Review by Mr Jasill

"A new stage of history (that's alot like the old one)...but this one has Link..."

Every once in a while a game comes along that takes the world by storm. A game that has the gaming media drooling like dawgs. A game that can get delayed loads of times and will not lose fans because the game is so good that it’s worth waiting for, no matter how long the wait. Soul Calibur 2 is one of those games. The previous 2 titles were mammoth hits on their respective platforms (Soul Blade on PS and Soul Calibur on Dreamcast) but neither title garnered the kind of mass attention that Soul Calibur 2 has received prior to its release into arcades and home consoles.

Soul Calibur 1 was viewed as one of the best 3D beat ‘em up ever at it’s time of release and I’d have to agree. Everything Soul Calibur did, it did to the 10th degree and added a level of fun, style and cleverness that no other 3D beat ‘em up seemed to be able to match. However, despite Soul Calibur becoming one of the Dreamcast’s fastest and biggest selling games, it faded into a slight void of obscurity due to the fact that given SEGA’s track record, many were reluctant to buy the console and had good reason to, given the ill fate of the Dreamcast which followed shortly after it’s release. But despite this, word on Soul Calibur got round and it garnered up major popularity and a loyal following, so it was no surprise that Namco announced a sequel years later and then decided to make the gaming world very, very happy people by announcing that the sequel to Soul Calibur would go multi format to ensure nobody missed out on the action. But how do you top that which is already viewed as the pinnacle of the 3D beat ‘em up?

Not just any old review ///
Now this is a UK review of the GameCube version. I don’t think you really need to guess what the overall verdict of this game is gonna be, because I’m pretty sure you already know what the deal is with this game. Also, if you’ve clicked on this review, then obviously you’re considering buying this game and the GameCube version of it at that! I won’t go into TOO much depth, but will point out and articulate where ever I can on why the GameCube version is as good as any other. I’ll also point out that I do own a PS2 and I have played the PS2 version of the game, so I won’t be knocking Sony’s machine, but I do hate X-Box, so I’ll tell you from now, “Spawn is doo doo!!!! BOOO X-BOX!!!”

Gameplay ///
If you’ve played Soul Calibur, you’ll know the deal here. It plays exactly the same. You get 3 attack buttons. A, B and kick; A - being your horizontal attacks and B - being your verticals. Characters all wield weapons and have full freedom of movement which no other 3D beat ‘em up offers. Not only can characters sidestep, but they can walk around in all directions and this is what is called the ‘8-way run.’ It’s well done and really does offer a greater level of movement which is not evident in other beat ‘em up. Characters can also soul charge, which temporarily makes their attacks more powerful. It’s not something that will win you the match and is nothing innovative or special, but you’ll find yourself using it all the same.

The battles take place in arenas, all of which are of varied shapes and sizes. Some arenas have sides which players can be knocked out of for a “Ring out” and others have walls surrounding them. The walls are a new addition to Soul Calibur 2 as Soul Calibur featured none at all. The walls aren’t as fundamental in this game as they are in titles such as Dead or Alive 2 and 3, but are there all the same. It’s also a lot more difficult to knock an enemy against the wall than it is in Dead or Alive, as you have to strike with a powerful attack that sends the player flying back far and hard enough for them to be sprawled eagle across the wall. This doesn’t really add anything new to the matches and if anything, makes things unfair as players are put at a major disadvantage if they hit a wall. Players on the receiving end are likely to get juggled to death as players cannot block and recovery is almost non existent when you strike a wall. But thankfully, due to the 8 way run this will not become a regular occurrence and if you have any sense you will move out as soon as you find that you’re being backed up against a wall.

If you’ve played Soul Calibur before, then you’ll be able to pick this up and play it straight away, because not much has changed. All the characters that made it over from Soul Calibur have all their old attacks (along with some new ones) and play the same as they ever did. For newcomers however, the game is simple enough for you to be able to pick up and play and get stuck in from the get go. Unfortunately (for players who like a bit of skill) this game can be played through a bit of button bashing and the C-Stick has specified button presses assigned to it, so like Capcom VS SNK 2: EO, it can be used to execute some attacks. This is a bit of a sad thing, but I think you’ll be hard done by to find a beat ‘em up that doesn’t allow a bit of button bashing here and there. It cannot be avoided, so I won’t knock Soul Calibur 2 for it. Also, players who truly know how to handle and master this game will have they wicked way with any opponent who button bashes anyway – so it’s no biggie!

