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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

Namco Bandai

 

Developer

Namco Bandai

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

August 26, 2003

 

 

- Beautiful, beautiful graphics with not a jaggy in site
- Lots of cool characters with a multitude of weapons
Deep, fun Weapon Master Mode

 

 

- Outside of the Weapon Master mode, the A.I. doesn’t provide much of a challenge for experienced fighters

 

 

Action Figure: Soul Calibur II

Review: Dead or Alive 3 (XB)

Review: Kakuto Chojin (XB)

 

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Soul Calibur II

Score: 9.3 / 10

 

soul calibur 2 xbox review        soul calibur 2 xbox review

 

Soul Calibur was the best reason to own the now defunct Dreamcast. It was a gorgeous fighter with a great combination of depth and intuitive, pick-up-and-play simplicity. One of the saddest results of the failure of the Dreamcast as a platform was that not enough people got to play that little gem of a game. Personally, as a huge fan of the first game, I knew I’d be buying a copy of Soul Calibur II (SC2) for myself whether I was assigned to review it or not. The problem was deciding which version to get because each version has a character unique to the platform, and the Xbox and Gamecube versions sport real doozies: Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Legend of Zelda’s Link, respectively. In the end, I went for the Xbox version, mostly because it was likely to feature slightly better graphics and, with the official Soul Calibur II arcade controller being compatible with all three systems, I wouldn’t have to deal with the Xbox controller’s clumsy button placement.

So, now that I have had a chance to put the Xbox’s version of Soul Calibur II through its paces, what do I think? Well, it is as gorgeous as I had hoped it would be. It features amazingly smooth and fast game play, and it has an expanded
 

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version of the excellent Weapon Master mode that was one of the best features of the first game. Add it all up and SC2 is a remarkable game and one every fighting fan should own. Still, expectations out there are very high for this one. People seem to expect that the game will be, hands down, the best 3D fighter of all time. For some of those fighting fans, SC2 might be a slight disappointment because it lacks the depth and sense of

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accomplishment of the Virtua Fighter 4 games. For my money, it is the second best fighting game of the year and of all time. (Three guesses what I feel is number one, and the first two don’t count against you—the intials are VF4:E).

The first thing players are likely to notice when they fire up SC2 is the stunning visual display. SC2 looks great. The character models seem to be made up of, oh, I don’t know, say a billion polygons. Well, not really, of course, but the characters are well-modeled right down to tiniest of details. More importantly, they animate with an unprecedented degree of realism and style. Not a single frame of animation has been glossed over, despite the temptation that must have presented itself when the developers realized just how quick their new engine was. It would have been simple to give an attack or two a few less frames here and there without anyone noticing. As it is, every move seems to have been given a tremendous amount of attention. The result is a fast, smooth fighting experience.

As good as the game engine is, the fighting mechanics might be even better. Soul Calibur veterans will feel right at home with the majority of the moves. The big difference is the speed. The smaller, quicker characters are simply blindingly fast. I started with one of my favorite characters, the speedy Xiangua, and was able to blast through the Arcade Mode without a single continue by simply running in, slashing, and running out. Part of that was because the arcade mode is too easy, just as it was in the first Soul Calibur, but mostly it is because in SC2, speed kills. The effect of speed is accentuated even further by the fully 3D nature of the game, a first for a fighting game of this type. It is especially cool being able to dodge an attack and run around behind the opponent to unleash some punishment.

That is not to say the slower character can’t hold their own. The big guys take a while to get most of their attacks off, but once they do, most of them stagger the opponent or knock them down to the ground. If a player isn’t quick to roll away or pop their character to his or her feet, the big guys will simply pummel him or her into submission. I can be incredibly frustrating how fast a character can go from full health to fully dead.

 

soul calibur 2 xbox review         soul calibur 2 xbox review


The speed of the characters and the multitude of powerful attacks might taint the game in the eyes of pure fight game fans. When Soul Calibur was on the shelves, the term “button-masher” was being thrown around pretty regularly. For the un-initiated, the term simply means that a player has as much chance of winning by just “mashing” the buttons quickly and randomly as they do by learning the long list of moves for each character and by practicing them to perfection. The term was being misapplied then, and it is even more inaccurate now. If a player only ever plays the A.I., maybe SC2 is a “button-masher”, most fighting games are. It is during head-to-head that the depth of the fighting system reveals itself. I experienced a tremendous series of butt whippings at the hands of a tournament-winning Soul Calibur player back in the day, even though I had already turned the game inside-out fighting against the computer. The game doesn’t have the depth of Virtua Fighter 4 (no fighting game does), but a match between two experienced players is still a marvelous ballet of attacks, dodges, and counters.

SC2 has all the expected modes and tons of bonus ones to un-open, but the highlight of the game, for me, is the Weapon Master mode. It is hard to overestimate the value this mode and its over two hundred un-lockable features hold. The Weapon Master mode is played on a map land with new destinations opening up as the player completes each mission and chapter. The tale being told is not particularly original or compelling, but the individual missions have tremendous variety and, unlike the arcade mode, the Weapon Master mode provides a serious challenge. The dungeon levels especially made me thankful for the unlimited continues. I would seriously hate to be ten rooms into one of the larger dungeons and have to start from the beginning after a loss.

Soul Calibur II will satisfy most fighting fans with its smooth play and brilliant graphics. It stands easily among a handful of other games as one of the best fighting games of all time.

- Tolen Dante
(September 10, 2003)

 

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