Review by Larcen Tyler
"Namco, your soul grows stronger with each game!"
The Soul Calibur series dates back to 1996 with the release of the game 'Soul Edge,' a 3D fighter with a medieval theme as well as weapons instead of just standard hand-to-hand combat. A few years later, Namco released the sequel titled 'Soul Calibur.' After a brief hiatus, in 2003, Namco quietly released Soul Calibur II to the arcades, which came quite as a pleasant surprise to me.
When I first played Soul Calibur II in the arcades, I must admit that I was truly taken by surprise. The original had grown redundant on me after all these years, and apparently Namco had realized that too, so they took the original game, added some new characters and some originals, upped the graphics and the sounds, added some new touches to the game, and voila: Soul Calibur II was released in the arcades. As soon as I played it, I wondered to myself, ''Where's the home version they're sure to make?'' Then came the time that I read about it being ported to all three systems, GameCube included, and I decided, ''Namco's bringing one of their best games to the GameCube, interesting!'' I also read about some of the new features, including a new mode of gameplay (which is standard for Namco's arcade to console ports,) new characters, and a whole bevy of other features. Of course, that was then and this is now.
Now that it's finally been released, I can safely say that Namco has once again pulled off another arcade-to-console port that manages to improve beyond the original arcade game, and exceeds my expectations big time!
As in the previous game, Soul Calibur II features fully rendered characters, and the amount of detail they put into the visual part of this game is breathtaking. From tidbits like articles of clothing moving realistically depending how a fighter is hit, to less subtle tidbits like individual hairs moving in the wind. Facial expressions are also well rendered, and when characters speak, their mouths move in perfect synchronicity.
Despite a few cheesy tidbits, the voice acting (which can be set to either English or Japanese) for each character is done rather well, some of whom even have famous voiceover artists (if you're a fan of anime you'll recognize some of the names!) The music for each stage is well composed and perfectly fits in with the appearance of each stage.
Let's face it, the GameCube controller just wasn't made for fighting games. However, once you get past that minor gripe, controlling your character is easy. Like in the previous games, you have two weapon attacks (one horizontal, the other vertical,) one kick attack, and the guard button. While you're not going to see any outrageous attacks like fireballs or spinning kicks that send you halfway across the arena, you've still got a variety of secret combinations, special strikes, and throws that can be accomplished using joystick and button combinations. There are quite a lot to learn in this game as well, which is why it's a good thing that the game includes an in-game reference guide and a training mode which lets you practice your maneuvers. One tidbit that I would've liked to see included in the game would be the ability to manually control the camera during replays like in the original game, but that's just me personally.
The story for Soul Calibur 2 seems to be getting a little old, but it still does the trick. The evil sword, Soul Edge (the name of the very first game) has resurfaced once again, this time appearing in shards around the world, and various warriors are setting out to find this weapon, each for their own reasons. Some of them are returning from the previous games, including samurai Mitsurugi, ninja assassin Taki, and the half-demon Nightmare, each with an array of both new and original techniques. New to this game are fighters like Yunsung, who fights very similar to Soul Edge alumni Hwang; Cassandra, the sister of alumni Sophitia; and the mysterious Necrid who is a new character made specifically for the console versions of the game.
What sets each home version aside from one another is an original character found only in that version of the game. The GameCube version features a guest appearance by none other than Nintendo's famous left-handed swordsman Link, complete with a story of how Hyrule became involved with the Soul Calibur universe.
The standard fighting modes, such as arcade, versus, survival, and time attack are all present. To give the game more replayability, however, is the unique adventure mode called 'Weapon Master' mode. You name your player, pick your character, and go through various chapters fighting in battles with different requirements (such as defeating an opponent by knocking them into a wall, keeping your footing in a windblown arena, etc.) and earn gold, which can unlock gameplay features as well as new weapons for the rest of the characters, each of which have their own unique abilities. For example, a certain sword might have a great power level, but it might be so heavy that attacking with it drains your energy. Likewise, there might be a weapon which is weak offensively and defensively, but it's quick to attack with and restores strength. The Weapon Master mode is also something you won't finish in a day or two, meaning that a lot of play time will be required for this one. Personally, I would have liked to see a version of the Conquest mode from the arcade version of Soul Calibur II, but the Weapon Master mode is more than enough.
Not to mention that there's also the added bonus of being able to play as long as you want without having to give it up for someone else who's been waiting in line for awhile, or running out of tokens for that matter either!
Even if the GameCube controller isn't exactly made for fighting games, it doesn't stop Namco from giving us a great port of a great arcade game. Give your GameCube a heart and soul and pick up Soul Calibur II today!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/23/03
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