Review by FFMrebirth

"Neoteric"

Fans of the fighting genre, their sweaty palms and swelled up thumbs still aching from the previous installments of Namco's fighting series, were anxious for a follow up. Namco held it under a veil of mystery for a good amount of time. After a billion screenshots, they finally released it to the arcades. The game was ironically entitled Soul Calibur 2. Namco made sure not to stray too far from the magic that made the other ones special, while incorporating new elements. Naturally, I was a tad skeptical if they could produce a flawless title in every aspect, for a third time (Soul Edge and Soul Calibur being the first two.) After some time with the game, I came to the conclusion that Soul Calibur 2 is extremely close to perfection.

Now, before I start to dig into the game, lets clear up some common myths with the series.

Myth

The series made its break into the gaming world back in '99 on the Sega Dreamcast.

Fact

No, the series began back in 1995 with a game entitled ''Soul Edge.''

Myth

Soul Blade is a completely different game than Soul Edge.

Fact

They're the same, but Soul Edge had more selectable characters, better graphics, and was released for the Playstation.

Now that some light has been shed on its history, we can move forward.

From the start, Soul Calibur 2 is a pick-up-and-play game. You don't need extensive training times from 5-8 p.m. to be able to get your share of fun out of it. Since Soul Calibur 2 is so easy to pick up and play, it means that even if you're new, you'll probably enjoy the game on the same level as a professional. You'll be eased slowly into the game's vast array of options.

In fact, some options can only be unlocked by completing a quest or by doing a task well enough to warrant them as a prize. Most options that are given to you are usually just expansions of another option that you’ve encountered previously. For example, you’ll have regular Time Attack mode early in the game. Later down the road, you’ll gain other versions of Time Attack that’ll integrate different stipulations, such as making all the combatant fights on Extremely Hard. Most likely, you’ll just stick to the original mode of play without touching any of these expansions.

The most prominent addition to Soul Calibur 2 is the Weapon Master mode. Weapon Master mode begins by telling you the fundamentals of the game: How to dodge, attack, differences between horizontal attacks and vertical attacks, and what scenarios you should utilize them in. It doesn’t tell you stuff like what to buy your girlfriend for Valentines Day; you’ll have to figure that out on your own. After a few sets of practice with the fundamentals, you’ll be faced with an easy foe, and then you’ll be slowly introduced to new aspects that’ll keep you interested. They’ll tell you about something entitled Guard Impact that’ll allow you to block an opponents attack and counter it.

Some of the new things that’ll keep your attention include creepy dungeons that hold valuable things, like a new character. Add the addition of EXP and gold to the mix and you get an even more enjoyable experience. After you complete a scenario, you’ll gain EXP and gold. You’ll be able to purchase new weapons and character costumes in weapon master mode with the gold. If a certain amount of EXP is reached, your character will level up a class. Leveling up to higher classes is just for bragging rights for the most part, as it doesn’t give you anything other than a numerical representation of how much you’ve played. There’s still something about bragging to your friends that your character is on a higher level, though.

Speaking of characters, Soul Calibur’s are practically the same as they were in the previous games, which is an excellent addition. You still have the giant, intimidating beast known as Astaroth. He was once a ferocious, blood-spilling beast that massacred all in his way. He was slain and resurrected again seven years ago. With his heart exposed through his chest and a 300-pound axe, he’s ready to take out the opposition. Others include that of a whip wielding female named Ivy. She doesn’t know who her real parents are, and she’s destined to destroy the Soul Calibur.

Another is that of the mysterious character named Voldo. Voldo’s master, who was a brave pirate, died long ago. Voldo was told to protect his master’s treasure even after his death. The treasure resides in a deep dungeon called the “Money Pit.” He’s stayed in that pit for so long that he’s went blind, deaf, mute, and lost his own sanity. Voldo, Ivy, and Astaroth, along with every other character, have a deep, enthralling storyline to accompany them. You’ll feel emotionally connected to the fighters on some level. The climax of their story is told at the end of arcade mode, where you finally see everything unravel in a monochrome story that’s told through hand-drawn pictures.

The music in Soul Calibur 2 is quite possibly the most distinct, beautiful music ever composed for a video game. Every song brings a mystifying orchestra of amazing sounds that can be summed up by one word: Poignant. If you’re in the mist of a battle, you can’t help but notice the breathtaking music in the background. Whether it’s from the amazing piece that’s played by the trumpets on a character’s stage, or the cymbal crashes that are sure to leave you stunned, none of it comes off as dissonance. Every song is invoked with so much emotion that you’ll probably pause the game once in a while to just sit and listen to the music. Each song is done fittingly to what type of stage you’re playing on. If you’re in a deep, dark dungeon surrounded by water with no escape, then you’ll hear a gloomy, melancholic piece. If you’re at Link’s stage, you’ll hear the famous Zelda theme played by a full orchestra. All events in which something of great importance happens (i.e, new weapon, new mode of play), you’ll hear a very quick fanfare of sorts play to congratulate you on your achievement. What you have in the end is one of the most brilliant musical scores ever created by a man’s hands. Since the music is so good, they even give you the option to listen to the tracks during the sound effects.

Soul Calibur 2 does have its areas that could be improved upon. One thing that is missing is the ability to play online. There’s no real point in being locked in your room playing with yourself (No Pun Intended.) You can practice all you want, but without the option to play online, you’ll never really know what it’s like to play against other skilled human players (unless your friend happens to be a great player). If you want to play against skilled human players, there’s only one path to take, and that’s by traveling to your nearest arcade. The problem is this: If you travel out, most of the machines that you’ll play on won’t have controller ports. Therefore, you’ll have to buy an arcade stick if you want to get into competitive play. You’ll have to sit down and relearn all of the characters’ moves on a totally different controller. Plus, the good joysticks aren’t cheap (imported ones can run you a good amount of money).

The last nuisance that bothers me is the dreaded soft reset This thing is horrible, and I’ve found myself resetting on accident far too many times without saving my progress in weapon master mode, and losing over 30 minutes of play.

Other than these few nitpicky things, Soul Calibur 2 is still one of the best fighting games to be released on about any system or arcade. The elegant music, aesthetic graphics, and amazing fighting system all amalgamate into one of the best fighters, or quite possibly one of the best games, ever. Anyone that doesnt own this for any console should look into investing a hard earned fifty bucks.

Final = 9


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/19/03


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