Lukas' Soul Calibur II Review
Highly addicting arcade fighting gameplay
Voice acting was decent enough
Dungeons are tedious as all hell after some time
Cheap fighting conditions at times
Long button inputting sequences for combos
Somewhat cliched story
Soul Calibur 2 was the first Soul Calibur to be released after the fall of the Dreamcast. Many would say that Soul Calibur died with the Dreamcast, but they might be thinking of Sonic, because Soul Calibur isn't dead yet (though there is one crappy spin-off game on the Wii). Judging by the reviews and responses from gamers and gaming sites, Soul Calibut 2 shows that the series won't be dying anytime soon.
There are two stories in the game - usual Soul Calibur story that takes place after the last Soul Calibur game on the Dreamcast, and the one in the Weapon Master mode. The story for Soul Calibur 2 as a whole is that it's been 4 years since the events of Soul Calibur 1 (so...1591). Warriors who have come in contacts with fragments of either Soul Edge or Soul Calibur (two legendary swords with inhuman power - the wielder gaining inhuman strength from them), they seek to either destroy or possess Soul Edge. It's basically a tale of souls and swords clashing with one another. Yep...no shadow realm in sight, awesome! Whereas in Weapon Master mode, you're travelling across the land to stop the Soul Edge from taking over the world. This evil guy named Veral has the Soul Edge and tries to take over the world with you, but you stop him and the one who caused it all... The true Veral, a spirit of hellfire and...such. Put it this way, the story is alright, but it's fairly shallow and cliched with the whole "I'm gonna take over the world!!!" and "Not if I have something to say about it" sort of motive, though the overall execution was well done, and if you actually pay attention to the fine details, it's not that bad of a story. Of course, I don't, I just read it all up on Wikipedia or something, but really, it's a decent story worth getting into at times.
When you load up the game after viewing the main game's story, you'll see a menu. This is probably the best selection of modes in the series so far. You have your usual Arcade mode which are a lot of fights until the last fight (which is against a fiery spirit named Inferno). This is usually the fan favorite, but there's also Team Battle which, believe it or not, is this game's favorable mode. Team Battle works like Arcade, but in teams of three instead of one-on-one, though you can't switch in between battles. You only switch when one of your guys loses a battle, and the same goes with your opponent. Arcade and Team Battle are great refreshing breaks from the main meat of the game, which is the Weapon Master mode (which I'll go on about later - for now, the actual gameplay).
The game plays like your usual old school arcade fighting game - two people enter, one comes out alive. There is a twist, though if you've played the Soul Calibur games on the Dreamcast, you would've experienced it already. The twist is that instead of just fists, they have weapons! Swords, axes, tonfas, sais, whips, and other sorts of weapons that were around late-16th century! Other than that, it plays a lot like other arcade fighters like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Fatal Fury, except the characters can't fire beams or blasts. Not even the big bad Nightmare can fire surges of lightning, unlike Raiden of Mortal Kombat who is best known for that (not the hat - you're thinking of Kung Lao and his 'hat decapitation' attack where he decapitates enemies with his hat). They can somewhat use special powers like "Soul Powers", but not in the same way that Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat can freeze enemies or Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter fire "HADUKEN".
So instead of punches and kicks, there are two different slashes and a kick attack. Different slashes... like a horizontal slash and a vertical slash. Since this game has 8 dimensions of movement, you need to make use of those two attacks to attack a moving opponent. A vertical attack is best used when they're right in front or near in front, whereas a horizontal attack is better used for an opponent that's sidestepping. Kicking, I only found useful while running (double tap either left or right on the d-pad to run) and also to get in a quick attack. You can also guard attacks, which is useful when the enemy spams attacks, though if they do spam attacks, just guard impact them. Guard impacting is where you press X and either left or right on the d-pad and if you time it right (like when the enemy is about to hit you), you can stall them for a bit and lay the smackdown on them. Very useful in battle, but it's hard to perform and requires practise. Sounds very complex for a fighting game, but the worst is yet to come. Plus, when you actually play it, it's not all that complex.
Of course, just like in every other fighting game known to man, there are special moves you can use. Even though the "special power" attack roster doesn't include beams and bursts of power, you can still perform combo attacks and stronger sorts of slashes and such. As per usual, you have to input button commands or a lot of buttons and direction placing (using the left analog stick or d-pad for direction) in order to use stronger attacks and combos. Sound confusing? Well, aside from Arcade and Weapon Master modes, you can also enter a Training mode to hone your skills or just get some practise in.
