Review by Tenshi No Shi
"Who doesn't love a good sequel?"
Let me get right to the point- SoulCalibur for the Dreamcast is my favorite 3D fighter of all time. There isn't even room for debate; once I played it I was forever hooked. Seems like Namco has decided to make a sequel, a risky move considering the very idea of a continuation implies, by its nature, that it must build upon the original and improve it. Soul Caliber was perfection, how can you top that?
Just like the previous games, SoulCalibur II's story revolves around a soul corrupting sword which everyone is either fighting to posses or destroy. Individual stories are told in the endings, but don't expect any Pulitzer Prize winning material here- this is a fighting game and, as such, the plot is always the least important factor of the game (to say the least, the stories are usually contrived and serve only to initiate the conflict). That being said, don't expect any real surprises like the previous game when it was discovered the Siegfried and Knightmare were the same person. Entertaining to a point, but not the focal point of the game.
I can remember the first time I saw the remade SoulCalibur on the Dreamcast for the first time- my jaw hit the floor in astonishment as I saw clothing moving independently from the bodies of the characters, muscles rippled as they moved realistically about the stages and small details such as hair seemed almost alive. To see SoulCalibur II in action is to be in the presence of a work of art- It is SoulCalibur perfected where there was nothing to perfect. The animation is fluid and without flaw, accented by the seamless character models and the exquisitely detailed textures encasing them. Backgrounds and the stages they surround are full of little details that make them not so much stand out, but rather blend in so as not to distract too much from the action. It's also worth noting that environments have grown larger and less geometric so they feel much more natural.
If there is anything one would remember from either of the previous games in the series, it's the sound. To be more precise, the music and announcer are more often than not permanent fixtures in the echoed memories of the mind. SoulCalibur II continues this tradition with beautifully orchestrated scores that accents every battle and nearly poetic, dramatic announcing between matches. Other sound tracks, such as voice acting and the audio effects, are good (better than most) but nothing that will really impress compared to the movie-quality music. And, in case you were wondering, the GameCube version has a beautiful remix of the Hyrule Overworld theme that nearly brought a tear to my eye.
I was a bit wary as to how a SoulCalibur game (or any fighting game really) would handle on the GameCube controller. It won't lie and say it was flawlessly executed, but after a few moments of adjustment, it felt fairly natural and after an hour, I hardly noticed I was holding the controller. Nothing has really changed from the previous installment, so SoulCalibur veterans should be able to pick this game right up. You've got four buttons to worry about- light attack, hard attack, kick and guard- so don't feel overwhelmed if you're a newbie and you see someone pull off a gorgeous 20-hit combo without breaking a sweat. Best of all, SoulCalibur II is one of those rare games that both strategic fighters and button-mashers can enjoy since either method can win a fight (though the strategy minded gamers will always have the edge).
Namco designed the perfect 3D fighter in SoulCalibur II. I don't know how to expand upon that declaration without gushing like a school girl. To think that this game was already one of the best polygon brawlers on the arcade circuit and then to realize that the home versions were crammed with about twice as much stuff, you might just begin to comprehend the love that went into this game. It's almost sad to compare this series to Namco's flagship fighter, Tekken 4, and realize very little innovation has gone in to it while SoulCalibur II is leaps and bounds better than the original Soul Edge/Blade. Hopefully this means the next Tekken will finally get an overhaul so it can stand proud next to its younger brother, but in the meantime I'll be enjoying the superior-in-every-way SoulCalibur II.
It isn't a Namco arcade-to-home conversion without a plethora of secrets and bonuses to discover and SoulCalibur II upholds this tradition in spades. If you're patient enough, you can unlock everything from extra modes to hidden characters, including Cervantes, Charade, Seung Mina, Sophitia, Yoshimitsu, extra outfits, ten extra weapons for nearly every character, art galleries, profiles and new game modes. Don't forget that the console versions of SoulCalibur II also include two extra characters- Necrid (all versions) and Link (GameCube), Spawn (Xbox) or Heihachi (Playstation 2). Basically, you've got everything in there but the kitchen sink.
If you have the means and ability to import this title, please do yourself the favor- it's one of those games that you shouldn't wait for a domestic release. SoulCalibur II is now the standard by which all other fighting games (and any game, really) should be measured- developers please take notes.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/09
Game Release: SoulCalibur II (US, 08/27/03)
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