Review by Xenon

"Link and the Soul crew take duke it out on a GameCube near you"

Perhaps the most hyped release of 2003, Soul Calibur II has finally come home from the Arcades to hit the home console systems. All the home console systems, as a matter of fact, the Playstation 2, Gamecube, and X-Box. For you GameCube owners, do Link and the rest of the Soul Calibur crew live up to their high expectations? Well, yes, but so did the original Soul Calibur.

Gameplay

I have to get this out of the way first…

Even though most of you know this already, Soul Calibur II is the sequel to the highly successful and praised Soul Calibur, which came out for the ill-fated Dreamcast. The Soul Calibur series started out with the arcade Soul Edge. The arcade game was followed up by Soul Blade for the PSX. Soul Edge and Soul Blade were the same game, but with different names. Soul Calibur was the next on the Dreamcast. Now, in 2003, we get the latest installment, Soul Calibur II.

To use a classic gaming analogy, Soul Edge was Street Fighter II, Soul Blade; SFII: CE, Soul Calibur; SFII: Turbo, and SCII; Super Street Fighter II. There's just not that much difference between the games. If you've played any of the previous games in the series, you've almost played this game.

What I'm trying to get at here is NOT that SCII is a bad game, or that the gameplay is boring, it's just the SAME as the original. SCII probably should just be SC: Some Edition. But I digress, I just wanted to warn everyone straight out. Now that that's taken care of.

The Soul Calibur series is the premier weapons fighter series. SCII on the GameCube continues this tradition excellently. Featuring 20 original characters with many individual moves and combos, you can spend hours upon hours exploring the different modes of SCII. While you are familiar with many of the modes, especially the trivial ones (i.e. Time Attack, Survival, Vs.), I'll explain the two biggest modes, Arcade and Weapon Master.

Arcade mode plays through just like the game would if you were at an Arcade playing at a Soul Calibur II Arcade machine. Pick a character, fight six random opponents, fight a seventh ''destined'' opponent, kick Inferno's tail, watch ending, watch credits. Nuff' Said.

Weapon Master mode is what Namco intends for you to play through in the home version of Soul Calibur. You will travel through ten levels, each comprised of different stages, or fighting madness. Rarely will it just be ''Fight against this one opponent'', normally, there are special conditions that are attached to each stage. Some times you'll have a very short time limit, Or you're health will start low, or maybe the enemies' weapons will stun you. Also, you're normally forced to fight about 3-6 opponents at once. It's like a mini survival mode. Also, you earn money for completing stages in weapon master mode. With enough money, you can buy new weapons for your characters, new costumes, or new modes. Also, Weapon Master mode is how you'll unlock the game's hidden characters and extra modes. The extra modes are identical to their corresponding normal modes (i.e. Arcade, Time Attack) except that you can use the weapons that you bought in Weapon Master Mode. Even better, after you complete weapon master once, you can play through it again on the hard mode it sets up.

SCII is a very fun game to play. Especially when there's a human opponent to beat the stuffing out of. Link actually fits in without looking too out of place (he uses a sword, geez). Also, despite the GameCube's funky controller, Soul Calibur II controls really well. The controller was one of my biggest concerns, and I was impressed by the fluidity of the controls.

I also have a minor irritation with Inferno regarding the new characters. Apparently, Namco didn't feel like going back are reprogramming Inferno with the new characters. Inferno won't imitate Link or Necrid. Charade also has this problem. Not really important, but a minor irritation.

All in all, the biggest problem Soul Calibur II has is that, in a lot of ways, it's just a rehash of the original Soul Calibur. Of course, the original Soul Calibur was one of the best fighting games of all times, but still.

Another major pro/con to Soul Calibur II is how easy it is to just pick up and play. New players can pick up a controller and they probably won't just get beaten down. They'll be able to stand a fighting chance. This is great for players who are new to the series or genre. The problem is that even if you play a lot and get very good with a character or at the game, a newbie can just pick up a controller, pick a character like Nightmare (who is, in all honesty, n00b friendly) and slam you and all your expertise into the dirt. It's frustrating. Expert players should still win most of the time, but it's always possible to just get your rear kicked but some novice. Trust me, it happen to me.