Fighters ///
This game sports a healthy selection of 15 fighters to start off with and 8 unlockables. Soul Calibur fans will be glad to know that not many characters have been taken out and any that have been axed, are in this game in some form or another. The cast of characters is as stands;
- Mitsurugi
- Taki
- Kilik
- Maxi
- Xianghua
- Ivy
- Nightmare
- Voldo
- Astaroth
- Talim (a new character to Soul Calibur 2)
- Cassandra (a new character to Soul Calibur 2)
- YungSung (a new character to Soul Calibur 2)
- Raphael (a new character to Soul Calibur 2)
- Necrid (a console exclusive character to Soul Calibur 2 designed by Todd McFarlane)
- Link (a GameCube, console exclusive to Soul Calibur 2)

The unlockable characters are;
- Yoshimitsu
- Cervantes
- Charade (a fighter who adopts other characters styles)
- Sophitia
- Seung Mina
- Assassin (who fights like Hwang from Soul Calibur)
- Berserker (who fights like Rock from Soul Calibur)

All the characters sport weapons and have their own individual style. Soul Calibur 1 players will recognize some familiar faces and also some new ones and will also know exactly who Hwang and Rock are. Sophitia is made some what redundant as she fights a lot like her younger sister (Cassandra) and also is not as good and Seung Mina fights a lot like Kilik. However, they are they there if you want to pick them and it doesn’t hurt to have them there all the same - for fans who played as Sophitia and Seung Mina in Soul Blade and Soul Calibur. The final boss is ‘Inferno’ and his name leaves little to the imagination as to his appearance. He adopts other fights styles and changes fighting styles whenever he loses a third of his life. He is not selectable this time round as he was in Soul Calibur, which accounts for Charade being selectable in his (or its) place.

Game modes ///
Soul Calibur 2 sports a healthy selection of game modes. Arcade and VS are pretty much bog-standard, obvious ones, but then you get Survival, Time attack, Team Battle, Practice and then ‘Weapon Master’ mode. Soul Blade and Soul Calibur players will be familiar with this mode as it is the same as the ‘Edge Master’ and ‘Mission battle’ modes respectively.

Weapon Master mode is the mode you will play the most as it is in this mode that you get to earn new weapons for all the characters in the game (except for 4 of the characters). Weapon Master mode is made of up Chapters and each Chapter has a number of stages. The stages aren’t just straight forward battles however, little twists are placed on the fights and stipulations apply to each one. Some matches will require you to knock the opponent out of the ring and others will require you to juggle your opponent in the air with a combo. Other matches will not allow you to guard attacks and others will place you in conditions where air time is increased, so fighters stay airborne for long amounts of time when they are juggled. Not winning matches under the specified conditions will cause you to lose the match. You can attempt a stage as many times as you like and you can save your game whenever and however often you like, so if you get fed up with a stage (which I assure you, you will) then you can leave it and return to it later. As you progress through Weapon Master mode you will acquire ‘Gold’ and this is the currency within the game that allows you to purchase items within the Shop which can be accessed from the map. Weapons, bonus costumes for characters and unlockable game modes are bought in this shop. Not all the games bonuses are available in the shop however; some are obtained through completing the game in Arcade mode and others by completing specific stages in Weapon Master mode. Extra Chapters and Sub Chapters are also hidden away in Weapon Master mode, so to complete it fully and unlock every bonus you will have to unlock the extra Chapters first. As large as the Weapon Master mode may sound, it is very short in comparison to the ‘Quest mode’ available in Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution and isn’t as difficult as the ‘Event matches’ in Super Smash Bros Melee. However, it’s a nice change from the Arcade mode and will take up a bulk of your time. BUT….(And this only applies to Soul Calibur 1 players, but…) Soul Calibur 1 fans will be disappointed at the unlockables as they are pretty much the same as they were the first time round. Any special modes that have been unlocked can be viewed and played in the ‘Museum.’

