Review by Oren Murasaki
"Soul Calibur II is a great sequel to an excellent game"
Soul Calibur hailed in its time as arguably the best fighting game ever made, scoring extremely high and delivering accordingly. Soul Calibur II was announced and advertised notoriously by Namco, and apparently the hope was to ring in many sales very quickly. This is backed up by the fact that it was released on three different systems, each one featuring a different guest character. In general, the game excels not only in its visuals but in the depth of combat, and is only occasionally plagued by button-mashing (which can be overcome) and incredible range (which can be wiggled around)
The depth in this fighting game is hailed not from the long lists of moves and combination options bringing incredible feats from each character, but from the combinations and possibilities used to make all game play elements intriguing and worthy of time. There are multiple ways to move and attack. Each character has a combination of horizontal moves. These can hit a character that is sidestepping easily. In the eight-way-run system a person can circle the opponent and run forward and back very smoothly. When circling, a horizontal blow can easily hit you, or spin you around. However, Horizontal blows can be crushed by vertical ones, and these blows can be again evaded by circling the opponent. Most vertical blows can be ducked or leapt over, as well.
Tired of the friend that just mashes buttons? With the guard impact feature you can use the guard in combination with any direction to deflect a blow and get the priority of striking back. The catch, you can be guard impact by a character thrown off balance. Guarding can't be broken but you can still be thrown off balance, and also thrown while guarding. One can avoid throws with their corresponding buttons, dodge them altogether, or even guard impact them.
The moves are numerous and are just plain awesome to look at. Most of the old combos return, and the weapon demonstrations only make them more mind boggling.
There are multiple modes from the stage-based weapons master to keep one locked for hours, to the standard arcade, to practice, to vs., to survival. Also, weapons and outfits can be bought for characters in the weapon master mode.
The amazing acrobatic feats range from Kilik practically break dancing on the opponent's head, to Yunsung doing the amazing Meteor Throw, to Ivy's delayed 180 degree heel smash . . . the list is highly populous and the options go on and on.
There is a large selection of characters of different appearance, gender, origin, personality, even species. The game takes place quite a while back, so it adds some extra tension. Returning characters include Kilik, Maxi, Sophitia, Lizard Man, Astaroth, Siegfried (Nightmare), Voldo, Seung Mina, and some others. New arrivals include Cassandra, Yunsung, Necrid, Talim, Heihachi Mishima from Tekken (PS2), Link from the Legend of Zelda series (GameCube), and last but definitely not least, Spawn from the comic book series (X Box), and a couple of others.
In weapons master, there are often special conditions that make it more challenging, and gold is awarded along with experience. Experience is just an extra feature that brings you to different titles. By completing weapon master stages, different weapons, outfits, stages, and characters can be unlocked.
Overall, the modes are numerous and deep, the fighting is very strategic and planned, and playing this game (with mention to difficulty levels from easy to extremely hard. However, if you're particularly good at fighting games you should be able to break through the guard impact feature and use it to an almost ridiculous advantage. Very long range weapons take a decent amount of skill to overcome, and a factor of cheapness is very evident, but well suppressed.
The graphics are excellent, and are shown off in the opening cinematic. The is very high and the backgrounds are detailed (sharks swim, water runs, etc.). The characters' hair will move, blow in the wind, etc. Their eyes will widen when speaking, their clothes are very detailed and properly move according to their body, and the special effects from attacks produce a very notable aspect. The flashes from blade clashes and the darkening from throwing and charge-ups are incredible.
The eyes will blink properly and are colored accordingly, the eyelashes have a surprising level of accuracy, and the weapons are very well done
The frame rate is very steady, the use of objects in the many stages is frequent, the colors and stages are varied, and the skies and lighting are done well. There can be a slight slowdown when serious guard impacting begins, but not an awful lot. The detail of the wind blowing the hair, however, is slightly overused, and every once in a while the visuals can seem totally outrageous and unrealistic due to effects of falling off and into water, but that also isn't too much of a problem.
The character voices drip with emotion and personality, and the sounds of blades hitting, deflecting, clashing, etc. are done very well. You can sense the personality from listening to Maxi's arrogance, Cervantes' sadist nature, Nightmare's anger, and Kilik's caring. The footsteps are also done well.
The music is varied and the instrumentation is superb, truly giving feeling to the place you fight. Some of the songs fail to give you the fighting hype, but most of them fit the position and aren't as noted as they ought to be. Some of the sounds such as blades clashing and reflects being made truly could have been a bit more varied, but this is a very minor shortcoming.
Overall, this game lasts a long time due to the many modes and weapons master stages of multiple levels and unlockables, even though game play can become cheap if not handled properly, and is a great sequel to an excellent game. The graphics have already been acknowledged as amazing, and the rich sounds only add. This is a great fighting game, excellent for any person even slightly interested in the genre, and, despite minor shortcomings, is just about all it is cracked up to be.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/08/04
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