Review by darkknight109

"A legend returns to shame the competition"

Flashback a few years ago to when Dreamcast was still in business and a little gem of a game came out of Namco, causing no small amount of “oohs and aahs”. The game was Soul Calibur, a 3D fighter that took the gaming world by force. The graphics were gorgeous, the gameplay incredible, and the story unforgettable. Not a big fan of fighting games, I originally passed Soul Calibur in the stores without so much as a backwards glance. However, one can only stick one's head in the sand for so long, and eventually I rented and tried the game, expecting little more than “just another fighter.” Boy, was I wrong. Upon my return of the rental copy, I promptly bought myself Soul Calibur and it still sits next to my Dreamcast as one of those rare masterpieces that overcome the test of time and stand as a game never to be forgotten. Sadly, a little while later SEGA went belly-up and the future of Soul Calibur was in question. Flash-forward to August 28th, 2003. Soul Calibur II came out for the Gamecube and I hastily made my way to my local video game store to pick it up. I bit my lip nervously as I popped the mini-disc into my Gamecube. Would the sequel live up to it's predecessor's name, or would it simply be another ho-hum sequel that earned itself the title of “an okay game…” or would it *shudder* become one of those games notorious for it's appalling performance. Well, after a thorough playing through, I am happy to report that Soul Calibur II faithfully follows in its predecessor's path

Graphics: 10/10

The graphics in this game defy description. It seems, at times, like one long FMV sequence. The motion is smooth as silk and the actual models are detailed down to individual hairs. The backgrounds do not want for detail, either, and every stage is just oozing with detail and atmosphere. This game, much like the other installments in the Soul Calibur series, serve as some of the most beautiful games of the generation.

Music: 8/10

The music is gorgeous, especially for a fighting game. Ultimately, this isn't a game I'd go out and buy the soundtrack to, but listening to the fully orchestrated songs always sets the mood for a good battle. As an added bonus, Soul Calibur veterans will recognize the theme from the museum in the original tucked into the game. That song is absolutely amazing!

Story: 9/10

Again, this is pretty in depth for a fighting game. Veterans of the series will know the drill by now; Soul Edge, a demonically possessed sword with incredible power has been stirring up trouble in the 16th century world again, and it's up to you to find it for your own purposes, be they using it to save a nation, destroying it all together or for some good old-fashioned world domination. In Weapon Master mode (which I'll get into in a second) you follow a much more in-depth storyline, revolving around your quest for Soul Edge starting with your training and ending with…well… I won't give that away. Ultimately very well pulled off.

Multiplayer Gameplay: 10/10

It's Soul Calibur, do you really need any explanation? Well, if you're reading this review then I guess you do. Soul Calibur is a 3D fighter, like many other 3D fighters. You can move in 8 directions, attack and block. Typical fighter stuff. However, unlike most fighters, Soul Calibur II (and it's predecessors for that matter) make extensive use of weapons, ranging from swords to axes to staffs to whip-swords to nunchuks, while projectiles are virtually non-existent. This makes the game more interesting, as you need to pick your personal preference so that you have the balance between speed, range and power that fits your needs best. To beat your opponent, you can either drop their health bar to zero, or knock them out of the ring. A nice touch that the Soul Calibur series adds is the ability to keep hitting your defeated opponent for a few seconds after their dead. A great way to rub your victory in the faces of friends and/or rivals to drive your victory home.

A new feature to the series is that of walls. Some stages now have walls around some or all of the arena. These walls can be used to smash people into, allowing you to continue a combo a little further. Unfortunately, the collision detection of the walls is sketchy at best, meaning they are actually fairly tricky to use properly. That said, they do add a nice variety into the game instead of having each arena unwalled on all four sides.

Soul Calibur II returns a feature from Soul Blade, that did not appear in the original Soul Calibur: the ability to unlock new weapons for each character. Each weapon has certain strengths and weaknesses that add an element of strategy into selecting your weapon. Some might be good at blocking, but suck life out of your health bar with every swing. Others may perhaps restore your health, but have poor attacking power. This shows a depth of strategy rarely seen in fighters where button mashers can reign supreme. In Soul Calibur, only the skilled can pull off a victory. Simply put, words cannot convey the sheer exhilaration a Soul Calibur II round brings. Play it for yourself and you'll see what I mean.

1-Player Gameplay: 8/10

This is the part of any game that pays off for me, as I live in the country with my nearest friend a 15 minute drive away. But, this is a fighter, a game that's supposed to be for two people, right? Right. That said, for a game focused on multi-player action, Soul Calibur II has a lot for you soloists out there. First off, there is Arcade mode: The standard equipment in almost every fighting game. In this one, you face 8 increasingly difficult opponents in your quest for Soul Edge. In Survival mode, you face an endless stream of opponents with a single life bar that slightly replenishes itself after each match. Your opponents get harder as the round numbers get higher and the goal is to see how far you can get. The aforementioned Weapon Master mode adds a whole new twist to the game. Instead of just fighting an opponent, each level has various twists that make the fight more interesting. Maybe the floor is covered with explosives, causing damage whenever you fall, or perhaps you've been poisoned, causing your life-bar to slowly deteriorate. Maybe your opponent is invincible and has to be destroyed with a ring-out or maybe you have to defeat five opponents before the timer runs out. These are only a few of the many, MANY missions that face you in Weapon Master Mode.

The Bad Stuff:
As close to perfect as Soul Calibur II comes, there is one thing that does stick out.

“You're in pain…it's painful, isn't it?”

The video game industry never ceases to amaze me on this front. You would think with the millions they are spending on these games, they would hire a decent translator. The dialogue, in particular the pre-battle trash talk that goes on between the fighters, gets very cheesy at some points. While this doesn't really detract from the actual gameplay, it will induce wincing when you hear it. Do yourself a favour and play the game with the language set to Japanese. It sounds much more impressive this way. At least if the lines are cheezy, you won't be able to tell.

Summary: Soul Calibur II is an amazing game that does not in any way leave you wanting. Truly a king amongst fighters and a welcome addition to any Gamecube owner's library. May the Legend Never Die!!

Rent or Buy: Definitely buy. Even if you aren't a fan of fighters, this game will blow your socks off.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/01/03, Updated 10/09/07

Game Release: SoulCalibur II (US, 08/27/03)

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