Now for the Soul Charge. How do you do this? Well, when you press Square (horizontal attack), Triangle (vertical attack) and X (guard) at the same time then wait for a bit, you can execute a Soul Charge. This isn't an actual attack, but when you've fully charged, you can basically destroy your opponent. I know, it's not HADUKEN or SONIC BOOM, but it at least emphasises the whole "souls and swords" theme that the game has.
Oh, and for you "ring out" spammers, fear this game's level designs! Only half of the arenas allow ring outs, while the other half have walls to prevent that. For those who don't know what a ring out is, it's basically you hit the opponent hard enough to get him/her to fall off the ring and into the water or into the abyss or whatever - the point is, someone is off the ring, therefore, RING OUT! Walls add a new element to the series though. If you hit the opponent hard enough that he/she hits a wall, the opponent suffers more damage. Careful though, the same happens to you too.
Now, I've made mention of Arcade mode and a couple others, but not Weapon Master. Why? Because Weapon Master mode has its own set of rules for each of the levels, plus it has gameplay elements exclusive to itself.
Among traditional fighting rules, it has conditions you have to follow for each level. Examples: Hitting an opponent against a wall will significantly damage him/her more, you lose health as the fight goes on, beating all opponents within a time limit, and what have you. You know, to mix it up! It'd get pretty boring just fighting traditional style for about 70+ battles.
To actually progress in Weapon Master, you have to beat each new fight that comes your way. Overcome the challenge, then get to the next fight and overcome its new challenge. There is the occasional 'secret path' or something of that nature, and it actually pays to beat them. Not only can you unlock some Arcade/Team Battle-only characters, but you also get a lot of gold. I mean you do get a lot of gold from the battles in the regular levels, but you tend to get more in the 'secret paths'.
Some of the levels in Weapon Master are dungeons. No, not in the same way that they are in Zelda. You move through by selecting an available square and then you're put into a fight. If you explore the dungeons a bit, you can unlock some weapons and additional contents, though since most of the time you're under a time limit, you're better off exploring later than straight off the bat, as you have to beat the boss of the dungeon to unlock the next level. The boss part, by the way, is the square with a white emblem on it.
There are two different sorts of dungeons - labyrinths and temples (or at least that's how I see them). Labyrinths have three or four different sorts of battlefields, but their major differences are the size. Some are as small as a pea, while others are large. Temples, on the other hand, are much different. Its fields are either so sandy you sink into them, have lava pits on the edges or are icy. There are also some plain fields in the temples, but they're kind of oddly shaped - a triangle, for example. Either way, the temples keeps you on your toes, while the labyrinths are simpler.
The dungeons also get progressively harder as they go, with more parts and more different routes (except one which you unlock after the first quest [more on that later], it's just a linear path). They also get incredibly tedious after a while. You might think they're cool at first, but once you get further, they'll get on your nerves. They aren't all that fun, but more a pain in the ass. Personally, I can't stand them! I never could either. Don't know about you though.
So anyway, when you beat levels and parts of dungeons, you get some gold. Gold is used to buy more weapons and some additional content (like art and snapshots and the like). More weapons = more power, plus each weapon is different. Some weapons have a shorter reach than others, some longer, some can carve through an opponent's guard, some make guard impacting both easier for you and lethal to them and some even heal as either the battle goes on or as you wail on the opponent. There are some other effects, but to sum that up - more weapons = more power! Sadly, there's no armor to buy.
Weapon Master is more than just a quest. After beating it once, you can play a harder version of the levels. Sweet! Except that a few of these are way too cheap. Smack opponents into the walls...as Lizardman?! Sorry to say, but this is actually pretty damn annoying. Lizardman, as you all might know, is the staple joke character. He's somewhat useful, but for what he's meant to do, he's not about to win anytime without practise. Then you have "beat the level as three special characters" (or something along those lines), where you have to use the three bonus 'Arcade/Team only' characters, which is either good or bad depending on how you control characters who these three stole battle styles from. Unfortunately, you have to use Lizardman. But the other two? They're cool enough, and easier to control, as well as overall better characters. The point I'm getting to is that it truly tests how good of a player you are. If you suck, you'll lose badly at this point and might as well just practise or play Arcade Mode over and over. Plus, beating some of these levels unlocks more levels, which are significantly harder.
