Video Game Review of the Week

--Review by Riposte101 @ 9/04/03 19:35 PST.

Soul Calibur 2

Namco’s Soul Calibur for the Sega Dreamcast was a landmark video game and a defining moment in my long video game history. It is what I consider to still be the best 3-D fighter ever made and well worth buying a Dreamcast just to play. KenshiroKing and I used to play until our thumbs bled and even today we still throw it in occasionally and end up playing for hours on end, all the while marveling at the spectacular combinations and guard impact strings we are able to assemble against each other.

Enough reminiscing about Soul Calibur and let’s move onto its sequel. The story begins by me having to spend two hours standing in line waiting on the truck to deliver the game to the GameStop that I had pre-ordered it from. When it finally arrived, I promptly picked up all three versions of the game because each comes with an exclusive character, those damn marketing geniuses.

Link of classic Nintendo fame is sick and tired of saving Zelda and decides to check out what the whole fuss is about a Soul Edge for the Gamecube. He comes wielding swords, shields, bombs, boomerangs, bows and sharp sticks. Where’s his hook shot? His tactics are almost as dirty as that Michael Jackson-looking, cheating pirate himself, Cervantes and that pistol-hiding off-hand sword of his. For a good laugh check out Link’s throw from behind the opponent.

The Gamecube suffers from a directional pad that is so small that it forces the player to use the analog stick, which as an old skool fighting game player makes me cringe. The button placement is radically different from the Dreamcast, Xbox and PS2 controllers, thus making it a frustrating transition if you’ve learned to play the game on those formats. The buttons have different tensions, which makes it more difficult to pull off the slide button moves (where you slide your thumb from A to B). To make up for this design flaw the controller does provide the right analog stick that performs some of the more difficult to execute button press combinations for the controller with a simple thumb movement, something I would feel dirty using.

Having the worst controller ever devised for a fighting game hampers the Gamecube, but the novelty of Link and graphics that are almost on par with the X-box make this version a decent pick.

Heihachi Mishima is pissed somebody stole his diaper from Tekken 4 and he journeys to the past to wear Japanese sandals and kick ass on the PS2 version.

I have always been a fan of the Sony Playstation Directional pad. They are perfectly suited to a fighting game. The buttons are also less raised when compared to the X-Box’s S-Controller. All this adds up to the PS2 taking the crown as the best controller of the three consoles. The exclusive character is a matter of opinion, but mine is that Heihachi is the worst of the three. The most glaring problem with the PS2 is the occasional slow down that occurs. This is unforgivable in any game let alone a reflex-based fighter. The PS2 graphics processor having preceded its competition by a full year has not aged well. This is shown clearly when comparing the three side-by-side against the X-box and Gamecube iterations. Even with all these problems, the controller is a big factor in the decision to go with this console.

Possibly because he shares the same colors (black and green) as the console, the X-box version has Spawn as the exclusive character. He comes sans cape, but with a shit-eating grin as he subtly plugs his upcoming Spawn game made by guess who, Namco. Although Spawn is a positive addition to the game, how many of us would have preferred the Master Chief swinging around a Covenant sword or two and Cortana jumping out and doing some shit talking for him? All of us? Thought so.

Nonetheless Spawn, who is agile and high-kicking enough to be given the moniker Ninja Spawn. Although, his range is limited with his axe, he makes up for it with his furious feet and being able to fly about and rain hell fire down on unsuspecting foes.

The X-box version comes out swinging with the best graphics and sound (720p HDTV support and Dolby Digital 5.1). It also boasts the second best character and controller of the three. Get this version if you have an HDTV or home audio system.

Everybody from Soul Calibur is back in one form or another. Besides the console exclusives, new to the game are also Raphael, a rapier twirling fencer, Talim, a slight tonfa wielding girl, Cassandra, a short-sword and shield specialist and Necrid a Todd McFarlane inspired stealer of other character’s moves.

If you played the original Soul Calibur not much will be new to you here and that is the biggest problem with the game. The only real change is in the aesthetics. The enhancements of an overhauled graphics engine, some combat tweaks, a few new characters and new stages do not a sequel make. This game should have been called Soul Calibur 1.5 rather than 2. I mean seriously, could we have at least gotten new weapon demonstrations for fuck’s sake. Speaking of combat tweaks, the characters have an annoying momentary pause right after they get up that was not there before in Soul Calibur. The weapon master mode is the largest means by which to unlock stages, characters, weapons and outfits and that is almost incentive enough to go through it. The process of doing so was as close to torture as I want to ever get. The dungeon crawling fights for some of the missions almost had me turning off the game and forgetting about the unlockables. As a veteran of Soul Calibur, the difficulty was marginal and the computer A.I. is as pathetic as it was in the original. Rather than enjoying my time with the game it just became a matter of sitting there and pounding out the missions.

The game really shines in the one on one mode. Soul Calibur 2 should be praised on its great versus game that still conjures up the same feelings as the original. My complaints about the game are silenced once I sit down against a human opponent. With skilled players, the fights become something more and live on in memory as elaborate dances. No other game can do that. That is why this game still kicks the ass of every other fighter out there.

Score: 8 out of 10

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