Review by NeoDeath

"The Legend Will Never Die"

Gameplay: This game is truly heir to the Soul Calibur Throne. All the controls are super tight and responsive. Rest assured, if something goes wrong, it's your fault and not the game's. The Eight-Way Run (the greatest thing to ever happen to a 3-D Fighter) is back with a vengeance. Many of the little control issues in the first game, such as ducking when you want to walk into the foreground, are addressed in this game. Nearly pointless techniques like Soul Charging are given great new life in Soul Calibur 2. The action's a lot faster this time around. It'll take a little getting used to. Be prepared from some serious ankle biting at first. Character balance has also been tweaked a bit. Kilik has slowed down, Astaroth is faster, Taki is stronger and has more range, etc. Nearly the entire cast is back, except for Hwang, Rock, and Lizardman (sorta). There are three non-playable characters (not completely non-playable, they can be used in certain missions in Weapon Master Mode). The three characters are Assassin (plays just like Hwang), Berserker (Rock), and Lizardman (duh). The only way they're playable is through the use of the Action Replay. IGN has reported that Namco says that they aren't playable but may be included in the US release. It has your standard array of modes: Arcade, Vs, Team Battle, Survival, Time Attack, and Practice. Then there's the not so standard mode, Weapon Master. In this mode you go around a map completing various missions. Upon completion you'll earn experience, gold, and, if you're lucky, a new feature (this can take the form of a new mode, character, stage, etc.). With the gold you can buy weapons, costumes, or other special features. Each character can purchase ten weapons, including an ultimate and joke weapon. I sorely miss the hundreds of pieces of art. The Art Gallery is much smaller. I also hoped that Weapon Master would be like Edge Master in Soul Blade. In Soul Blade each character had oodles and oodles of story in Edge Master Mode. Weapon Master mode is a generic story like the Mission Mode was in Soul Calibur. Onto the new characters. There's Necrid. This ugly green hulk is out of place. His moves are mainly made up of moves from other characters. To explain, his weapon is an energy sphere that takes the shape of a weapon. The weapon it becomes depends on the attack he does. His original moves are ok. Basically, he's similar Virtua Fighter 4's Dural, except balanced. Then there's Link. Of course he doesn't fit in either, but who cares, he's Link. He's really nimble and has projectiles. Some of his moves have a good amount of priority too. I wouldn't say he's unbalanced, though. Because of his projectiles, he has a very limited set of moves. He's a great addition nonetheless. Unlike Necrid, he's completely original. Then there's Sophitia and Seung Mina. Sophitia, unfortunately, is exactly the same as she was in Soul Calibur. No new moves or combos. She still plays very well and can mix it up with the newcomers and veterans. Seung Mina is also very similar to how she was in Soul Calibur. She does have a few new moves, though. The big question is ''How does it play on a GameCube Pad?'' Ok... The GameCube controller works just fine. The D-Pad is a little small but, after some play, is more than adequate. The button layout is also decent. I found pushing certain buttons at the same time troublesome; but, through the use of the triggers, I overcame most of that. I do have the X-Arcade Stick, though. Once I started playing with that, I couldn't go back to the pad. In short, the game is very playable and enjoyable with the GameCube controller. It is nearly infinitely more playable with a good Arcade Stick. Excellent Excellent game.

Graphics: When Soul Calibur came out on Dreamcast nothing could touch it when it came to graphics. Soul Calibur 2 looks very nice, but doesn't live up to its predecessor. It doesn't set a new standard like Soul Calibur did. That doesn't mean that this game doesn't look great, though. All the character models look nice, and the backgrounds are very impressive. All the weapon trails, sparks, and effects are all very pleasing to look at. The series still has some of the best animations in the genre. Characters move very realistically and fluidly. There is a slight drop in frame rate once in a while, though. It's very rare and doesn't really affect gameplay, but it's there. While there are better looking fighters (not many, but there are), Soul Calibur 2 is a pleasure to watch and doesn't disappoint.

Audio: The game sounds nice. It has a great orchestrated soundtrack, which in my opinion, is far better than Soul Calibur's (although, not nearly as good as Soul Blade's). The voices are good; although, Talim's voice is a little too sweet for my tastes. Namco has opted to use many of the original voices from Soul Calibur (which is always a plus). The clanks, slashes, thumps, and thuds are incredible. Being somewhat of an audiophile, I very quickly noticed how much more convincing the sounds that the weapons made sounded. Sword against stone, wood against floor, it all sounded pretty authentic to me. I was quite satisfied. Top this off with Dolby Pro Logic II support, and the game is quite a treat to the ears.

Replay Value: With already over 100 hours of playtime already logged on, I can attest to its longevity. There are two main things that'll keep people playing this game. One is the Weapon Master Mode. It took me a lot of hours before I unlocked all of the modes, characters, and weapons, but we all know that this is not how I spent the majority of the 100+ hours. Of course, it was spent in Vs. Battle. Like Soul Calibur before it and Soul Blade before that, Soul Calibur 2 can withstand hours upon hours of play amongst friends. I want to quote Penny Arcade's Tycho: '' fighting game caters to the waggling button-masher and the seasoned pro so well.'' This comment was made in reference to the original Soul Calibur and still holds true to this game.

Extras: Aside from the modes and characters already covered, there are some extra costumes and stages to be unlocked. All but seven characters have at least three costumes, and most of these costumes are very good. Ivy's and Voldo's are personal favorites of mine. Link has four costumes (to be fair, all of his costumes are just different colored tunics). It is a little disappointing, though, considering that only most characters have a third costume. Why couldn't Namco just go the extra couple of feet and make one for everyone? Oh well, that's life. The extra stages are also a mixed bag. They are stages seen in the Weapon Master mode. In the Weapon Master Mode, though, they were trapped (i.e. ice was slippery, standing in lava hurt, etc.). They aren't trapped in Vs, though (a little disappointing). Not very original at all. The designs are plain and the backgrounds are uninspired, for the most part. Some stages, though, are fun to play in, particularly, the caged stages. No chance for a lousy Ring Out here. Then, there are the tiny microscopic arenas. These aren't so fun to play in. One good whack could end the round in a Ring Out.

Import Friendliness: This game is very import friendly. All of the menus are in English. Players should have absolutely no problem finding their way to Vs Battle or changing settings in the options. Once you start playing, however, you realize there's more Japanese than you bargained for. All the endings are in Japanese, which is a shame because the series has a decent story. The real problem shows up in Weapon Master Mode, though. As previously stated, there are different missions with different objectives. Of course, all the objectives are in Japanese. Be expected to fumble around some matches for a while. While it's nothing too horrible, it can get frustrating to be stuck in a match because the opponent isn't taking any damage for some strange reason. The profiles and weapon profiles are also all in Japanese. That's nothing major, but once again, it'd be nice to know this stuff. Finally, the command lists are also in Japanese. Of course, the buttons are easily labeled, but many moves have notes accompanying them (ex. during hit, or delay). Luckily my limited knowledge of Japanese was enough for me to decipher all the moves, but I can picture it getting a little confusing. Overall, though, it is import friendly, especially, if it's a game a bunch of friends are playing with each other.

Closing Comments: Get the game, it's great. Importing it is relatively inexpensive, and the game is very playable as an import. However, if you are willing to save $30-$40 by waiting a few months; then by all means, do so. Just be sure you get the game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/10/03, Updated 04/10/03

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