Namco's feverishly anticipated fighting game sequel Soul Calibur 2 has hit the Gamecube and created quite a splash. Featuring the silky smooth graphics and presentation players have come to expect SC2 takes the series to the next level with a deeper Weapons Master mode. Most of the existing fighter return with new characters, including special guest star Link. Players will find the same intuitive controls, deep fighting system and backstories they've come to expect. While it's not as revolutionary as the first Soul Calibur, the sequel builds on the foundations and represents a solid step forward for the franchise. The biggest question isn't whether SC2 is a great game, but just how great it is. Join us and find out why the soul still burns.
Upon it's release at the Dreamcast launch in 1999, Soul Calibur set an incredibly high standard of gameplay that few other 3D fighters could match. With it's tight controls, deep fighting system, fluid 3D controls and intense weapons based combat, few titles were as addictive or enjoyable. The graphics were state-of-the-art and blew away its predecessor Soul Blade on the PS1. Now four years after this landmark title, Namco has finally released the sequel Soul Calibur 2 for multiple platforms. This review covers the Gamecube edition of the game Veterans of the series won't have to worry about a wholesale change, since Soul Calibur 2 includes all the elements that made the original game so exciting, while adding some tweaks and changes. Namco hasn't messed with success, and SC2 plays very much like the original title. As usual, each character has a unique set of moves, counters, throws, guards and special attacks that can be used in battle. You can also charge up your weapon briefly up to three different levels, but the player is vulnerable while the weapon is charging.The gameplay feels great and the characters are balanced well for the most part, though some seem to have a lot of cheap moves. Most of the cast from the first game has returned, but there are some new characters as well who fit in well with the other combatants. Each console version has a unique character and in the case of the GCN, it happens to be Link from Legend of Zelda. Link looks cool with his trademark sword, bow and arrow and bombs and he fits in well with the Soul Calibur universe. Another cool character is the Spawn-like demon Necrid, a powerful character with powerful moves can cause a lot of damage. As you progress through the game, you can also unlock additional characters including Cervantes, Nightmare and Taki, giving you plenty of variety in fighting techniques and styles to choose from.
As you'd expect, The gameplay is tight and responsive, allowing even novice players to jump right in, making swift attacks and chaining moves with ease. Few fighting games have created such a seamless 3D space where moving seems as natural as it does in SC2. The fighting-engine seems like a superficial button masher at first, but as you get deeper into the action, you'll find a comprehensive moves list and elaborate techniques such as the new Guard Impacts. The Impacts are a special counter move that stuns both you and your opponent after they attack for a short period, but you can react first, giving you the advantage. While Guard Impacts are hard to pull off, they're highly effective and add a new layer of strategy to the battles. Soul Calibur 2's controls adequately using the GCN controller, with the jotytsick offering responsive movements. However, a real arcade style joystick would have improved things immensely and let the soul burn even brighter. Unfortunately, we couldn't locate a decent one.
The combat is deep and engaging and will keep you occupied for hours as you learn all the techniques. . Basic arcade style one on one fighting can become dull after awhile, so Namco has included 7 main modes of play that extend the title's replay value significantly. In addition to the standard Arcade mode, Soul Calibur 2 features a variety of cool alternate play modes such as Time Attack, Team Battle, Survival, Versus matches. The Time Attack mode challenges you to fight a series of opponents and get through them in the shortest amount of time. Team Battles require players to select a number of fighters and pit them against another team and the last one standing is the winning team. Survival Mode sees how many opponents you can defeat on a single energy bar, and gives you very little extra life for each victory. Finally, there's the Versus mode where you and a friend can battle it out. This gives Soul Calibur 2 a lot of depth because each of these offers a different challenge to the player. In addition, there are "Extra" Modes that can be unlocked which offer variations on the standard modes. When you play in these modes, you can use the weapons you earn in the Weapons Master mode.
A more elaborate version of the DC's Edge Master mode, Weapons Master mode allows the player to delve deeper into the character's storyline. Here, you navigate a map with different locations and challenges. You can also make Each location offers a different challenge such as hitting an opponent with only Guard Impacts, fighting with a low energy level, battling invisible or more powerful foes. Additionally, the stages themselves may feature high winds that make it difficult to stay in the ring or falling rocks. There's a lot of variety to the tasks on your quest in this mode, but one new element is the Dungeon levels. Here, you navigate through a series of battles on the way to a boss battle. When you defeat foes, you receive extra gold and experience points. You can use the gold to buy extra items such as weapons and even stages with more than 200 available in all. The added experience points will increase your abilities. You can also unlock features such as the extra modes by winning matches. The Weapon Master mode adds a tremendous amount of depth to the game and some of the dungeons will challenge even the best players.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Soul Calibur 2 isn't the quantum leap that Soul Calibur was, but it still marks an impressive installment nonetheless. Soul Calibur 2 features the same highly-polished production values, including beautiful environments and epic score of the original, but the backdrops and overall production values have been enhanced and the experience seems to be rendered in greater detail. Likewise, the character models look incredibly lifelike with fluid motion, facial expressions and, realistic cloth rendering giving each fighter a realistic appearance. One of the series' trademarks is the trailing glow that the weapons give off, giving the game a supernatural veneer that separates it from more realistic fighting series such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter. Elaborate light sourcing brings each stage to life vividly, and the backgrounds feature more detail such as running water, swaying trees and other impressive objects. SC2 takes full advantage of the Gamecube's hardware and makes a smooth appearance on the console, with a crisp frame rate and few visible jaggies to blemish the experience. Soul Calibur 2 also impresses on the audio front as well. The developers at Namco have complimented the action with a robust cinematic the lends the battles a dramatic flourish. Each character also now speaks in English, which allows their personality to shine through. Hearing them in English also makes their elaborate backstories seem more important. The beautiful opening cinema and highly polished in game production values lend Soul Calibur 2 an epic feel that gives the game a cinematic flair most fighters lack.
Namco has gone above and beyond just a simple arcade port with Soul Calibur 2 and the bevy of extra features in this installment is quite impressive, especially the elaborate and challenging Weapons Master mode, which offers depth and challenge while rewarding players for their efforts. This is a tightly polished game and the smoothness is apparent from the moment you start playing, you'll find tight controls, easy running movements and more that make for an immediately accessible title. Dig deeper and you'll find a lot of depth and challenge hidden underneath the flashy moves and combos. Soul Calibur 2 definitely marks and improvement from the first game, and while it may not be as revolutionary as SC1 was, the tight gameplay has definitely withstood the passing of time. Namco has continued the series proud legacy and Soul Calibur's tweaks aren't major but the series still remains at the pinnacle of the fighting genre. While the Gamecube controller isn't the ideal interface, the chance to play as Link is irresistible and compensates dor this. You won't find a more polished or addictive weapons-based fighting title on the market than the sterling Soul Calibur 2, making it an absolutely essential purchase for all owners of the Nintendo console.