Review by Wolf Feather

"Review from a Novice of Fighting Games"

My area of expertise is in racing games, but I do occasionally look outside the genre to other games. Soul Calibur II caught my eye, primarily because I had seen several CosPlay images of various characters from the series, and was wondering about their ''origins.'' Even though I am generally terrible at fighting games, Soul Calibur II has me in its exquisite trance.

The most important aspect of Soul Calibur II for novices of the fighting genre is the playability. Fortunately, it is quite easy to attain a good measure of success immediately in Arcade Mode on the Easy difficulty setting. This is definitely important to help boost the novice's confidence. Some gameplay modes do not have a difficulty option, however, which will force the novice to become better and better in the other gameplay modes by increasing the difficulty level as experience and confidence improves.

Another great aspect of Soul Calibur II is the number of characters. From the beginning, the player has an awesome array of characters from which to choose - as many characters are initially available in this game as the TOTAL number of characters in other games. The characters are well-designed, their outfits all generally quite interesting visually, and their clothing and hair (and, where warranted, breasts) all move fluidly and realistically with NO slowdown in framerate despite all the action on the stage and the movement off-stage (such as flowing water).

The environments are spectacular, and each is typically associated with one of the characters in the game. Even better, once Arcade Mode has been beaten with a particular character, that character's profile can be viewed, which allows the player to learn more about that environment (and also more about the character). While all the action takes place upon a stage, even the scenery well in the distance is breathtaking. Most stages also have at least one side ''open,'' creating the possibility of a Ring Out; while a Ring Out is often difficult to attain, it is a wonderful strategic aspect of the game.

The music in Soul Calibur II is absolutely astounding. Aurally breathtaking yet non-intrusive, it is worth buying or at least renting the game for the music alone.

As for replay value, the many different gameplay modes ensure that the player will be having fun (and some frustrations) with the game for a long time. The most interesting gameplay mode is Weapons Master Mode, essentially an RPG mode with an unfolding storyline. Fortunately, the storyline is not necessarily linear, and it also involves some interesting sidequests which can unlock more features in the game (such as new weapons and characters). Perhaps the best part of Weapons Master Mode, however, is that any available character can be used, with character changes permitted so long as the change does not occur within a dungeon level. The ability to change characters is important, as each character has particular strengths and weaknesses; depending on the required task for a given battle, certain characters will be better than others, causing the player to make some strategic choices.

Overall, Soul Calibur II is quite friendly for the novice of fighting games. Perhaps only the Tekken series is easier for newcomers to or novices of the genre, although the Tekken series does not really have the breadth of characters seen in Soul Calibur II. The overall gaming experience is first-rate, and the gameplay fast and addictive. The only true downside is that there is no blood in the game, which is both disappointing and unrealistic for a sword-based fighting game. However, Soul Calibur II is definitely worth at least a rental by every serious gamer.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/07/03

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