Incredible graphics and weapons-based gameplay
Single-player game not as deep as Virtua Fighter 4's
Seems good, but it's actually bad:
Having different fighters in different versions. We want to play Link versus Spawn
By Shawn Elliott
Score:10 (out of 10)
Screw it, I'll say the unspeakable: When this swordslinger stepped onto the scene, it eviscerated all comers, Virtua Fighter 4 included, and squatted to drop a deuce on their headstones. Soul Calibur II became my sensei overnight, and I've been abusing buttons ever since.
With this sequel, Namco chose to refine its previous work rather than rethink the series' already superb design. SC2 is anything but a lamp-heated rehash of last generation's leftovers (and not only because many of you missed Cali's debut). This fighter's been training in secret for years and emerges from its sword school a leaner, faster, more lethal samurai, subtly improved in most every aspect.
Anyone can appreciate SC2's unmatched visual polish. And the screenshots you've been staring at all summer only hint at this baby's breathtaking beauty. You've seen the flashes that follow blades as they arc through the air. You've studied the stills of elegant arenas where sunlight filters through stained glass, curves around columns of cold marble, and kisses Ivy's perfect breasts. But it's what you haven't seen that'll really blow you away. The animation is unbelievable. It's fast and fluid, making even over-the-top moves seem totally convincing. Watching a petite Talim deflect a blow from Astaroth's king-sized ax and stagger clear across the stage under a shower of sparks is all the proof you need.
By Shane Bettenhausen
Score:9 (out of 10)
Namco's strategy of refinement carries over to Soul Calibur II's roster of characters as well. Series fans will be thrilled to see their favorite duelists back in action (sultry dominatrix Ivy's chain-whip punishments never looked so sexy, and gimpy Voldo's undulations are more disturbing than ever). Most of the returning characters pack new moves, combos, and stances, and the whole group has been rebalanced to weed out any unfairness. If you're new to the Calibur club, you'll be immediately impressedthis series has always been about stylish guys and gals wielding impressive weapons, and it's a blast just to explore the intricacies of each available avatar. Sure, the fighting styles are fanciful, but these magically delicious maneuvers look so damn cool that you likely won't obsess over the lack of martial arts feasibility.
If you're a series vet like me, however, you'll probably be a tinge disappointed by the lack of fresh faces. Although each console's version of SC2 offers a total of 23 characters (once you've unlocked all the secret ones), realistically only three of them are fundamentally new: prissy fencer Raphael, sprightly tonfa babe Talim, and each system's exclusive character (see above). Of those three bonus dudes, Link and Spawn fit in the besteach has a nifty blend of special moves that seem right at home in the Calibur realm. Tekken's Heihachi, however, is a sad old man whose pathetic punches have no place in a weapon-based fighter. The other new dudes, Cassandra, Necrid, Yunsung, and Charade, are all loosely based on pre-existing characters and movesets from the older games. Still, the total number of characters is sufficiently massive and the variety wide, so I can't complain that much.
By Dan Hsu
Score:10 (out of 10)
Soul Calibur II is simply amazing. Fighting-game newcomers will marvel at its incredibly detailed graphics and sound effectswhen you see a foe crumple over in pain, or you hear the sharp twang of swords clashing, you'll know you're in for a mind-blowing technological treat. Casual types will also dig how easy this game is to play: Fancy-looking attacks and throws are only a few simple button presses away.
At the same time, SC2 is a hardcore gamer's fantasy game come true. With Eight-Way Run, Air Control, Guard Impacts, and all these other techniques in your holster, you can spend weeks training with just one character. I've played my share of fighting games, believe you me, and none of them has come close to the depth SC2 has.
This versatility, however, is perhaps SC2's biggest weakness. Naturally, fighting games are meant to be played with friends, and if you don't have an opponent of your skill level, you won't enjoy the melees, no matter how good they look. Shawn and I, for example, have played so much that we're incorporating mind games into the mix: psych-outs, delayed moves, canceled attacks.... But if we pulled any of that business on a casual player, we'd be sending him home crying for his Mortal Kombat 1. You definitely gain an infinite amount of appreciation for this game if you and your opponent-friends grow into it at the same pace and experience levels.
SHAWN: So is Soul Calibur II for you solitary types? Well, its Weapon Master mode spices up solo play with a series of duels fought in special circumstances, and it rewards your troubles with a trove of unlockable treasures, including 10 additional weapons for each warrior. Equipping the latter not only makes you look sharp (check out Voldo's hedge clippers or Astaroth's ornate choppers), but it also enhances your attacks. None of it can replace flesh-and-blood sparring partners, but it's a nice bonus.
On the other hand, I agree with Shoe; SC2 isn't meant to be played strictly solo anymore than chess is, but like that paragon of deep gaming, it's no less brilliant for the loss. And thankfully, this fighter differs a bit from other hardcore brawlers in that beginners can have a blast, too. Even if, off the bat, you're not the best samurai to draw a sword, you'll be determined to become one.
SHANE: I'm not overly impressed by SC2's single-player game. Versus mode never gets old, but I don't always have dorks like Shoe and Shawn around to challenge. The Weapon Master stuff offers unlocking thrills for a few hours, but it's over way too quickly, and it's too simple to open up all the stuff with little effort. I sincerely wish that SC2 had taken a page from Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution's Quest modenot only can you customize your characters with more than 1,500 unique accessories, but you can also fight insanely tough A.I. opponents based on Japan's best tournament players. Limitless challenge and discovery are sorely lacking in Calibur.
SHOE: Sure, VF4 may have the superior single-player mode, but SC2 still beats most fighting games in the solo-play department. It doesn't really matter anyway. SC2 can stand on its Versus game aloneit's that good. It's beautiful, it's deep, and it offers many characters that play so differently from each other.
SHANE: Yes, I agree with you guys that this is an extraordinary game that no fighting fan should miss, but I'm not blind to its imperfections. The visuals and music both let me down a bit. Back when Soul Calibur hit the scene, its graphics obliterated everything seen before. SC2 looks perfectly fine, but it doesn't really impress. Sorry. Plus, the stage designs piss me offmany stages are either too small (instantaneous ring-outs aren't much fun) or too big and empty.
My beef with the music is that it's all too slow. These sweeping romantic tunes would work well for some epic film about doomed lovers in feudal Japan, but they hardly get my blood pumping in the ring. But hey, don't get the impression that I'm a hater. I truly love Soul Calibur II
I'm just being realistic here.
SHAWN: If there's a sharper-looking console game than SC2, I haven't seen it. Although the new arenas lack the ambitious scale of, say, Dead or Alive 3, they're anything but flawed. Small stages keep tactical players sharpa thorough grasp of evasive techniques can and will save you from ring-outsand the larger levels give newbies a needed break. What's wrong with that?
SHOE: Regardless, the gameplay is absolutely killer. It's so well balanced and finely tuned that you will definitely appreciate it more and more the longer you play. Each seemingly cheap move or combo has a perfectly accessible counter, so this game really lets you show off your skills. Astaroth's powerful throws got you down? Escape them. Taki's lightning-quick combos too fast? Interrupt them. Kilik's long staff keeping you at bay? Walk (or rather, eight-way run) around it. You get the idea.
SHANE: Ultimately, this is a game that you should run out and buy, especially if you have someone around who's willing to go the distance with you in Versus mode. It'll undoubtedly keep you up till 3 a.m. crying "uno mas" in bleary-eyed splendor for a few months after release. Will it be your favorite fighting game of all time? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, it's a keeper.