Xbox
Release date:
August 27, 2004
Publisher:
Namco
Developer:
Namco
Players:
1 - 2
Genre:
Fighting
ESRB:
T

Soulcalibur 2

The soul still burns strong.

Review by Chris Bahn (Email)
August 3rd 2004

"Don't hate me."

At any rate, Soul Calibur 2 is an enjoyable gem, regardless which version you choose. One of the universally notable features includes the all-new Weapon Master Mode, which holds the key to unlocking the troves of goodies packed within. Overall, I found the missions to be just as enjoyable like the ones featured in the original Soul Calibur. In essence, you'll encounter opponents which must be defeated under special circumstances. Some levels require you to fight while being poisoned or in a booby-trap laden caged arena. Although fan fiction types and those who value text-driven adventures would be impressed, most players are likely to skip the mission summaries to jump right back into the action. After completing the third chapter, I can honestly say that I was no longer captivated and just want to pummel my next opponent. It won't take more than a few hours (if not less) to complete this mode the first time around. Fortunately, there's a more advanced version available to the fierce warriors who complete the first run, featuring tougher challenges to explore.

Speaking of which, if it wasn't for this mode spicing up solo play, I'd have to say that Soul Calibur 2 wouldn't seem as appealing. This is the type of game that begs to be played with human competition. Sure you can go against the computer, jack up the difficulty level and prepare to have your ego utterly crushed -- but it's just not the same.

When Soul Calibur was released on Dreamcast, several friends and I had the pleasure of learning the intricacies of the game together. Since we were relatively on the same level, our incentive to improve and learn more characters kept us interested in the game for months, even after other fighting games came around. The sequel is no different, thanks to the expanded cast of characters and the ability to alter the parameters of the game using weapons acquired from the aforementioned Weapon Master Mode. This is a remarkable feature that allows you to set handicaps when going against players of different skill levels - or simply to create some variety and challenge to your melees. And with over 200 weapons to choose from, that's certainly a lot of versatility at your fingertips.

"Don't...cry."

Accolades notwithstanding, Soul Calibur 2, with all its merited refinements, is still far from perfect. On occasion, you'll encounter some collision or framerate issues. The Xbox edition for example, has been known to either lock up on some copies during the final stage against Inferno. Beyond that, each version runs incredibly smooth at 60 frames per second. Every character model has been masterfully motion captured, creating a stylish, impressive display of precision combat action. In fact, some may feel Namco put too much attention into the characters instead of the backgrounds -- all of which are rich in detail and awesome in appearance. Although ring outs aren't a thing of the past, some stages include walls (none of which are destructible as featured in the Dead or Alive series). In essence, this creates an added dimension for players to unleash wall-specific attacks. You won't find them listed in the manual of course, so experiment for different results.

There's definitely a lot to take in -- and unless you've been consistently playing over the years, you'll probably need to chip off that rust. Thankfully, a few sessions with the training mode can get you back up to speed. Consider this a nitpick, but I was hoping for the training mode to get some of that refinement attention. A game colleague of mine brought up a good point regarding the command list structure. Essentially, you have to pause the game, examine the move you want; unpause the game, then practice the move. It's an unending cycle that becomes some tedious. Technology has evolved so much that there should be a better integration which alleviates this awkward transition. I know that I am getting ahead of myself here, but could you imagine some type of interactive tutorial? The training mode has definitely come a long way since the 16/32-bit era, but there's still a lot of room for growth.

At any rate, I was pleased that there's an option to toggle between English and Japanese dubs. Although every phrase is clear and articulate, I couldn't bear to hear the English voiceovers after initially spending 10 minutes with the game. I was curious how certain characters sounded and Ivy ended up being one of the few I actually liked. Compared to the Japanese dubbing, the English counterparts pale in comparison (much like the available anime on the market).

"The legend will never die..."

Unlike newcomers to the series, it's understandable why veterans won't have the same level of enthusiasm towards this latest installment. Aside from a few recycled elements featured throughout the game, Soul Calibur 2 qualifies as one of the most universally accessible and enjoyable games available on the market. And not even Virtua Fighter fans can't dismiss that. Although Soul Calibur 2 doesn't achieve a new evolutionary standard, it's definitely given many of us a reason to love fighting games all over again....

Article originally published on The Next Level

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