Soul Calibur II

Soul Calibur II

"All for one and one for all" - the simplest way to sum up what this game is to the fighting genre.
Author: Kyle Sutton
Published: August 29, 2003
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Being the best means just about everything in the video gaming industry. Quality video games earn respect from gamers, money for publishers and developers, and give the game a monopoly, so to say, over the genre it pertains to. Alas, we can pertain this to the constant struggle between Namco and Sega for the title of king of the PlayStation 2 fighting games. For some time now, Sega has been able to hold that title, thanks to the release of the epic Virtua Fighter 4, which to most, blew Namco and its lackluster Tekken 4 (yes, contrary to my review, but in the big picture, Tekken 4 failed to impact the fighting genre the way VF4 did) out of the water... until now. Four years in the making and undoubtedly the year's most anticipated fighter, Soul Calibur II has arrived, and to put it simply, has given Namco the full right to be called "Daddy" by Sega from now on. This is what fighting fans have been waiting for. Soul Calibur II is playable enough to satisfy any newcomer, while its depth will keep hardcore gamers occupied for months. No need to wait for Tekken 5 - Soul Calibur II has given Namco one up on Sega.

Sure, sure, I could ramble on about the history surrounding the mysterious Soul Edge sword everyone is after, but Soul Calibur II's story is not what fighting fans should be rejoicing about - the gameplay is where all the fun is at. To begin, SCII's variety in fighters is something to brag about - you won't find two characters alike. From the nunchaku-wielding Maxi to the rod-brandishing Kilik to Voldo with, well, blades for hands, Soul Calibur II's cast is extensive enough to please every type of gamer. With some old and some new, when it comes to fighting technicalities, each character featured on SCII's roster is as deep as the next.

Which leads me to my next point, possibly the feature that I adore most. The battle techniques of Soul Calibur II are truly something to be in awe of, due to both the depth and strategy that they deliver. Because SCII is a weapon-based fighter, it features a battle system that is different (and truly superior) than those that you'll find in the fighting gamers out there with hand-to-hand combat. While the game does provide a button for useful kicking attacks (K), attacking with a weapon is basically divided into two basic categories: vertical strikes (A) and horizontal strikes (B). Though they may seem to deliver similar blows, they can be used strategically to counterattack enemy attacks. See, if you attack an enemy with a vertical strike at the same time he/she attacks with a horizontal strike, you'll gain the upper hand. Similarly, you can use the horizontal strike to prevent an opponent from moving around you.

Movement, my friends, is also an aspect of gameplay perfectly executed by the developers. Soul Calibur II uses a system called 8 Way Run that pretty much allows movement in all directions. Seems basic, right? But the thing is, when it comes to dodging attacks and maneuvering around opponents, SCII's 8 Way Run puts sidestepping to shame. And when on the edge of a level, I can't even begin to express how useful is to be able to quickly and easily move around an opponent via the 8 Way Run so that he/she is against the ground's edge, making a Ring Out just one attack away.

Other of Soul Calibur II's battle techniques are just as useful as well. If used correctly, guarding can be your key to winning, for you are given the ability to guard all levels of enemy attack, and also to make use of the Guard Impact, which can block a powerful enemy attack and rendering him/her stunned and open to be attacked. To pack even more punch to your attacks, you can also make use of the game's energy-focusing ability known as a Soul Charge. Pulling off such moves may seem like a task for only the most skilled of players, but SCII is so polished, it plays beautifully as both a button masher and a game of technical mastery. Feel like taping away at the buttons to pull off a few random moves in hope of victory? Sure, it may work, but master a character's attacks and combos, and you'll find yourself whipping your enemies' butts like there's no tomorrow. The result is an ingenious control scheme that makes the game playable to gamers of all skill levels. The playability applies to all of the various game modes, such as your standard Arcade mode, Vs. Battle, a race against the clock in Time Attack, Practice mode to build up your skills, and slew of others.

One mode in Soul Calibur II breaks away from the rest, though, is the Weapon Mode. If you plan on playing SCII single-player style, this is where you'll likely be spending most of your time. While it's meant to be a lengthy journey in order to obtain the evil power-infested Soul Edge, most will probably favor Weapon Mode for its plethora of accessible unlockables. During your adventure for the Soul Edge (which is basically just reading through a story and fighting), your character will encounter a good amount of battles. To spice things up, these battles usually take place under a certain conditions; for example, you may progressively lose live during one battle, while another may force you to knock your opponent against the arena wall in order to cause him/her damage. Reigning victorious will, one, earn you experience points, but two, earn you gold. Gold (believe it or not) is the game's currency, and your key to getting those tasty unlockables. Using the shop in Weapon Mode will enable you to spend your earned gold on various goodies, including new character weapons, outfits, game modes, and more. Shopping isn't the only way to obtain these various unlockables, though - by completing certain Weapon Mode missions and winning in Arcade Mode, you'll often be granted new characters, battle arenas, and even character profiles.

All of these goodies are great to have unlocked, but the character weapons, for one, can truly be put to good use. Soul Calibur II successfully dabbles in the RPG genre a bit by allowing you to upgrade your weapon for each character. Yet unlike some games where the affects of new weapons are hardly useful (a la Devil May Cry 2), SCII makes good use of the weapon upgrade system. And though upgrading your weapon may be helpful, you'll have to be resourceful, for they don't come at an easy cost (literally, and an ability sense). You see, although a weapon you buy may increase your character's offensive abilities, for example, it may make him/her defensively weaker as a result. Tricky, yes, but it truly is an ingenious and successful attempt by the developers to make you a bit more cautious on upgrading your character's weapons.

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