Review: Soul Calibur 2
Posted 30 May 2003 at 22:43 by Wouter
Soul Calibur 2 is out in Japan, but it probably won't come to Europe before August, so with the Freeloader readily available in stores, importing could be a nice alternative to waiting a very long time. That's why I've played the Japanese version of this game to give you my impression on it and an answer to the big question: "To import or not to import?"
This game is the long awaited sequel to the great Dreamcast fighting title Soul Calibur, which was the sequel to the PSX game Soul Edge. It's a multiplatform title, but not in the way games are usually ported. Every platform has a unique character on the roster waiting for you. The PS2 lets you choose Tekken fighter Heihachi, the X-Box throws in Todd McFarlane's dark superhero Spawn, both nice additions to the sword masters of Soul Calibur, but nowhere near as cool as the Cube's unique fighter: Link! We get to dish out damage with a realistic version (good news for the Spaceworld-Link fanatics) of our beloved pointy hatted hero. But enough introduction, you all want to know what the game is like! Well, read on and find out.
I was a bit disappointed after seeing some of the earlier ingame movies on the internet, the movements didn't really seem very fluid and Link seemed a bit out of place among the Soul Calibur cast. The disappointment was completely gone when I played the game. The Dreamcast Soul Calibur was a great looking game, but the Cube sequel tops it. The models are beautiful, the animations are amazing and the arenas are spectacular. It's great to just watch a fight, every move feels right, the weapons look great and it's stunning to see the fighters move around in the arenas. Link fits right in now, the movies released before the game was complete didn't do him justice, it's great to see the little elf boy swing his sword and throw his boomerang. The Japanese version supports a wide-screen mode, to make the game even more cinematic for all the gamers with big TV's. I hope we can also expect wide-screen support and a 60 Hz mode in the PAL release.
A good fighting game can't go without good sounds; you want to hear how hard you just smashed your sword into you unlucky opponent. Let me assure you that Soul Calibur 2 won't let you down sound wise, a hit sounds just like it should sound. Every fight starts with the fighters doing a bit of posing before the fights, complete with cheesy "your ass is mine!"-like smack talk (that's what I think, it was al in Japanese). The voice acting is nice, but will probably be done over for the US and PAL releases. The music is okay, but doesn't draw much attention, which I think is a very good thing in fighting games, you want to concentrate on the fighting, not listen to the music anyway.
The graphics and the sounds may be nice, but the gameplay is what makes or breaks a fighting game, and Soul Calibur 2 is without any doubt one of the best playing fighters around. Anyone who has played Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast will tell you how easy it is to pick up, you're dishing out combos and special moves before you even realize it.
If you want to, you can practice your moves in the Practice mode before you start fighting against the computer, but the controls work so intuitive you can probably get the hang of them during the first fight. Just start the Arcade mode and bash those buttons! At first glance the game seems a little bit easy to complete, you'll finish the Arcade mode on standard difficulty in no time, but in the game options you can change the difficulty to Hard. And Ultra-Hard. And Incredibly Hard!The infamous Stage Out deaths from the Dreamcast Soul Calibur are back in this game, but they're toned down a bit. The stages often have walls around them, leaving only a few places open for you to throw your opponent off the stage (or fall off yourself for that matter). Don't start yelling at Namco for limiting the Stage Outs right away though, the walls give you new gameplay possibilities. Try juggling your opponent by hitting him into a wall like a tennis ball, nice!
As you all know by now, Link is in this game. I know everyone has looked forward to playing Link, but I'm afraid you'll rather pick someone else after a while. Link's moves are nice, he plays just fine, the problem is that he's a bit unfair. This is because he's the only fighter in the game with projectile weapons, his boomerang and bow make it far too easy to keep your enemy at a safe distance. Playing against the computer you can choose Link as much as you want, but I advice you to choose other fighters when you're playing against a friend (if you want to keep that friend that is).
There are two buttons for sword attacks and one for a kick, the rest of the buttons is used for blocking. In the pause menu you can open a list with all the special moves your character has, unfortunately all in Japanese, but pressing two buttons at the same time while pointing the control stick in a direction usually gives you nice moves.
The only downsides is the fact that the GameCube controller isn't optimal for fighting games. Don't get me wrong, it plays great, but once you've played it with a Hori Fighting Stick (complete with extra large buttons and arcade sized joystick) you won't want to Soul Calibur 2 without it anymore, ever.
With a lot of unlockable characters, backgrounds and game modes, the single player modes of the game will probably keep you busy for quite some time. In the Weapon Master mode you can unlock weapons by completing specific assignments in each stage. A nice idea, but unfortunately it's completely in Japanese! You can always try to guess what the assignments are, but you probably won't get far in this mode without a translation guide.But enough about single player modes, the thing that gives this game last ability is the VS Battle mode. Just invite a friend (have him bring his own Hori stick), hook up your Cube and watch the hours fly away. You don't have to worry that no one will want to play against you once you've practiced a lot because this game is incredibly easy to pick up, as I mentioned before. All it takes is hand-eye coordination and a good couch!
I think it should be clear by now that this game is great, a genuine must-buy for fighting fans, but is it worth the trouble of importing?
That depends. If you're impatient and don't mind paying a lot extra for a Freeloader, a separate memory card for Japanese save games and shipping costs, I say import Soul Calibur 2 right away. If you already have all the goods needed for importing games you definitely should import this one. This title is relatively import friendly, most of the onscreen text is in English and you can probably find good translation guides to help you through the Weapon Master mode and the moves lists. If you don't want any Japanese in your game you can always wait for the US release, which will probably be a few months sooner than the PAL version, and import that one.
If you don't mind waiting a little longer to save you the hassle of importing and playing with a translation guide on your lap, it's probably better to wait for the PAL release. Maybe they'll even tweak the game a little like they did with Metroid Prime and the Wind Waker, I know I wouldn't mind seeing Link fight a little less unfair.
N-Europe Final Verdict
I loved the feel of this game and can't wait to play the PAL version against my friends.
Best fighter to date
Link is unfair
You'll want to buy a Hori Fighting Stick