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SoulCalibur II (Xbox) artwork

SoulCalibur II (Xbox) review

"Soul Calibur 2 has been Namcoís recent big hits, aside from the earlier Tekken games, which rocked, the company hadnít brought out anything that was regarded as a classic, from a general gamers point of view. However, with Soul Calibur 2, Namco recreated the weapon-based 3-D fighting experience that thousands have now enjoyed. The game follows the legacy of the demonic Soul-Edge, a sword of apparent unfathomable evil and it covers the quests of various warriors on their quest to destroy the b..."

Soul Calibur 2 has been Namcoís recent big hits, aside from the earlier Tekken games, which rocked, the company hadnít brought out anything that was regarded as a classic, from a general gamers point of view. However, with Soul Calibur 2, Namco recreated the weapon-based 3-D fighting experience that thousands have now enjoyed. The game follows the legacy of the demonic Soul-Edge, a sword of apparent unfathomable evil and it covers the quests of various warriors on their quest to destroy the blade permanently. In an odd but interesting move by Namco, the three ports of the game have one character exclusive to its version, it gave PS2 fans Heihachi, from Tekken, Nintendo fans got to play as Link, while X-boxers got to play as the dark comic creation, Spawn.

Here, we have an unusual but diverse range of fighters to choose from. Firstly, we have the gargantuan soul-stealers, Astaroth and Nightmare. Both wield huge weapons and pack a punch in the damage department, unfortunately, they are slow and sluggish so they tend to be characters who are for those who have experience of the game. The middle fighters include Spawn and Lizardman, who have an equal balance of speed and power. Finally, we have the lightweights, which tend to be the majority of the girls and the high-class Raphael, who enjoys prancing around like a sissy. These guys tend to be quick on their feet but lack somewhat when it comes to dishing out the damage. The cast is quite large, even without the secret characters they leave a lot of options for you to experiment with.

Soul Calibur 2 has various techniques which can be used on the battle field. The four main buttons are for horizontal strikes, vertical strikes, kick and guard. Drifting away from the normal fighting scheme of light kick, middles kick etc it may be a little confusing to weary gamers but when you get used to the layout it becomes easy. All of the characters have special techniques like throwing, the eight way run, which allows you to run in all directions and we can also throw and escape throws. The two most interesting techniques are the guard impact, which repels the attacks of opponents and stuns both of the players temporarily; the fighter who performs this attack will recover first and have the advantage in the fight.

The Soul Charge is an important move, which harnesses all of a fighterís spirit into their sword so they can perform stronger manoeuvres. Pressing the trigger buttons will cause the fighter to pull off a Soul Charge but it can take a little while to do, leaving you wide open for a second or so, which is long enough. There are three soul charges, the first is weak and doesnít last long but it boosts your attacks, the second makes your attacks even stronger and keeps you charged up longer. The third charge makes some of your attacks instant guard break attacks or unblockable attacks. These may leave you open so use them at the correct time as a soul charge could be the key to victory.

The arcade mode puts you through a series of best of three fights against seven other fighters. To win the fight, you must beat the opponent down or push him off the edge of the arena to gain a ring out. After defeating them with your chosen fighter, youíll have fight in your destined battle, a fight between two warriors whoís own stories are entangled with one another. Before the fight starts you are treated to a cut scene involving the two fighters confronting each other. Sometimes the two come to blows, sometimes the monstrous features of one opponent disgust the other or sometimes the two fighters bicker about Soul edge. Whatever the case the defeat of your rival will throw you into the final confrontation with Inferno, a shape shifting mimic who copies the styles of others and changes form during the battle.

Defeating Inferno will give you two things, firstly it will give you a profile of the character you defeated him with and you get some gold. Profiles allow you view a character and allow you to listen to his/her voice gallery, something that you might want to look at when youíre bored. Secondly, youíll be given some gold, which you can save up for later. Most importantly however, is the number of new game modes that you will receive. Team fights, survival mode and extra versions of arcade and the team battles increase the game by a chunk.

The most interesting feature in Soul Calibur 2 is the Weapon Master mode. This consists of a series of mission-based battles and quests. Sometimes, you may have to defeat a character under harsh conditions such as a windy arena, which throws fighters around the ring; some may rely on a booby trapped floor which launches combatants into the air. Every time you fight, even if you are defeated or if you surrender, youíll be rewarded with gold and exp. Exp will make your character stronger and will also allow him/her to progress through different stages of a warrior. If you pass the mission then you will be rewarded with a huge amount of gold and exp, while losing or surrendering will only give you a small sum.

On occasion, you will have to tackle a labyrinth or two. These start off as one square on your large map and when you enter the square, a fighter will challenge you. When you defeat him it will open one or two more squares for you to choose from. Every square you pick will throw you into a fight and when more battles are won then more squares will be unlocked. You wonít get any exp from these fights but you will get some gold whether you win or lose. If you are defeated in the maze, donít worry about it. All you have to do is fight that square again and win, if you lose youíll get gold anyway so itís not a bad thing. These levels are good for gaining gold but in order to get exp you have to finish the entire maze, so youíll have to slug it out to complete it.

Throughout the missions, youíll have to face off against familiar faces as well as unplayable characters and ones that have yet to be unlocked. When you face off against a character you havenít got yet, the chances are that after you face off against the fighter then you will unlock him once you have won. Yoshimitsu (yeah, the guy from Tekken), Charade, another mimic creature and Lizardman, a dinosaur with weapons other than teeth and claws are some of the people youíll encounter during Weapon Master. The best thing is that once you think that youíve done all of the missions, you get another bunch of them to play through, and so youíll have heaps of quests to do.

Graphically, Soul Calibur is like a massage on the eyes, everything is crisp and clean. The animation on each and every character is so smooth and pristine that itís amazing just to look at. Whether itís the close up facial impressions of the warrior or the flow of the fighter in battle, itís done so elegantly. Each fighting arena is overflowing with details; the pirate cave has a beautifully drawn ship in the background as well as a fantastic cave, letting in the light from the outside. Also we have a dark underground level, which is covered with some sort of green ooze. All of the backgrounds are packed with immense detail and every crack and crevice is beautifully done, plus the majority of them are quite large and the work done on them is almost perfect.

Soul Cailbur 2 has perfect sound qualities, including a large and exuberant collection of music pieces and hundreds of voice clips for all of the characters. All of the tunes sound like classical orchestral tunes and really intertwine with the backgrounds that they cover. They also build up tension to upcoming battles, which motivate you into the game. The sound effects are numerous in amount, all of the characters have a load if voice samples, about eighty each. You can listen to these in character profiles when you get bored but that fact that there are so many voice samples is quite impressive. To taste it, you can press the attack button on the v.s screen to taunt the opponent before the match.

The Xbox version dominates over the others, the game is pretty much the same but you get to play as Spawn over Link and Heihachi, which is a bonus as he dominates over the others. The various gameplay modes keep you entertained whether you are alone or with friends; the weapon master game is really large so there are plenty of missions to keep you busy. If youíre wondering about what version to pick up of this modern classic then this one is the key purchase. Spawn and smoother graphics make the game a definite addition to your Xbox library.

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Community review by goldenvortex (February 18, 2005)

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