Soul Calibur II
By: Matt C. on September 18, 2003
I hate to admit it, but I never stepped into the arena when Soul Calibur arrived on the Sega Dreamcast several years ago. For those of you who never really kept up with the Dreamcast, the first Soul Calibur was hailed as the best weapon-based fighting game of all time from the majority of the gaming community.
Amazingly, after more than three years, Soul Calibur II has managed to follow in its big brother's footsteps. That's right, believe the hype, because Soul Calibur II really is one of the best fighting games on the market right now. Is it better than Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution? Well, lets just say that the difference in quality of both games comes down to red and green apples. It depends on who you ask. However, assuming that you enjoy fighting games, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you'll love Soul Calibur II.
This game is also available on the Xbox and GameCube, and unfortunately, the PS2 version is the worst of the bunch. Not only is the PS2 version not up to par with its competitors in terms of graphics, but we are also stuck with Heihachi as an "exclusive" character, who is also playable in Tekken 4. GameCube and Xbox owners get Link and Spawn (respectively), who are less played out in weapon-based fighting games, and are simply more likeable characters. There are well over 20 other characters to choose from (with 3 of them not found in the Japanese version), so the fact that Link and Spawn are missing from the PS2 version didn't bother me all that much.
Soul Calibur II consists of eight game modes, which includes arcade, versus battle, time attack, survival, team battle, versus team battle, and a practice mode. All of the game modes are fairly self-explanatory and standard in modern fighting games -- even the Weapon Master mode, which has you going on a quest to complete missions and collect weapons along the way. Not only do you earn weapons, but "Weapon Master" also gives you the opportunity to unlock new characters and extra modes, which are extensions of pre-existing modes. All in all, Weapon Master mode should provide a decent number of hours worth of enjoyment, although Soul Calibur veterans will probably find it to be too easy and boring.
As for the actual gameplay, Soul Calibur II is an easy game to pick up and play when you have a few friends over during lazy weekends. However, that's not that say that this game lacks depth and strategy. There are plenty of techniques to master in SCII, including guard impacts, reverse guard impacts, 8-way run, air control (used to help prevent cheap juggling attacks), soul charges, and more. Not to mention that you need to learn how to anticipate and dodge horizontal and vertical attacks if you wish to be successful in Soul Calibur II.
Sadly, Soul Calibur II's visuals do not have the same impact as its predecessor (yes, I've seen the first game in action; I just have not played it). Don't get me wrong, the game looks quite nice, but don't expect the same magic that the original offered. With that said, I still love the fluid animations and the detailed backgrounds found in many of the stages, although the actual fighting area of some arenas are too wide open and empty for my tastes. Anyway, throw in some nice special effects and Soul Calibur II turns out to be one of the nicest looking PS2 games out there (especially if your TV can support progressive scan).
In conclusion, Soul Calibur II is simply a fighting game fans' wet dream. The only problem some people may face is the fact that the game is best played with another person. The Weapon Master mode is simply not deep enough to keep most people playing SCII solo for a long period of time. With that in mind, I still highly recommend Soul Calibur II. In fact, if you are in a need of a PS2 fighting game, stop whatever you're doing and purchase this title immediately!
Note: The PS2 version comes with a bonus disc, with playable demos of kill.switch and I-Ninja -- in addition to Namco game movies and memory card downloads.