Soul Calibur 2
This is a title that has obviously been a few years in the making, which is certainly no bad thing. We tend to live in a world where a successful game has a sequel pumped out in a matter of months, to quell the public desire for more of the same. It tends to only be the 'insightful' developer who questions this; only they could come to the conclusion that maybe the public can wait and that maybe, just maybe, it might be better to ensure that the sequel is everything they want it to be, rather than just a rushed attempt to grab some more cash. This appears to be the direction that Namco went with the Soul Calibur sequel, God bless 'em.
As you may know, the original Soul Calibur appeared on the ill-fated Dreamcast. I still get all dewy eyed just thinking about it; at a time when Tekken appeared to be the pinnacle of fighting games and Virtua Fighter had become slightly stagnant, SC came along and wiped the floor with the pair of them. Literally. As I have said, it's taken quite a while for a sequel to emerge, so I would hope that what we have here is more of the same but with tweaks and tucks; more options, better graphics and yet the same classically thrilling game play. Let's take a look and see....
The first thing that struck me about SC2 was when I got to the title screen. Title screens are normally just a brief flashing picture before I slap start and begin getting into the game play, but here, I was dumbstruck. There are so many options present that I thought something terrible had happened, I had actually been given a copy of an RTS or something, however, I was wrong, there is just a huge amount of options available to the player from the start. Alongside the standard arcade mode we have time attack, weapons master, versus, etc. This is when it truly struck me that I may be onto a fantastic title, this game has everything you could ever want from a fighting game and I mean everything!
Still reeling from the sheer amount of options, I settled to play the basic arcade mode to better settle myself into the game before I attempted the incredibly tempting sounding 'Weapons Master' mode. After selecting your character from the large selection available (not including the various 'secret' characters that have to be unlocked) you are launched straight into the old style fighting game scenario, one on one, fight to the death... err... knock out. As soon as the camera panned around the backdrop, I knew that the boys at Namco had been very busy indeed. This game is beautiful. That's not an exaggeration it is simply stunning. The backgrounds look wonderful and the characters all look crisp and clear, with minimal clipping and no slowdown, this game looks like it was bathed in baby oil before it left the developers. I was so amazed in fact, that I had my 'ass' handed to me by my opponent before I even realised the round had begun. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it....
'So', I hear you ask, 'how does it play?'. Thankfully, I can tell you that SC2 plays much the same as its predecessor, which of course, is brilliantly. You only need to know what the basic buttons do to have some fun, yet need to learn the complex moves behind each character if you want to progress any real distance. This is no simple button basher, this game takes skill and patience to master, yet is accessible to all. No wonder all us fighting freaks love it so much! It's important to learn where you are fighting too, the backgrounds have walls and 'ring out' areas, so it's all too easy to forget where you are and get smacked over the edge of the arena. Concentration is the key here. Learn to corner your opponent, ensuring they have no escape and then, as my American friends keep telling me, 'open a can of whoopass on them'. Yes, 'whoopass' indeed.
Although, to be truthful, I would have liked to have seen more interactive backgrounds, along the lines of DOA3, as the ones in SC2, although pretty and effective, can become little more than a fighting mat. Multi-level fighting would not be that difficult to implement in a game such as this and given the swords and bladed weapons aspect of this title, I would of seen it as even easier to portray. Oh well. Perhaps an idea for SC3?
The music in SC2 is a pretty standard fighting affair, plenty of jingly jangly tunes and a few brooding pieces, but in all honesty, you won't be listening to the music, you'll be too busy trying to juggle Voldo into the air using a samurai sword. The effects are rather good, with sampled speech (go on, taunt your opponent on the vs. screen!) and the right amount of 'Oofs', 'Oohs' and of course, 'Arrrgghhs'. And I was rather disturbed by the incredibly realistic stabbing sound. Reminded me of my stint at a butchers. Imagine ten pounds of raw beef thumped with a cleaver... Nice...
All of this goodness so far all stems from the Arcade mode, and I would recommend the game for purchase on that merit alone... but wait! We also have Weapons Master mode, a similar mode to the original game's, but once again, much improved. It is still the same premise; you fight around the world earning gold and weapons, getting stronger and stronger and gaining those all-important shiny blades. Obviously it's not much of a game on it's own, but considering it's an addition to an already impressive title, I'm not complaining!
So, all in all what do I think to SC2? Well, I don't really need to say anything else do I? If you've read the review, you'll know what I mean already. It's awesome. Truly awesome. Go and buy it now, it's fighting at it's best, there surely is no topping this for the next few months, at least, I can't see it being topped.
Go and open a packet of smack-bottom.
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