Review by RedSox1981

"Excellent fighter, yet...."

When Soul Calibur was first released for the ill-fated Dreamcast in 1999, it was quickly deemed as one of the greatest fighters of all time. Honestly, it was hard to say otherwise. Using a weapons-based system, a variety of fighting styles, and eye-poppingly beautiful graphics, it set a standard for all fighting games which many people feel still has to be matched to this date.

When Namco announced it was a working on a sequel, the hype machine was turned on to full blast, and fans of the previous Soul Calibur (and its oft-forgotten ancestor, Soul Edge) wringed their hands in anticipation over the release for the new title. Considering how revolutionary the first Soul Calibur was, gamers debated on what new features would be included in the new title.

Now, here we are, and Soul Calibur 2 has finally been released to the masses. The new title plays very similarly to the old one, and that might be its biggest problem. Oh, it's still a great game when it stands alone, but under the looming shadow of the first Soul Calibur, you expect something totally mind-blowing, but it just isn't there.

The storyline for Soul Calibur 2 takes place four years after the first one. Just when you think the evil sword has finally been destroyed, it comes back again. There are several returning characters (Ivy, Maxi, Astaroth, Nightmare, Kilik, Taki, Voldo, Mitsirugi, Xianghua, and four others that have to be unlocked through the Weapon's Master Mode...more on that below). There are several new characters as well (Heihachi in the PS2 version that I am reviewing, Necrid the Todd McFarlane created character, Talim, Cassandra, Yunsung, Raphael, and one other that gets unlocked through the aforementioned Weapons Master Mode).

The game plays like a charm. One added new feature is that a few of the stages now have walls on some sides, allowing you to inflict more damage if you happen to knock your opponent into one. You still have to keep wary of losing by a Ring Out, although they don't seem to happen nearly as frequently as the last game, at least from what I can garner. Fighters use different stances and they all have different styles. You have your Soul Charges, your Guard Impacts, Mid-Air Juggle Combos and the like. In fact, if you played the first one, you're going to know how to play this game already. Which can be a problem if you're expecting the next revolutionary step forward in weapons-based fighters. However, new fans to the series will probably love it anyway, and it's such a minor quibbling point considering it's a still a great game.

There are several game modes. You have your Arcade mode, the standard ''Beat up a series of opponents until you get to the boss.'' Two Player allows you to...well...have a second player fight against you. Time Attack allows you to try to beat the game as fast possible. Survival runs like a gauntlet, where you keep on fighting until you lose. Team Attack lets you assemble a team of fighters to do battle with another team (can go anywhere from 1-on-1, 8-on-8, or 1-on-8). There's also a Practice mode that allows you to test out some moves before trying to attempt them in a real-battle.

And of course, there's Weapons Master Mode. For those who played the first game, it runs a lot like Mission mode, so you already know what it's about. For the new players, here it is: Weapon's Master Mode is a very RPG-ish game where you fight a series of battles on a map that have certain conditions. Some battle have strong winds that try to blow you off the stage, others have you sinking in quicksand, and some allow you to only claim victory by a Ring Out. After you finish a battle, you gain a certain amount of gold and EXP (you still gain some if you lose the battle, but not as much as if you win). You can use the gold to buy items such as third costumes for some characters, and weapons for your characters to use in certain modes. Each weapon has a different quality from the standard weapon you start out with, such as breaking defense. This adds a layer of depth to the game that wasn't in the first one.

Graphically, this game looks very similar to its Dreamcast father as far as the character models go. The backgrounds and arenas do look much better on the PS2 than they did on the Dreamcast. You see hair flowing and clothing ripple as your character moves about. However, there is some slow-down if the action gets close to the camera, but it is short-lived and doesn't hinder the gameplay any. Some of the other graphical effects aren't so good, such as the splash of water you see in certain Ring Outs (it looks more like a PSX effect than PS2).

Soundwise, this game is very good. You hear Nightmare's armor clink as he walks. When sword meets sword, you hear a sharp sound that you would expect. Some of the sounds they used were directly ripped from the Dreamcast version. The characters have English voices this game, and while some of them are a little cheezy (I'm looking at YOU, Yungsung), they're all generally done extremely well. For those who don't like the English voices, you can change them into the Japanese voices in the Options menu.

Overall, Soul Calibur 2 is a great game that is worthy of the series. However, a few may be mildly disappointed to discover that there's not really enough advances in the gameplay that set it apart from the first one. Still, even by itself, it's a excellent fighting game and well worth your dollar.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/10/03

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