Review by BakaOrochi
"Everything you can expect but..."
Don't get me wrong, I love SoulCalibur. The story is fascinating, and I've been hooked since SoulEdge/SoulBlade. The PS2 version is nothing short of the arcade at home, with a few minor infractions.
Yet, I still must say, Namco hasn't made a solid home version of the SE series since the PSX SoulEdge/Blade.
Where there's a will, there's a way. Even if you're being comboed, or popped up, there's usually a way to get out of it. Unlike Tekken, where I found myself getting frustrated at the constant ridiculous combos that took chunks off my life. Unfortunately also for this port, it features a Tekken player, Heihachi, who has some of those ridiculous combos, IMHO. His only major drawback thankfully is that his reach is one of the worst in the game.
The Guard Impact system (aka parrying) is refined much moreso that players should learn how to use or avoid them, more than SC1. And the ''clone'' characters for the most part weren't simple model swaps like in SC1, thankfully. Characters like Seung Mina and Kilik were similar, but in SC2, they have a lot more difference than than in SC1. I also expected a Hwang clone from Yunsung, but he was also given a complete makeover so that he's nothing like his master, Hwang. Sophitia, like a few people expected, is nowhere near a simple clone of Cassandra either.
When's the last time you've heard of a fighting game where the characters revolve around the story, instead of a fighting game with a weak story throw in? The story is not only rather believable and not stretching (*cough* Street Fighter *cough*), most of the characters are tied with each other somehow. And each have some history with the SoulEdge. It's not mindblowing, but it's very intriguing. Should you choose to follow along.
Since the arcade was based off the PS2 hardware, this version isn't any different. However, due to console hardware limitations, there is noticable slow-downs during scenes of tight action or with a lot of graphical effects. While it is distracting, it doesn't detract much from gameplay.
One other neat thing to note is the characters eyes/head will either always follow the camera or their opponent. And with the use, again, of motion capture, the movement of the characters have a very realistic feel to them.
The audio, as always, is top notch, orchestrated/synthesized.
There is a lot to unlock in this game, don't get me wrong.
To unlock the major elements of the game, the best way to go about it is through Weapons Master mode. This is a combination of the SoulEdge EM mode and the SC1 WM game. You can buy weapons for your character to use, similar to SE, and there are requirements for each one. However, it's not linear, just like SC1. Plus, there's not much more to unlock either. Getting the ''final weapon'' for each character doesn't require ''real'' work.
The elements of WM mode combines the aspect of the arcade's ''Conquest mode,'' in which you fight and gain points/level for your account/savegame. The only thing added to this is the ''money'' system, where you buy your unlocks.
The real problem lies with how short this is; most of the unlocks can be done in a night and a half. Then there's nothing more to unlock. Once you hit about level 75, there's not much incentive to keep going, especially after a while, the amount of points to gain another level jumps.
The unlockable characters were a refresher. But how many characters it unlocked, that was a bit up in the air. In most other Namco games, there isn't a whole lot of new characters to unlock. Yet in SC1, the cast of characters were almost literally doubled. Yet in this version, there's only an addition of 4 charaters, plus the 3 from the arcade. Namco also entices you with 3 additional CPU-only characters, which are not playable. At all.
I also felt some of the new character were not tested out enough by Namco, as they seem to lack balance.
However, it is fun when you have two players, and you choose to tinker around with the special weapons.
There just needs to be more ''major'' things to unlock. A few mini-games or more character would be great. The amount of work between unlocks would have been better for Namco's sake as well.
There's also a lot of potential for Namco to go online with this game, which would have made the game that much better, but for whatever reason, Namco opted not to (i.e. online Conquest mode).
All-in-all, it's a very solid fighter. I would not recommend renting this game; I would recommend buying it. It's a fun party game, and even though it may lack mini-games like in Tekken, it still is fun nonetheless. Plus with the cross-platforming of unique characters, it's an experience not to be missed.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/03, Updated 04/30/03
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