Something that's been pointed out as a problem again and again is that you can't change the overall difficulty of Weapon Master. I mean, there's the first, easier quest and then the second, harder quest, but that's not enough. What if the first quest is way too hard? What if someone is trying to get into the game? I don't see it as a problem at all. As I often say, there is a practise mode. Use it. Lizardman a pain to use? Practise using him. Basically, this game requires practise. A few difficulty modes isn't going to solve anything (unless there was a harder difficulty mode to select among the current, but alas we can't have that... oh well).
As for the additional content itself, you can access them from the Museum menu at the title screen. Aside from addiction, this is what will keep you coming back. You unlock these in Weapon Master, and the reward is massive. The additional content ranges from artworks, to videos (trailers and weapon exhibitions), to profile viewers (know a bit more about the fighters) and even to CPU VS CPU battles (in case you're bored out of your mind). Like I said, worth it.
One thing that separates the different versions from one another (excluding the original Arcade version) is that you have version-exclusive characters. The Gamecube has Link from Zelda, the Xbox has Spawn from some comic with the same name (not sure why Spawn and not any of the Dead Or Alive characters) and the PS2 has Heihachi from Tekken. Since this is the PS2 version, I'll talk about Heihachi. Heihachi doesn't have any weapons (except his fists), which means he'll control differently from the other characters. He takes A LOT of getting used to (moreso than Lizardman believe it or not), however, he's a decent character. I prefer using different characters, though he isn't that bad, especially after mastering him. Above-average character at best. Not sure how he found a fragment of Soul Edge, but at least he's different to the other characters and just wants to kick ass.
Overall, the game sounds very good, and would be ideal for fans of the genre. Actually, non-fans could be converted by this game too (and if not, there's always Street Fighter 2 on the SNES or Mortal Kombat on the Genesis). Before I picked this game up, I was well into mainstream RPGs, movie-based games and FPS games. I picked this game up 5 years ago and really got into it, and then thought 'hey why dont I get some games like this I bet they'll be as good as this'. Long story short - impressive fighting game, though it has flaws.
Old school arcade fighting at a very fine degree. It's at a fair degree, the fights are fun and Arcade and Team Battle modes are fine as all hell. Too bad the dungeons suck.
The response times to get back up from a fall (when you hit the ground, hit X) is a bit delayed, though that's nothing compared to the button inputs some combos need. Do you think nine buttons for a three or four hit is enough? Geez. Half the time, I forget how to finish a combo. A nine button combo is supposed to be nine hits long, not three powerful hits long! Besides, they're easily interrupted! Aside from that, the controls are pretty slick. I especially like some of the shortcuts, like the horizontal-vertical shortcut. Some of the best attacks require pressing square and triangle at once, but with the shortcut, it's way easier.
Eh, well, I thought it was a good couple of stories. Felt a bit cliched for my liking, but they are still well done. How Heihachi was pulled in, though, I'll never understand.
There's the occasional slowdown which gets pretty annoying, but other than that, the graphics are great! For a game released in 2003, it looks pretty real. The beginning FMV is amazing to look at with the amount of realism in it...almost lifelike in fact (though a bit of blurring here and there looks a little tacky). Everything else is also nice to look at. Just...those damn slowdowns!
The soundtrack is epic! It always makes every fight feel epic in its own way, especially when you're fighting Inferno. The extra epic touch for that song is just awesome. No weak songs at all! It's all an epic symphonic soundtrack by the way! As for voice acting, it's tolerable except for a few annoying ones, but that can be overlooked by switching from English to Japanese in the Options menu.
With lots to unlock and a sort of gameplay you'll get addicted to, you won't be going anywhere for a while. All that can be said.
How can you be addicted to something that's not fun? Exactly, you can't! However, I think the long button inputting sequences for combos is pretty damn unfun forcing you to do more "simplistic" ones, and having to play as Lizardman at one or two stages is NOT FUN! Plus, some of the other conditions are rather cheap and then the dungeons...damn those dungeons!
Soul Calibur 2 is a pretty good entry in the series and shows that not all survivors of the fall of the Dreamcast are crappy. It's the sort of game that anybody can get into, though some flaws really need to be fixed to meet its full potential.
- Is Voldo a mummy?
- Critical Edge
- How to unlock Inferno
- what's max level in the weapon master?
- Original Soul Calibur 2 hip hop beats featuring Biggie
- Remembering The Old Days... Screen Comparisons
- Best Extra Arcade Mode Times.
- who is the hardest guy to beat in soul calibur 2
- How do you unlock Link?
- favourite Character...