For every mode in the game (except Weapon Master), there is an ‘Extra’ version, which allows you and the computer to play with any weapons obtained and also fight on any new unlocked stages and with or against unlocked characters. Soul Calibur 2 has a nice selection of games modes to keep you happy…BUT…(and there’s always a but). Once Weapon mode has been completed (which will not take long) and everything has become unlocked, there’s not much to return to and the game become a tad boring. Unlike Smash Bros. Melee, there’s not a lot to do on your own with this game. Thankfully though, like all beat ‘em ups, this game makes up for it BIG time in VS mode and this is where Soul Calibur 2 shines in all its glory. Get a couple of friends round and have a “winner stays on” session and this game will get played for hours on end. Nothing is better than beating up a mate and then humiliating them with a nasty looking throw. Soul Calibur 2 definitely needs to be played in VS to be truly appreciated. All in all, Soul Calibur 2 sports a healthy selection of game modes and bonuses for home console owners and does go to the trouble most beat ‘em ups don’t bother going to.

Graphics ///
Soul Calibur 2 is a pretty looking game, no doubt about it. Every character is strikingly detailed and boarder somewhere between realistic and Manga inspired. The stages are also beautifully rendered and everything from the title screen to the menus are nicely done. Some of the console exclusive characters don’t look so good though and sport some basic textures and low polygon counts; Sophitia and Berserker in particular. The two of them look they bowled in from Soul Blade and then were just smoothed up a bit. Sophitia is a blatant palette swap of Cassandra, except her nose is longer and her eyes more squinted. It’s not a major gripe, but compared to the rest of the cast, they do look a bit rough around the edges - almost to the point where they don’t look like they belong in the game. Also, they’re designs are crap and their costumes are flat out awful. Trust me when I say that Sophitia has seen MUCH better days.

The overall presentation of this game is top notch; however, by today’s standards it doesn’t have such a WOW factor. The graphics in this game won’t blow you away like the first time you (those who were lucky enough) powered up your Dreamcast and saw the first Soul Calibur in action. This isn’t to say that Soul Calibur 2 doesn’t look good…no sir-ee Bob! What it does mean is that Soul Calibur 1 was so amazing – graphically, that this time around it doesn’t feel like the huge graphical leap that Soul Calibur was from Soul Blade or that Virtua Fighter 4 was from Virtua Fighter 3.

Sound ///
The music in this game is brilliant, although music in beat ‘em ups usually isn’t a mandatory thing and I don’t know of anybody who has based their decision on buying a beat ‘em up on its soundtrack alone. The music is orchestrated and very easy on the ears. If you’ve played Soul Blade or Soul Calibur then you’ll know what to expect as the music style is pretty much the same as those two. A nice little treat for GameCube owners is that ‘The Legend of Zelda’ theme has been re-done for this version of the game and the “ta-DA-DAA-DAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” jingle that you’re used to hearing when you obtain a key item from a treasure chest in Zelda games, is also heard when you win a match as Link. It’s a minor thing, but a nice touch all the same and adds to the exclusiveness of the GameCube version over the PS2 and X-Box versions of the game. (I’ll type that again…) It’s a minor thing, but a nice touch all the same and adds to the exclusiveness of the GameCube version over the PS2 and X-Box versions of the game.

The characters voices are English this time round and to be honest, they don’t sound half bad. They sound miles better than Tekken 4’s and there’s even an option to have the voices in Japanese if you’d prefer; which is a small thing, but a nice thing all the same - especially if the cheesiness of the English voices get a bit too sickly for ya. The sound effects are nothing out of the blue. All the yelps, screams, stabs, hits and metal clangs are intact and sound the same as they ever did. For those who can exploit it, the game supports Dolby Pro-logic II, which once again is a minor thing, but it’s there all the same for those whose televisions and sound systems support it.

