Review by shiek99

"The Art of Soul Calibur II"

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t played the first Soul Calibur and really didn’t want to at the time. I had heard of it from some friends and they said it was a really good game, but, being the stubborn person I am, never wanted to try it (Mainly because I didn’t have a Dreamcast). Now a few years later I hear the same name (Soul Calibur), but with a two at the end of it, coming out for all three of the next-generation consoles. Again, I wasn’t too anxious to try the game, but I decided to do some research on it anyways. Then I came upon a movie that would change my entire opinion on the game. It was the introduction for the demo and wow, was I ever blown away. From the second I laid my eyes on it, I was hooked on the game (CG movies really impress me). Now here I am playing the game (yes, I’m probably playing it as you read this) and loving every second of it. It really does live up to the hype everyone was saying about it. From the awesome graphics to the excellent characters, this game is king. Probably one of the best, if not, the best fighting game out in the market. If you’re too lazy to read my whole review, feel free to scroll to the bottom at have a gaze at the pros/cons section of the game, but I’m going to have to warn you. There won’t be many cons.

Graphics
First off, we must ask, do the graphics “cross the line?”. Well, no but they’re very close to doing so. Yes, everything is very well detailed, from the characters to the stages. You’ll find very few flaws in them. Some very nice touches including a little “bounce”, but the thing is, they just don’t “crossing the line”. What I mean is that the graphics aren’t revolutionary. FF7, Soul Calibur I, FFX, these are games that all crossed the line graphic wise. They were top of the top for their time, but Soul Calibur II, just doesn’t do this. Again, the graphics are excellent, but not amazingly excellent. Maybe it’s because it’s a remake from the Dreamcast version or, the graphics just couldn’t get any better due to slow down or console specs. Whatever the reason, it really doesn’t matter. Namco probably did their best to make the graphics as good as they could and what we’re left with is a game that’s very easy on the eyes. It’s not like the graphics are under-par or anything in fact it’s the exact opposite. So, really, the graphics are quite excellent, but just not revolutionary. Thus they deserve a great looking:
9/10 (Excellent, but not amazingly excellent)

Sound
95% of fighting games have average/under-average sounds in my opinion. Unlike them though, Soul Calibur II is part of that small fraction of 5% that do have amazing sound. What can I say; the soundtrack is one of the best out there. In fact I would go, as far as to say it’s at the level of Final Fantasy music, it’s just that good. Yes, the characters do scream when they get hit, unlike some fighters *cough*Dead or Alive*cough*. The english voice acting can get pretty annoying at times, but luckily there’s the option to switch to the Japanese voices which, personally, I like much better. The clashes of the swords and the hitting effects are pretty good. They really make you feel like you’re in the game and hacking away at some opponent. Yup, a game with amazing sound, not to mention, a fighting game, therefore the sound gets a hearing of:
9/10 (Some of the hitting sound effects get annoying, same with the screams)
Gameplay
I’ll split this section up into three groups: Fighting, characters and modes. First up, fighting:
Fighting
Obviously in any fighting game the fights are what make it interesting. Fights that are too easy just make the player bored and inattentive, yet fights that are too hard can frustrate the player and cause them to lose overall interest in the game. Luckily, Soul Calibur II is the perfect balance of both. There are those brutally hard fights, but not unless there are some very easy ones before them. It’s a very nice combination of both hard and easy. Now the fighting itself is where this game truly shines. You have four basic buttons, A (attack horizontally), B (attack vertically), K (kick) and G (guard/block). These four buttons together create one of the most complex and fun fighting games ever created. Different movements of the control stick/D-pad cause a variety of moves to knock your opponent down. The combinations themselves aren’t too hard to get, but are definitely tough to master. This is one of those games that’s easy to pick up, but very hard to master. Yes, there is some button mashing involved, but only with some characters. Other characters encourage you to master them, in order to use them well. Fighting has never been so fun.
Characters
The soul of any fighting game is the characters and Soul Calibur II offers over 20 of them. Yes, I know that doesn’t seem like a lot compared to some, but when you’re trying to master over 20 characters that each have around 120 moves, it gets a bit difficult. Each of them has their own unique story, in which they are all trying to find the ultimate sword, Soul Edge. The characters themselves have very interesting designs and aren’t too hard on the eyes at all. In combat, each character has their own set of different moves, and I mean different. Each character uses a weapon, which they choose themselves, whether it be a sword, staff, knives, etc. And wow, I have never seen such a balanced game. What I mean is each character is so very well balanced that if two masters faced each other, there would be absolutely no guarantee who would win. It’s a game where you’re not going to win 100% of the time, no matter how much you play. A button masher could probably easily beat someone who has trained a lot, but the number of times the button masher could win would be very tiny compared to that of the masters. Lastly, for the Gamecube version only, the great Hylian hero from the famous Zelda series makes his way onto the stage. Link is a great addition to the game, although he can be a little unfair, seeing as how he’s the only character with projectiles, he’s still a neat character to play as. Nice characters Namco!
Modes
There are about 10 different modes in the game (Arcade, v.s., team battle, practice, etc.) All in which you are pitted against different character to fight against. Nothing special, but still very fun. There is also another addition called “Weapon Master” mode. This is where the story of the game is. You travel to different areas of the game and fight your way through the world for your ultimate goal: receiving the Soul Edge. The battles aren’t just regular ones either. Sometimes you’re pitted against an invisible enemy, or a stage made of ice. These small factors make the game much more interesting and fun. Also, while in weapon master mode, you gain money and experience from every fight. With your money you can buy more weapons (over 200 to choose from) and costumes for each character. The experience you gain will make you slightly stronger as well. Overall, a very nice mode, which adds to the already incredible gameplay.
Overall, the Gamplay is golden. From the heart pounding fights, to the interesting characters, to the enormous variety of different modes, this game would make any player happy. This game is definitely more then just looks. Therefore the gamplay gets a golden:
10/10 (Too fun to be healthy for anyone)

