Review by Katon

"Greatest 3D fighter ever? Yes."

Namco has made a splash with its two entrants into the realm of 3D fighting, Tekken and the Soul Blade/Calibur series. Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast was incredible and a must-have for any respectable DC owner. In my eyes, SC has surpassed Tekken as Namco's premiere fighting franchise and is far more fun to play. I don't know, but Tekken just doesn't appeal to me anymore. SCII is one of the most anticipated releases in the fighting game genre this year, and the Gamecube version proves to live up to the hype and be even better than the amazing arcade SCII. Of course, all three consoles have a different additional character: for the PS2, it's Heihachi (Why? He has no weapons); Spawn on the Xbox, and some guy named Link on the GC. Importers will most likely look to the GC version of SCII because of the relative ease of importing GC games, and I feel they are getting the best deal as far as additional characters are concerned. After all, what's better than laying the smackdown on Astaroth with Link?

Graphics:
Soul Calibur II is eye candy at its best. The GC has produced some impressive visuals in its short lifespan, and SCII is no exception. The game is gorgeous and absolutely arcade-perfect with nary a hint of slowdown. Character designs and stages are outstanding. SCII may not exactly match the graphics of some other 3D fighters, but it is still an impressive visual feast sure to grab your attention.

Score: 10/10

Sound:
Soul Calibur II has a great soundtrack. All the tracks seem to set the appropriate mood, and none seem out of place. One of the coolest things about SCII's soundtrack (at least as far as the GC is concerned) is hearing Link's music in his level. It's so odd yet so thrilling to hear that familiar tune outside of a Nintendo-developed game. Sound effects are dead on, and voice acting is superb.

Score: 10/10

Gameplay:
SCII is the most addictive fighter I have ever played. This game just never gets old. First, I'll deal with the issue many gamers would have with the GC version: the controller. I think I can safely quell your fears about Nintendo's controller. I had no problems getting used to it, and it performs admirably for me every time I fire up SCII. It's not as good as an arcade stick, but nothing is. If you really dislike the GC controller, then there is always the option of picking up a stick for the GC, which will really allow you to immerse yourself in the experience.

As usual, Namco has translated all the fun of its arcade hit and added more modes and extras to make the package more attractive. Arcade mode is self-explanatory, and fighting in this mode is great fun. Controls are very smooth and ultra-responsive. Moves are extremely easy to enter, and the average gamer will only require a few matches to begin pulling off devastating attacks with ease. Also present is Weapon Master mode, which is mission-based and is the primary method of obtaining secrets, which include some unlockable characters. Importers not fluent in Japanese may find this mode the most difficult to navigate, but with the aid of FAQs and common sense, it should come pretty easily. All the other modes you would expect from a Soul Calibur mode are also present, including a practice mode for novices.

I would like to touch on two characters now, the first being Link. The Legend of Zelda star would seem to be out of place in the SC universe, but I actually feel he fits in quite well. His attacks are very cool and easy to perform. If you're getting the GC version of SCII in order to play as Link, you will be well-satisfied. The other character is the Todd McFarlane-created Necrid. Necrid looks cool, but he just doesn't really fit it to the game. His weapon, which is an energy ball which changes form, is okay, but I just never found him much fun to play. He's not a terrible character, but I just don't think you'll be using him much.

Score: 10/10

Replay value:
Fighting games are built on their replay value, and SCII has loads of it. You'll keep coming back to unlock more weapons, characters, stages, endings, etc. The only real complaint here is that there possibly could have been more. Some characters have more costumes than others, and some characters are only playable in Weapon Master mode. Still, even after you have unlocked everything, which will take some time, you can still come back to this for the great gameplay. This is one of those games which never grows old.

Score: 9/10

Overall impressions:
I have never been so stunned by the quality of a fighter as I have been with Soul Calibur II. Every inch of this game reeks of dedicated work and high quality, and the gamers are the lucky recipients of all that diligent labor. No matter what version you buy, you must simply buy this game. Even non-fighting game fans should enjoy this one. Namco has scored yet another hit with this series, and it makes me wonder just what they will do for Soul Calibur III. This is an effort which is going to be awfully hard to top.

Overall score (not an average): 10/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/13/03, Updated 04/13/03


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