Problems ///
There’s no such thing as perfection and Soul Calibur 2 is proof of this. Soul Calibur 1 was ‘near perfect’, so does that makes Soul Calibur 2 ‘nearer’ perfect. Well…no, not really. As ‘near perfect’ as Soul Calibur was, there were still problems with it. Some of which were the…

Juggling:
The juggling in Soul Calibur was out of control and characters would fly up into the air if caught on the receiving end of a specific move and be susceptible to a mid air beating; which often led to the character flying clean out of the ring. This leads me nicely to the second problem with Soul Calibur…

Ring outs:
Characters flew out of the ring too easily and despite the sheer size of the arenas, players still found themselves duking it out at the edge, fearing they might go out if they get as much as a flick in the face. Attacks send players flying too far across the arena and out of the ring, which is un-fair and frustrating and can often disrupt the flow of matches, especially when 2 really good players are going at it and then a player flies unexpectedly out of the ring. This also happens in Soul Calibur 2 as well. It was a major problem in the first game and is still a problem here. Characters don’t fly as far as they once did when juggled, but still fly high enough to the point where they’ll land out side the ring. It can be a real pain, even more so if the match is going in your favor and then you’re tossed outside the ring un-fairly.

Recoveries:
The recoveries don’t feel as quick and as easy as they were in Soul Calibur 1. The one thing that made Soul Calibur 1 so brilliant to play was that the flow of the matches were quick and furious and this was down to the fast recoveries the game allowed. Pressing the [block button] allowed your character to land on their feet if they were knocked into the air, recover and stand up-right if they staggered and get up real speedy like if they got knocked onto the floor. It works in Soul Calibur 2, but not as quickly. If you’ve played Soul Calibur 1 then you’ll often find that your character takes a while longer to get up this time round and that recoveries aren’t as quick as they were.

Blocking:
The blocking in this game is a bit iffy. Sometimes you’ll find yourself blocking a flurry of attacks and then all of a sudden you find that your character gets hit. It’s very frustrating and does happen frequently. This was a regular occurrence in Soul Calibur 1 and it’s a shame it wasn’t sorted here because it can and WILL cost you the match. Sometimes I don’t even bother to block when I play the game because I cannot see the point if I know I’m going to get hit regardless.

All of the above are problems that can damper the fun of the game; however, they are things that Soul Calibur 1 veterans will notice more than anyone else, seeing as they were problems that plagued the first game and still exist in this one.

It’s got Link! ///
No doubt you’ll know that the GameCube version of Soul Calibur 2 features Link as its exclusive character. Now, my view may be a little biased, because I’m a devoted Nintendo fan - but if you’re pondering over which exclusive character is the best out of Heihachi, Spawn and our hero time, then it’s no contest. Do not listen to the Nintendo haters and X-Box lovers when they tell you “Link don’t fit in” and that “Spawn is the best character.” It’s all bullcrap! Lemme break it down for ya’ll…

1:Heihachi is a bad ass, but doesn’t have a weapon. End of story.
2:Spawn can hover and has a fireball. Plus, is there anything X-Box exclusive about Spawn? He could have just as easily been put into the PS2 and GameCube versions of the game!
3:Link on the other hand is a Nintendo character and will not appear in any other version of Soul Calibur 2. He has the edge over Heihachi because he has a weapon and has the edge over Spawn because he is completely exclusive to Nintendo. Plus, it’s Link! That is reason alone!
4:Plus, Link has better weapons to obtain in Weapon Master mode such as his bug catching net, Mirror shield, Biggoron sword and Cane of Byrna from ‘Link to the past.’

