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Playstation 2












T (Teen)



Q3 2003



- Great graphics

- Nice soundtrack

- Lots of extras to unlock

- Easily accessible to novices while still containing plenty of depth for veterans



- Some unbalanced characters

- Some of the things the characters and announcer say are rip-roaringly hokey



Review: Soul Calibur II (Gamecube)

Review: Soul Calibur II (Xbox)

Review: Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)



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Soul Calibur II

Score: 9.5/10


Back when the Dreamcast launched, gamers were almost honor bound to buy Soul Calibur when they picked up the system.  It wasn’t just an arcade port, it was better than the original arcade version.  Better graphics, tons of extra modes, in a way Soul Calibur was an early death nell for arcades in North America.  So with that, Namco had a whole lot to live up to when they finally decided to create a sequel to this runaway hit.  Thankfully they’ve delivered, and the PS2 version stands toe-to-toe with its next generation brethren in presenting a very tight experience.


soul-calibur-ii-1.jpg (33015 bytes)          soul-calibur-ii-2.jpg (33150 bytes)


The original Soul Calibur set the bar very high in what gamers will expect in visual presentation from a game.  The environments were fabulous, the characters details, and the animation very tight.  This sequel picks up right where its predecessor left off, bringing some beautiful arenas to fight in with oodles of detail and tasteful lighting effect, absolutely gorgeous character designs that are also interesting alternatives from what we came to expect after playing the original Soul Calibur (the hybrid Seigfried/Nightmare design is especially neat), as well as smooth tight animation.  There were a few instances where I came across a little bit of slowdown, though.  The game was going full throttle at that point with the camera swooping around, lots of animation in the background, and both characters launching long, involved combos at one, lighting effects blazing the whole way, so it does take quite a bit of punishment for Soul Calibur II’s graphics to hit a speed bump, and as such it only happens on rare occasions.





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The audio holds up just as well as its visually stimulating cousin here, with more sweeping orchestral themes just like the original Soul Calibur had.  The sweeping, epic nature of the music really draws players into the game and is a nice change of pace from the wanker rock and thumping house tunes you usually come across in a fighting game.  The sound effects too are very well done, making the fighters’ weapons that much more vicious thanks to their aural presence.  The voice acting is pretty 


decent, with Heihachi’s really standing out.  He’s just one mean bastard with that deep voice of his.  The only thing that hurts the voice acting is that some of the lines are really cheesy, especially when the fight is being announced and the announcer chimes in with some weird, misplaced philosophical diatribe.  I'll chalk it up to cultural differences, but the overall result is still a liberal dose of hokiness.


So we’ve established that it looks good and sounds good, but how does it play?  Fabulously, of course.  The layout of the Dual Shock 2 compliments Soul Calibur II very nicely.  Because SCII doesn’t inundate players with a million and one buttons that need to be used, instead working with subtle nuances to pull off the moves and combos.  This whole setup allows the game to be as simple or difficult as you like, causing it to be a lot less intimidating to newcomers and chalk full of depth for veterans.  The whole approach to controls allows the game to be accommodating to newbies while not alienating the old timers.


SCII is noticeably more difficult than the last game, making you really need to work hard to win matches.  In the quest mode for SCII (called Weapons Master Mode), the harder levels really are a challenge.  Thankfully the characters are relatively well-balanced, though, making it more a matter of personal taste as to who to fight as.  However, Nightmare is unusually strong and fast, making him an easy choice for button-mashers and an easy source of frustration in multiplayer mode.  There are also a number of new characters thrown into the mix like Necrid (designed my Todd McFarlane), a strange beast with a morphing weapon, Cassandra, pretty much Sophitia part 2, and of course there’s Heihachi as the PS2 exclusive character.  Now with all of the attention that the Xbox and Gamecube has been getting for their respective exclusive characters I was a bit disappointed to hear the PS2 was getting Heihachi.  It just didn’t feel as special as getting Spawn or Link, but after spending quite a bit of time with the character he’s actually pretty cool.  He’s fast and can dodge weapons quite well, and when you hear him talk you just know he’s one bad-assed mofo.


soul-calibur-ii-3.jpg (39271 bytes)          soul-calibur-ii-4.jpg (36496 bytes)


What made the first Soul Calibur really stand out is the sheer amount of extra modes and goodies that were packed into it.  SCII keeps this tradition going with 15 game modes and tons of trinkets, not to mention weapons, to unlock.  The extra modes add some nice variety, but most players will find themselves trying to unlock new things in Weapon Master Mode or going for a quick single or two-player match in arcade mode.  It should also be noted that while there are tons of modes in SCII they still don’t quite hold up to Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, whose sheer level of depth, what with character training, and a legion of modes of its own still hails of reigning champ for extra play modes in a fighting game at the moment.  While we were pretty much expecting new characters, arenas, costumes, and such to be unlockable in the game, it came as a surprise to see that you can also get a hold of new weapons for each of the fighters in SCII.  Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that must be considered before equipping, adding a tad more depth to the game.  There’s also more variety in the hazards players have to deal with in the arena, be it quicksand, strong winds, booby trapped walls and floors, or passing a bomb back and forth like hot potato.


By and large Soul Calibur II has managed to live up to expectations, overcoming the daunting task of following in the footsteps of its predecessor.  Whether you’re a fighting aficionado or a green rookie, there’s plenty to enjoy about this game.


Mr. Nash


October 5, 2003

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