Review by Moon 2
"A Fighter For All."
There are two, and only two sides to fighting games. Either you like them, or you hate them. There is no in between. Fighting game have always had a slight learning curve due to the fact that the best players have memorized all combos by heart. But Soul Calibur II is a different story all together. I can honestly say I'm not the biggest fan of fighters. The only fighters I really have are Dead or Alive 2 and Power Stone, but I have played many others. But when I saw Soul Calibur II in action, I just couldn't help myself. I had to try it. Seeing Link and Xianghua on the cover just enticed me. And boy was I surprised when I started playing the game.
I was immeadiatly blown away by the beginning CG, and all around the rest of the game didn't disapoint. Namco put a lot of effort into this title and it shows. From graphics, to sound, to control, right down to the heart of the gameplay, this game succeeds in many ways. However, it did have some short comings. I think these could have been addressed more. What are these errors? You will all soon see.
Graphics- The CG sequence at the beginning of the game is a definite highlight and brought a smile to my face. I couldn't help but giggle like a little school boy who had for the first time played a Mario game back in the 80's. But more surprising is the graphic detail inside the game itself. All the characters are nothing short of extrodinary. They move without any problem, and their fighting styles are smooth and clean and completly different from one another. Anyone who has ever messed around with a sword (me) can easially learn some new tricks and moves by just watching each characters own personal demo. I never thought video game characters would rival us in grace, although I have seen many clumsy people in my life. Each characters costume is great. I haven't seen such insane costumes like these since Final Fantasy X. I love it. The best thing about the graphics is that unlike Final Fantasy X, the character flow through battle very smoothly.
Although the backgrounds have a nice layer of beauty to them, (most of the time) the fighting field itself is unfortunatly lacking in the eye candy department. You fight in a variety of areas, but all the levels are bland and lack the great layer of depth that Power Stone has brought to the table. I know this isn't quite the same insane world of Power Stone, but I'd would have liked to see more variety in the level designs. Everything is just so flat and plain. Probably the only okay looking stage is the one up in the mountains were you are in a huge shrine, and a huge columns hold up the roof while statues and fountains can be found indoors, and the camera sometimes swings around to show you the beautiful outisde as it snows. But every other level is just sad.
But the ligthing effects are well done to say the least, seeing your fighters shadow cast on the ground, or the sun gleam in your eye when you pass by a window is great.
Sound- The sound effects are very nice and there is no way you will confuse a hit or a blocked attack just from the sound alone. The soundtrack is okay at best. The levels have some pretty nice tunes, but the only music you'll really grin at is the opening movie. Although playing as Link and fighting against someone with the classic Legend of Zelda theme song playing in the background is a great smile inducer.
Since this is nothing more than a fighting game, a huge time wasn't really spent on the voice overs. They're not bad, but I could take or leave them. Some characters voices are better than others. For example, Xianghua and Ivy's voices are rather fine, but when hearing Misurugi try his best to cooly say ''Don't cry,'' I couldn't help but laugh at that voice work.
Control- The control is designed for the Game Cube. There are buttons for horizontal, vertical, and throwing attacks. Combining these buttons togeter with directional presses may give different results. Where the best part of the Game Cube controller comes in is with the C Stick. Instead of rushing to try to hit A B and Y or whatever all at the same time, with a simple tap of the C stick in one of any four cardinal directions, will give you the same effect. So C Stick Up may mean A, B, and Y. Then C Stick left would mean A and B. In the classic words of Martha Stewart, it's a good thing.
Controlling your character is no problem, unless you're a hard core old school fanatic who wants to use the D-Pad. That's the only catch since with the orginal Game Cube controller's D-Pad is very small and hard to find. It may be hard to play this way. But this shouldn't be a problem if you find some third party controller with a bigger D-Pad. Or you could go a step further and buy an arcade control stick for the game. ''I'm looking for a joy stick. It's big and round and has a red knob on top.''
Gameplay- Everything is very polished. You start out with Arcade, VS, and Weapons master modes, which already have some sub-catergorys to those, but after just a couple of hours playing you have accumulated a large variety of playing modes from unlockables. This brings the replay value up a point or two.
The game keeps you playing for quite some time with an uncountable amount of unlockables that are mainly unlocked in Weapons Master mode. Something about unlocking character backgrounds, new weapons, new charcters, and picture gallerys just appeals to me. Did I mention new costumes? You mean Ivy can actually look hotter? Sweet! I spent many hours just playing weapons master through for the first time. It's even harder trying to beat all the levels with just one character. Namco made an attempt to add a story to this mode, but it isn't very convincing. And why are there no more CG sequences? After the first movie it's just reading some cards from then on out.
Arcade mode is fine to play through, and is highly recommended to play through with every character if you wish to unlock everything. But after quite some time of fighting, you are disapointed since all you get for your efforts are three still drawings and some text that you have to read to yourself. I wish Namco had added more CG. It would eliminate the frustration of seeing three little pictures after you've done everything.
During the fighting, the player will no longer have to memorize a combo string of fifteen well timed button presses. In this game anything can be linked to anything. It's not quite a button masher, but it sort of is in a good sense, which means anyone can play the game, but skill is still an added factor.
The one bad thing about the game is that VS mode may be the best mode for this game. Sure arcade and weapons master can wet your lips for a little while, but once I beat Arcade mode with each character, and defeated the almost laughable story in weapons master mode, there was almost little reason to go back, unless you didn't unlock everything. If you're like me who has no friends (cry) then you may be a little disapointed, but for those of you who do then I strongly suggest picking this game up.
And of course Namco included three special characters for each version of the game. So PS2 is Tekken's Heihachi, X-Box gets Spawn (yawn) and GameCube, like the lucky little devils they are, get everyones favorite left handed swordsman, Link from the Legend of Zelda. Don't get me wrong I'm sure there are fans of Spawn and (cough) Heihachi, but Link is the one that stands out by a furlong, and many people will want this version of the game the most. Link plays like a veteran, and fits into the line-up just fine (although he is great, on a personal note I somehow found Xianghua a more enjoyable character). But Link is still going to be the character that everyone goes for.
So did this game live up to all the hype surrounding it? Yes! Could it have been better? Yeah. Despite some mis-fires, this game is still great and many fighter fans will love it, but the game really does make an attempt to reach out a hand to those who have avoided them in the past. If you have some friends who will play this game with you until ol' Mother Earth dies and crumbles away, then I suggest you pick this up quick. But if you are one of many who live in a cell with your ''special'' friend Bubba (whistle) then you might want to rent this one first and make your decision then. But it is generally all around a fine game.
Replay value- Moderatly High
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/30/03
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