Review by Fein

"Namco need not worry about the fate of Tekken"

Gradually, Tekken has amounted to being one of the most successful fighting games ever under the pretention that it's the most solid game on the market with it's five games being best sellers. Wrong. Soul Caliber II clearly wipes the deck with Tekken in every aspect. I believe it to be the best ever fighting game alongside the legendary Street Fighter.

The reason for this is because Tekken cannot live up to the hype whereas SC is addictive, more complex and just more alternative to Tekken in general. But the saving grace is that both are licenses from Namco, how clever. The concept would seem rushed but the gameplay is publicised further than anything else in this game, stating true to Namco's reputation that they are indeed the masters of fighting games.

Usually, the plot in this genre would be something cliched. Like in Mortal Kombat, the tournament, the Tekken tournament and Street Fighter's liason with Bison. Here, the plot is more intricate to historical characters, personalising their journey to find the Soul Edge weapon - as in their previous titles. Being character based is a great formula, because the characters in this game are all flavoured and graphically heroic.

But the plot is more novelised in the Weapons Master mode, where you take a virtual journey, indicating you, rather than the character you are playing. This lessers character innovation but is extremely interesting all the same.

Again, the characters all have their immense, detailed background in their biographies which show a more depth side to them that is actually presented whilst playing the game. Among the characters you'll find Tekken's Heihachi and Yoshimitsu, as well as longstanding favourites such as Taki, Voldo, Cervantes, Sophitia and Seung Mina. But I'm sure for some, the physical attributes of the girls will appease more than many. The fact that Taki's nipples look like weapons themselves is another matter altogether.

For the gameplay, it is just marvel. It tends to shy away from karate and hand based combat as in other titles and use weapons (as in the SC saga). When it comes to fighting, it's so surrel and realistic at the same time. Cross slashing and the weapon choreography you can demonstrate is something I have never never seen before. And it is done to perfection here. Each of the characters and their weapons has a flow of motion and their own chemistry to how they attack, move and defend themselves. The controls aren't hard to master either;

To block, it's the simple button X while you can co-ordinate high and mid level attacks with the weapon using either Triangle or Square, and a O to deliver a hearty kick to the head, chest or even groin. The R1, L1 buttons can be moderated to fix up grapple moves (also very fluent in motion and graphically well choreographed) and the Soul Charge, which bursts you with energy and allows you to pull off a consecutive of special and powerful moves.

But it's also the surroundings you fight in that make this game fun, you can throw them off the locations, slam them up against a wall and such as. To add to the stipulation, you can sometimes even moderate the size of terrain you fight on, creating more difficulty.

The undoubtedly best thing about Soul Caliber's gameplay is the Weapon Master mode. You go through a journey of missions, each of them being fights with stipulations such as time attack, life disadvantages, weapon defunctions and multiple handicaps. But doing this also gains you more epxerience and gold to buy new and more powerful weapons (which again, are also well designed). In the mode, the shop allows you also to buy more and more things such as weapon demonstrations where each character displays their fighting skills and art work, which is nice to have, expensive to buy. You'll also unlock characters in this mode too.

But the layout of arcade and extra arcade and so on was a little annoying. Basically the difference is a margin of difficulty and the fact you can use the weapons you bought. This applies for extra team battles, extra practice and etc.

And speaking of the arcade mode, it could have been a whole lot better. For starters, it is only an eight round fight, one being significant to the characters journey in the "Destiny Fight" and the boss is quite easy, and to surplus that, there is no spectactular FMV to show for your hard (hmm) work of completing this. But completing the arcade mode with the different characters will gain you their biographies.

On top of the gameplay single handedly, you have the fun choice of multiplayer.

Graphically, Soul Caliber II is toned and completely flawless. There is enhancement in the emotional and movement in the face and the motion of how each character moves and fights do so without any glitches or blocky polygons to do so. The locations are also chic and stunning, and they don't blend into a background sort of phase, they illuminate the screen just as much as the characters do. Which is a nice, and fresh new feature.

The best aspect would be the character designs though. The outfits are exhiliarating, especially Ivy's, and it's not just because she's scantily clad. Okay, I'm lying. The characters all have style and gloss about them that they could be mistaken for the lead in another game. They change from the demure and serene Talim to the more gory and disfigured Astaroth. The characters are flavoured which will dent into everyone's preferrence, unlike Tekken, which in my opinion, the graphics are bland and boring. Also, their characters are dull. Here though, is another matter altogether.

The music also backs up the historic theme of this game. It's classical, orchestra battle music which adds to the mood of the game. There is a tinge of voice acting, which is nice, especially when their fighting and you can hear them cry, shout, or wince in pain. The taunts are quite good too. The sound effects are also top notch, especially when the weapons clash with each other and the sound of being or knocking someone against the wall or the floor, as well as being kicked into the water. This is only just another strong point.

But the most notable thing about the game is that it has arrays of replay value. The hours you'll play this will vary and occur in different days. But for a straightfoward beat em up, this game serves well and could be Namco's best game yet. I think it is.

Overall, I recommend this game highly. It is the best fighting game to be seen since Street Fighter. It's interesting, addictive, mesmerising and need I say it, a lot better than the latest offerings of Tekken. And for hardcore fans of this genre, it is a must, a need and a fine stamp to the collection. Just have it sitting in front of Tekken but behind Street Fighter. Good. Enjoy.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/21/04

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