Review by NeoTS

"Remember Kids, Don't Run With Knives!"

As far as Namco fighting franchises are concerned, there is little doubt in my mind that Soul Calibur trumps Tekken in just about every way. I bought Soul Calibur 2 with the intention of keeping myself busy between my last game and the latest release. Instead, I found a game that would take me weeks to fully complete. Aside from Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, Soul Calibur 2 is the most comprehensive fighting games on the market. It's not exactly a button-masher, but if you want it to be one, it can be. It isn't like VF4 where you can't mash at all, and it's not like Tekken where mashing random buttons will give you a victory. It's somewhere right in the middle of those games. But who cares what kind of game it is right? All you want to do is take that rapier your character is holding and slam it into some poor sap's face, right? Or take that gigantic battle axe and send sucker's flying off the screen, right? Well my friend, that is perfectly understandable.

While most fighting games, try to side-step and uppercut an already boring story, SC2 go's to great lengths to entertain the players. The game focuses on several fighters all after the same goal- the Soul Edge, the sword of evil. With this sword, they could wield untold power. Some want the sword for good, others for more shady purposes. Entering the fray is a variety of characters, from the monstrous Astaroth and the delicate Talim, to the noble samurai Mitsurugi and the slightly pompous fencer Raphael. Coming to the fight empty handed is Heihachi, of Tekken fame, who is exclusive to the PS2 version of this game. Each fighter has a variety of styles, making it fun to play with every single character.

Weapons are the core of this game. The controls are simple, but make for a fun, non-complicated experience. Pressing triangle will make your character do a vertical attack, and the square is a horizontal attack. X is the block button, and circle allows the fighter to kick, which is extremely useful. It can be hard to expect a kick in a weapon's game, which is what makes it so devious. Combos can be done by pressing certain buttons in a specific pattern, but many of the more destructive flurries require pauses and a slight wait, which in turn forces the player to stop button-mashing and do it right. Holding down all three attack buttons charges up attacks, which can be used to penetrate guards or create unblockable attacks that are quite vicious. Throws are handled in Tekken-manner, by combining an attack button with the guard. The throws are very damaging, and will often turn the tide in a fight. Vertical slashes are the powerful attacks, and if it is timed right, it can destroy a horizontal attack being unleashed by the opponent, thus giving you the upper hand. What many fighting games lack, and do nothing about, is a parry and reversal system that is easy to understand and use. I am happy to say that SC2 is not one of these. By pressing guard and either left or right on the stick and timing your opponent's attack just right, you will be met with a brilliant flash of light, and the attack that was about to strike you will be stopped, stunning your opponent. This gives the player the opportunity to unleash a flurry of attacks, whether it be throws or juggles. There are certain stages that have Ring Outs, though they do not have the presence as the ones found in VF4. Very rarely will you will find yourself being thrown out of the ring, unless you're up against some of the larger characters. I think it's great that that this game has them, and it never gets old knocking your opponent off a cliff or into shark-infested water. Maybe Mortal Kombat could learn something from this game.

For those of you who just aren't satisfied with the standard Arcade or Vs. modes, there is pretty plenty for you to do in this game. There is Time Attack, Survival and a Practice mode for you to wreak havoc in. As you play in these modes, you will unlock different modes and difficulties for each. The section that will take up the biggest chunk of your time is obviously the fantastic Weapon's Master, which is where this game gets most of it's story from. This the quest for the Soul Edge, which takes you to many different cities in search of it. Along the way, you will have to complete certain missions to advance. They start off simple, like use a horizontal slash to defeat your enemy, but become more complex, like using the wall to defeat your opponent. As you complete missions, your rank increases, and you gain gold as well, which can be used to be purchase new weapons, extra costumes and galleries. Most of the extra characters are unlocked through Weapon's Master as well. The weapons you buy or find in this mode can be used in the Extra mode, which is all of the above modes, only with more weapons. Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Maybe it is, but that's what it should be. It's always challenging, and always fun. If you get bored, try raising the difficulty. See how bored you are when you get your ass handed to you by the first character in arcade mode.

This is one pretty game, especially after the relative flatness of Tekken 4. The characters could not be more different from one another, as the game blends fantasy with reality. Cervantes looks like some kind of pirate from hell, Raphael looks like a French pretty-boy, and Voldo looks like he belongs in a horror flick. Their weapons fly around the screen in a poetic chaos that looks like it belongs in high-budget action movie. In case you're wondering, there is no MK like violence in this game. All blows that connect are rewarded with that Tekken explosion of light. Charged up attacks are by far the coolest, which show fire and lightning surging through your weapon, and leap to your opponent as you strike them. The environments are very cool as hell. My favorite is the courtyard of a Japanese castle. Use the wall to crush your opponent, or send him flying off the cliff to end the fight quickly. What I like about the environments is that they are very ornate, very mythical and larger than life. There is a dungeon in the middle of a lake with seats surrounding it, a ruined city, a windmill overlooking a peaceful village, and even a temple floating in the clouds. It creates its own universe, its own world, rather than using the one that already exists. I wish I could say something about the sound in this game, but it's really nothing special. The music is a cross between classical and rock, which is all the rage in fighting games these days. The voice acting is mdeiocre to bad, which is also the rage in fighting games these days. If you've ever played a game with swords in it, then you've heard the sound effects.

Soul Calibur 2 is easily one of the greatest fighters of the PS2. If VF4 Evo didn't exist, then this would be a huge step and innovation in fighting games. It lacks a deep and comprehensive training mode, but it has a system to keep the player playing with something other than the standard stuff. Mastering a certain fighter won't take as nearly as long as one from VF4, but it is still fun, and much more challenging found in any other fighting game. If you're a fan of fighting games, then this one is a must buy. I would advocate getting this game for the PS2 rather than any other system, for the simple fact that the controller is much better for fighting games. Besides, Heihachi would pound Link.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/07/04

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