Trust me when I say he kicks serious ‘A double-S.’ Link’s projectiles do throw the balance of the game off slightly because no other character has them, but they can be easily dodged. Plus they are trademark moves of his and Namco would have done a grave in-justice to have put Link in the game without his trusty Fairy bow, bombs and Boomerang. My only nag with Link is that when you fight him, he does feel over powered and the computer doesn’t hold back with him. Another bit of a nag (I’m doing a lot of nagging aren’t I?) is that he only has the one costume but in different colours. It would have been nice for Namco to have designed a nice costume for him; A coat of armor or Link out of his tunic clothes without his hat or something. Just to add to his coolness. Link also doesn’t talk, which is no surprise as he hasn’t said anything for the past 2 decades, but it would have been nice for him to have a little, quirky Japanese phrase for his victory pose. BUT…These are minor things in the scope of what is an overall great character and an achievement for Link to appear out of a Nintendo produced title. Link rules!! End of. If only the rumors were true and Ganondorf was in this game also… <sigh!>

I ain’t using that Fisher Price pad!! ///
Don’t let nobody tell you that you can’t play Soul Calibur with a GameCube pad. If they do, then blank them or tell them to shut up. They’re just haters. I had my doubts as to whether a GameCube pad could do Soul Calibur 2 justice and was ready to write it off before I’d even used it. But upon using the pad for the first time, I was silenced. The pad works fine. The PS2 pad is still better overall, but the GameCube pad is absolutely fine and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The layout of the buttons actually makes things easier at times, because the A button is so big and the X and Y buttons surround it, it’s easier to glide your fingers across them for combos and any attacks that need glide like movements from one attack button to another. Once again, I stress that the pad is fine and no doubt is easier than using that black microwave of a pad for the X-Box.

So…What is the best version? ///
There is no version of this game that blows the others out of the water. PS2 magazines and websites will favour the PS2 version, X-Box magazines and websites will favour the X-Box version and Nintendo magazines and websites will favour the GameCube version. There honestly is no BEST version of the game, however…due to my love for Nintendo; I love the GameCube version best because it has Link and that the GameCube doesn’t have a 1 on 1 3D beat ‘em up of this Calibur. (You see what I did there?) And Smash Bros Melee, sadly does not count. The X-Box got his glory with Dead or Alive 3, the PS2 hardly has a lack of beat ‘em ups and had its day with Tekk…..Oh my bad. That game was rubbish wasn’t it? OH. Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution – (That’s the one!) So would it really hurt that much to let the GameCube version of Soul Calibur 2 bask in the limelight? After all…the GameCube version has shifted more copies than both the PS2 and X-Box versions…So what version of Soul Calibur 2 will you be getting again…?

So… ///
Soul Calibur 2 is a great game and is one of the best 3D beat ‘em ups around. It is fun to play and it’s easy to be impressed by due to the nice graphics and the over the top complexity of many of the attacks in the game, which do look amazing. The negative aspects of the game do not harm this game much, but hardcore fans, players and owners of Soul Calibur 1 who play this game will realize that the problems that existed in Soul Calibur 1 have made their way into its sequel and will also notice straight off that not much has changed since it’s Dreamcast outing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering that many liked the way the original game played. Soul Calibur 1 played so well that it would be stupid to change too much as that would be fixing something that wasn’t broken in the first place and more often than not, that’s a bad idea. However, some new innovative features would have been nice, just to give it that major edge over its predecessor and fixing the problems that did exist in the first game wouldn’t have gone a-miss either. Soul Calibur 2 is better, but only just and doesn’t feel like the major leap that Soul Calibur 1 was from Soul Edge. It’s not that Soul Calibur 2 isn’t good…not at all. If anything, it’s just a testament to what a brilliant game Soul Calibur was at the time and that it did a hell of a lot of things right the first time round. But, most of this will only really make a difference to those who have played Soul Calibur 1 and knew its ins and outs. Newbie’s to the series will fall for this game big time and it’s not difficult to see why. Newbie’s will definitely adore this game more so than fans of the first Soul Calibur, because they are going into this game head first with a fresh eye and they have nothing to compare it to.

Soul Calibur 2 is a brilliant game and even if you own its older brother on Dreamcast; buy this game!! If you don’t own Soul Calibur 1 and was one of the unlucky few that never even played Soul Calibur 1, then most definitely buy it!! There’s no reason not to. And seeing as there is no other beat ‘em up of this kind on GameCube, it’s not really a tough decision now is it?

A game that isn’t as perfect as it should have been, but one that will win over your money and then your heart.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/03


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