Review by Kenshi
"Lives Up to its Predecessor"
Soul Calibur II is the great sequel to the amazing game Soul Calibur. Although it is not a huge improvement as Soul Calibur was, it still is an excellent game nonetheless. Sporting new characters and new stages, it is a worthwhile game nonetheless.
One of the main strong points regarding Soul Calibur was its incredible graphics. Shadows follow each character realistically, down to each strand of hair. Lighting effects follow each attack and movement beautifully. Even tiny graphic touches such as facial expressions are done incredibly well, and the motion captured characters move like they were real.
However there are quite a few flaws. One extremely noticeable problem is slowdown. This is very apparent with Ivy, when she does certain attacks. Frame Rate drops and general slowdown are apparent. Some slight pixilation can be noticeable if you look close enough, but in regular game play that is barely noticeable.
Still, the graphics are top grade. Even minor touches such as Taki's nipples poking through her red tight suit can be seen, as well as the popular Dead or Alive invented jiggling bosoms.
The controls follow a very simple layout. In fact the controls can be summed up with four buttons for all the attacks. Yet the customability of the controls is also good. Even though the A+B or A+K attacks can be tough to press on the standard controller, one can assign it to the shoulder buttons for ease of use.
The analog stick is recommended, although for some diagonal attacks it tends to miss. Still, the controls are responsive and the combo input system works well. To be honest though, it is quite difficult for a game to have problems with its controls.
The music for the game is excellent. Although not as catchy as the original Soul Edge, it follows more closely to the orchestral themes found in Soul Calibur. A collection of dramatic themes follow each stage, following the atmosphere extremely well.
Sound effects wise, the game does deliver. Each clang and cling for each weapon clash sounds off clearly. From each footstep to the splash to a ring out, the sound effects are done very well. The character voices are also done well, with up to 100 different voice track samples. I don't know about the English version, although they do sound rather lame in the arcades.
The main selling point of Soul Calibur was the excellent game play system. The introduction of Guard Impact allowed the nullifying of button mashers, and the new 8-way run system allows for unparalleled mobility and evasion around the ring. In Soul Calibur 2 though it seems to have been sped up much more quickly, allowing characters to dodge attacks to the side at a much quicker speed. The AI seems to love doing this a lot.
Regarding the Artificial Intelligence in the game the AI does seem rather average. They easily fall for simple attacks and patterns, down to the point of embarrassment. On higher levels though, they do put up some strong competition, but still falling for the same attacks and patterns.
Characters have faced changes as expected, and some characters facing quite major changes. Ivy for example, has been strengthened considerably with several new stances and modes with her Valentine Sword. Some attack inputs have been changed, but most characters tend to have a few new moves. However, this does not imply there is a Capcom level of imbalance in game play. The characters tend to be rather well balanced, where any character has virtually equal chance of defeating another.
In addition to the Arcade mode, the console versions include the traditional modes such as Weapon (Edge) master mode as well as the slew of Time attack or Survival modes. Although the AI is probably the most lacklustre in the Weapon Master mode, it does allow for the unlocking of new modes, characters, costumes and weapons. Speaking of which, returning from Soul Edge, characters now have up to 10 different weapons of different abilities available for regular game play, albeit in the new ''extra modes'' which boasts a slightly better AI and features found in Weapon Master Mode.
However, characters such as Assassin (a character based closely to Hwang,) Lizardman, and Berserker (character based on Astaroth) are only available on Weapon Master Mode, and can only be fought against in the ''Extra Modes.'' Furthermore, they are not available for use, except for certain Weapon Master Missions in which you can use Lizardman for two missions (four if you count replay mode.)
As many will know, each different version will have a different unique character. Xbox versions will boast Spawn and his Battleaxe, whilst Gamecube owners will get Link. Playstation 2 owners will get to use Heichachi. Compared to other versions though, the Playstation 2 version seems to be the weakest in terms of graphics.
Overall, as its famous reputation implies, the gameplay system is one of the best out. With a well designed learning curve and extremely deep gameplay, Soul Calibur 2 is a must own for any fighting game enthusiast as well as Playstation Two owner.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 04/03/03, Updated 06/08/03
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