Story
Every character has their own unique story and reasons why the want the Soul Edge. Normally in a fighting game story doesn’t matter much, and that’s true with this one. The story is good though, but most likely, the player would rather beat another character senseless. If you want a game with good story, get a RPG. Fighting games are meant for either anger management or extreme fun. The story will not be rated.

Controls
Well, for the Gamecube version of the game, I find that the controls work very well. Since the buttons are different shapes, it’s easy to find which buttons are which without looking down at the controller too often. Also, the controls are very responsive and the combos aren’t too hard to pull off. Most people complain about the D-pad, and I can see why (much too small), but this problem can be easily fixed by 1 in 3 ways.
1: use the Control stick. It’s much easier, and is better to do combinations with because of the octagon like base.
2: Get a switcher so you can play the game using a different controller (preferably the PS2)
3: Buy the “Soul Calibur II Universal Arcade Stick”, which is basically as the name says. An arcade stick made for Soul Calibur II, which can be used on any console.
Overall, though I like the controls for the game and if you ignore the D-pad problem, the controls work very well. Thus the controls get a comfortable:
9/10 (D-pad is way too small)

Replay Value
Since Soul Calibur II is a fighting game, it already has tremendous replay value. With all the modes and characters to choose from this game can easily rack up to 30+ hours of gameplay, not to mention if you’re going to master everything and collect all the items. Then you’re probably in for a lifetime of playing. Not only that, but those friends who also have the game, could make it much more interesting, especially if both of you have a mastered character. Then the heart-pounding fights will never end. This is just one of those games that’s too hard to stay away from. It’ll have you coming back for more, and I can guarantee that. A true fighting game can never really be boring and I’m pretty sure this is one of them. Therefore the replay value gets a long lasting:
10/10 (Just too fun to stay away from)

Buy/Rent?Trash
If you’re any fan or Soul Calibur buy this game. If you’re any fan of fighting games buy this game. If you’re any fan of anything, BUY THIS GAME! It’s an amazing investment. Renting it is also an option, but you’ll probably want to rent it more then 3 times, it’s just that good. So the bottom line is, BUY THIS GAME!

Overall
A fighting game with tremendous worth. It has everything a fighting game should and more: Balance, cool characters, a nice soundtrack, lots of modes/extras and replay value as large as this universe. It’s just a great game, that’s definitely worth getting, or at least trying. Namco did an amazing job with this one and improving it more would be almost impossible.
9/10 (Remember, no game is perfect)

Pros and Cons

Pros
+ Astonishing graphics
+ No slowdown in frame rate
+ Great Soundtrack, best music I’ve heard in any fighting game
+ Japanese and English voiceovers
+ Deep and unique fighting style (Easy to pick up, hard to master)
+ Very well designed and interesting characters
+ Tons of different modes to choose from
+ Easy controls to get used to
+ Enormous replay value
+ Overall one of the best 3D fighters ever created

Cons
- Graphics aren’t anything new (Not revolutionary)
- English voices can get annoying
- D-Pad on the Gamecube is too small


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/30/03


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