Story/Characters

The legendary sword Soul Edge has been hunted for ages, ________ has it, go get/destroy (pick one) it because ______________________(insert reason there).

Ok Namco, It was good the first time, and you progressed the story along in the second one, but this time it makes no sense. I was disappointed by the story. Basically, all they said was that they thought that Nightmare and the Soul Edge were destroyed, but they weren't. Go fix what you screwed up the first time. It could have been ok if they would've given some explanation as to HOW all this occurred.

Also, SCII suffers the same thing that plagued DOA2: Hardcore, but takes it a step further. Each character has some sort of story, but you only get it from the Seventh Arcade stage and the ending. I would have appreciated having a few more set battles for the characters. It would help develop them more appropriately. As it is, you have just a bare bones story. *sigh* Story just isn't SCII's strong point.

The Character line-up in SCII is also quite different from it's predecessor. There have been both character additions and character removals.

Cassandra, Yunsung, Raphael, Necrid, and Link (at least in the GameCube version) are all new to the series. Charade is also added, but, well, I'll get to him later. Siegfried (my fav :[ ) , Hwang, Rock, and the Edge Master have been completely removed, and Sophitia, Sueng Mina, Cervantes (again), Yoshimitsu (again), and Lizardman have all been made into hidden characters. However, unless they were your favorite character, you won't miss them. Why? Because they are just repetitive character models in the cases of Siegfried, Edge Master, and Rock, and Hwang has been replaced with Yunsung.

Graphics

What do I have to say about graphics? Ooooo, look at the pretty colors. No, really, look! If Soul Calibur is anything, it is graphically wonderful. While the style isn't a major update since the original, the details are much better. The graphics of Soul Calibur II are very sharp and crisp, like the gameplay. The only thing I didn't like were the character faces. It doesn't seem like they translated well from illustration to game. Oddly enough, it's just the character's faces. A few come out fine though (Asteroth, for example.)

Music and Sound

If this were an RPG soundtrack, I'd been sorely disappointed. However, it's NOT an RPG, it's a fighting game. Soul Calibur II's soundtrack is perfect for a fighting game. It has a good rhythm to keep up with a fighting game's mood, but it isn't distracting. Some of the songs I didn't care for, but that's just a matter of personal taste. For the most part, they were good.

Since it is a fighting game, you get the usual assortment of bone-cracking and body mashing sounds. They all sound pretty good, but this is one of those things that you only notice if it's bad or exceptionally good. It was good, but, after all, it's just a few SFX.

The Voice acting of Soul Calibur II is rather hit and miss. Some of the lines of some of the characters sound good. However, other lines have serious problems. Issues such as odd translations and awkward pauses are too frequent. It also depends on what character you choose. I found almost all of Sophitia's lines to be well delivered and translated, on the other hand, I found almost none of Mitsurugi's to be good. Of course, you could just switch to Japanese. Then you'll just be too ignorant to know the difference!

Replay

With many different modes and several characters to choose from, Soul Calibur II should keep you busy for a while. Weapon Master Mode offers MANY items to collect, so it could take a while to clear all of that.

Summary

Pros

+++ It's just good old, plain, fun
++ Variety of Characters
+ Fair amount of unlockables

Cons

-- We've seen this before, haven't we?

In reviewing this game, I was faced with a difficult dilemma, ''Should a sequel get counted off by comparison to the original?'' On one hand, you could say that you should review the game and only the game, regardless of how good/bad other games are. On the other hand, since it IS trying to follow a brand name, it should have to live up to or surpass its predecessors. In the end, I would say that limited comparison is best.

Since I decided this, I'm forced to give Soul Calibur II for the GameCube a 9. On its own, Soul Calibur II deserves a ten, however, it just doesn't have enough changes to the original. Is it a better game than the original? Most definitely. Is it as impressive? No. The original, was, fairly original. Soul Calibur II just doesn't quite feel quite as much so.

Soul Calibur II is a definite must-buy. You just have to decide whether you want it for the PS2, GCN, or X-Box. Of course, If you only own one system, your decision is made for you.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/30/03


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