Review by swfan10

"Greatest Fighter Ever? No, but it still delivers"

Let me begin this review by saying no, Soul Calibur 2 is not the greatest fighter ever. Truth be told, that honor still belongs to its predecessor, Soul Calibur. But it is the best fighter on the PS2, which is quite a title to hold.
Let me start off by saying that I began my Soul Calibur playing back in 1999, and I have been hooked ever since. I put in roughly one hundred fifty hours into that Dreamcast title, and I was playing it up until the release day of Soul Calibur 2. Soul Calibur was perfection on every level. The graphics were astounding, the game play was flawless, and everything just seemed to fit into place. I was never bored playing that game.
Now here we are, Soul Calibur 2 is out, and I am quite sure there are plenty of fans that are a tad disappointed. Am I one of those fans? No, but I am a little let down by some minor aspects that could have easily been tweaked before the game came out.

This is the best-looking fighter on the PS2, period. The characters look amazing, have great detail, and move fluidly. Their outfits from a graphical standpoint are fantastic, but I will touch on those later. The arenas as well are very well done, an improvement even over the amazing arenas from Soul Calibur.
Overall, this game looks great, but I have to sight my biggest complaint with this game in this category, and that is one thing I can’t stand: slowdown. The first few rounds I played, I encountered one slow down every other round. Is it noticeable? For me it is, and it is inexcusable. We are talking about one of the most powerful systems on the market, and there is slowdown? I honestly do not know the reason why Namco did not fix this problem, but thankfully it does not affect the game play significantly.

I enjoyed the soundtrack in Soul Calibur. I thought it was done well and really captured the feel of 16th century combat. I love the soundtrack for Soul Calibur 2. The score is great, and really captures that “epic battle” feel.
Namco has deemed it right to recycle the same sound effects from Soul Calibur (which were recycled from Soul Blade). This is not a bad thing as the sounds are great. No complaints from me.
Let me give you a tip: listen to the English voices for a few rounds, and then immediately change it to Japanese. The English voices become extremely annoying, and can grate of nerves if you listen to them for too long.
Overall the sound is great, and does not let down at all.

Game play
This category is what set Soul Calibur apart from every fighter before it, and it continues with Soul Calibur 2. The fighting system is set up of four main buttons: vertical attack, horizontal attack, kick, and block. Like every other fighter you press combinations of those buttons with conjunction with the directional pad and your character performs certain moves and or combos. Basically, the fighting system is perfect when dealing with weapons combat, and there was no need to fix anything in Soul Calibur 2.
Other than those four basic buttons, there is the almighty 8-Way run. The 8-Way run allows you to basically circle your opponent, giving you full access to any attack angle. No fighting game has ever been able to duplicate the fluidity of Soul Calibur’s 8-Way run. Soul Calibur 2 continues that fine legacy with bringing a very smooth 8-Way run to the table, one of the best parts of the Soul Calibur fighting system.
Basically, Soul Calibur’s game play is flawless. It is easy enough that fighting game newcomers can have fun with it, but it is deep enough that it takes a while to master. (Believe me, I know. Even after 150 hours, I still have not come close to mastering it). It creates a smoothness to the game not had in any other fighting game, and it is just, perfect.

I am all about the game that has plenty to unlock. I mean, when I pay 50 bucks for a disc, I want to get some of my money back with a lot of unlockables. Well, Soul Calibur 2 does not disappoint. Weapon Master Mode-a mode in which you go from mission to mission unlocking gold and gaining experience-is the core of the single player experience. There are over 200 weapons to unlock, as well as costumes, arenas, and other play modes. There are also 8 characters to unlock, but I will touch of these extras later.
Overall, Soul Calibur 2 will give you the extras you want, but I think it will not supply enough for the long haul. Once you’ve unlocked those weapons and other extras, that is it, nothing more.

Replay Value
Your first ten to fifteen hours are going to go to Weapon Master mode, and maybe another five to ten will go to earning records in all of the play modes, but then it is up to you. For me, I am always trying to get the top records in every mode, which can be time consuming. For others, this just isn’t their cup of tea. But, if you have friends who are into this game, you can really get a lot of hours in versus mode.
Overall, this game will last in your PS2 as long as you want it to. If you feel like you’ve done all that you can, then it will go on the shelf and probably never come out save for once in a while. But if you keep fighting with your friends or trying to better your records, it might be around for quite a while.

My complaints
Ok, so now it is time to get unbiased, and say what needs to be said about this game. Like I said, this game falls short of upping Soul Calibur. While it is an amazing game by itself, when compared to its predecessor, it hits par, and that is about it.
As mentioned before, the graphical slowdown is my biggest complaint. I can tolerate it, but it still disappoints me that this flaw could not have been fixed. Namco seemed to overlook this error, and I quite honestly do not understand how they did.
Secondly, Namco did not make any great strides to improve the character roster. With some new additions like Talim and Yunsung, you still have those dud characters like Charade and Necrid. I do not know what Namco was thinking bringing Necrid into this game; he does not fit at all. But, I will say one positive thing dealing with the roster, and that is Heihachi. I was very skeptical about him being the only non-weapon combatant in an all weapons fighter, but he is a very nice addition. Namco did do a good job bringing him over, and he is well balanced against the other fighters.
My third complaint is dealing with costumes. Not even all of the characters have a third costume, which I deem unacceptable. Even the third costume of most of the characters are not even that great, except for one; and that is Nightmare’s third costume: Siegfried himself. Other than that, the third costumes are uninspired, and seem to be thrown in as simply something else to unlock. Namco seemed very lazy in this area.

Soul Calibur 2 is basically Soul Calibur with a few polishes, and some smudges. Soul Calibur remains the greatest fighting game of all time, but its sequel will be considered one of the best in its genre in the years to come. Soul Calibur was revolutionary, while Soul Calibur 2 simply sticks with the tried and true, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Namco stuck with the overall formula from the original, and it works, but Namco seemed to slack off in other areas, figuring Soul Calibur 2 will sell anyways. The truth is; it will sell like hotcakes because it was hyped to death. The premium characters with each console will propel it to greatest game status easily. In some ways this hype is good in that it will get enough sales to warrant a sequel, but it could be that because Namco could have just found a cash cow they can simply milk with sub par products every two years, but time can only tell whether or not that will happen.
Soul Calibur 2 is a must buy for fighting game fans, and should be rented for non-fighting game fans-who knows, you might like it. But in comparison to the original, it does not best it; it simply gives more of the same with a few upgrades. You cannot improve upon perfection, and this game proves that.

Score Summary

Graphics-Great other than the slow down-9.3/10
Sound-Amazing musical score and the great weapon sounds-10/10
Game play-Perfect. Just absolutely perfect-10/10
Extras-Enough to keep you busy for a time, but may grow stale-9.7/10
Replay Value-Two player is endless, and single player can be endless-9.5/10

Overall (not an average): 9.4

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/28/03

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