|By Dillon Pritchard||Wednesday, 11 Apr 2007|
When you hear the word “Namco”, what do you think of? Pac Man? Galaga? Tekken? Maybe Time Crisis, or how about Ridge Racer? Yes, all of these are classics of arcades everywhere, being revived in a big way for….err, wait. That meme doesn’t belong here. Looking at that list, Namco has quite the venerable repertoire, but there’s one series that holds a special place in my heart: the Soul Edge / Soul Calibur games. And Soul Calibur II is the pinnacle of bunch. Granted, SCII was my first exposure to the series, so maybe that statement is a bit biased. But read on and you’ll see why I like it.
First of all, this game actually has a decent, albeit corny storyline, unlike most fighting games. Basically, there is this somehow all-powerful sword called Soul Edge. Yes, I said all-powerful. Soul Edge is not just an ordinary sword…it’s the bane of Evil, and sentient to boot. So I guess what I really mean is that it’s a possessed sword that will steal your soul and wants to take over the world. Naturally, nobody is aware of this, and everyone is out to get the sword, because rumor has it that it will increase fighting abilities beyond belief. But enough about Soul Edge…this game has Soul Calibur in the title, remember? Now for some back-story. In the past, Soul Edge, wherever it came from, was found by a powerful warrior, and it subsequently consumed him. None dared challenge his power. Enter Soul Calibur, the sword forged to defeat Soul Edge. Another warrior (thank you, Namco, for never giving us names) finds Soul Calibur and sets out to challenge Soul Edge. After an epic battle, Soul Edge was defeated, and shattered into pieces. Both warriors vanished and the “tale of two swords” faded into history. SCII takes place many years after all that, and in thats time, the shattered fragments of Soul Edge were unknowingly transported across the land. Now the evil sword has reformed, and calls out to all warriors; young and old, strong and weak, disciplined and wild. That’s where you come in…find Soul Edge. Will you destroy it or wield it? Ok, so maybe that’s been done before. But the rest of the game makes up for that.
The first thing you’ll notice about SCII are surely the graphics. Crisp, clean, and finely detailed, they look the same as (if not better than) the arcade version, which was excellent to begin with. Needless to say, they are a drastic improvement over the original Soul Edge’s graphics, with realistic models and fluid facial expressions. The game purportedly runs at a constant speed of 60 FPS, showing no signs of slowdown whatsoever. Namco did a great job on this one. Definitely the best looking fighting game to date when it came out, and it still looks good to my eyes.
Moving on, the musical scores are fantastic. Not only are they composed well, but the mixing is excellent, and sounds amazing on a 5.1 surround system. I have to say, though, you won’t really be paying much attention with all the fast paced fighting going on. Sound effects are good as well, but they do get annoying after a while. I can only take so much “Hoo Ho! Ha!” before I have to turn them down. Not to mention that the random statements from characters at the beginning and end of battles get real old real quick. But hey, it could be worse. (Here’s looking at you, Dragon Ball Z Budokai.)
Surely most would agree, though, that game mechanics are the most important part of a fighting game. And that’s where SC II really shines. The controls are simple and easy to learn, yet hard to master; the way a good fighter should be. One interesting thing about the Soul series is that all characters fight with a particular weapon (mostly) unique to them. With the exception of Heihachi from the Tekken games, that is (PS2 version only), who fights with his fists. My biggest complaint is that even though controls are adjustable, the GameCube controller can makes things awkward, and I highly recommend getting an arcade-style stick. In SCII, combo moves are easily executed, but not too easily. There are literally hundreds of combinations at your disposal. The AI is great, but very frustrating at times. At least that keeps the game challenging. One of my favorite features is that not only do you get the original Arcade mode, but you also get Weapons Master mode (sort of like a story mode), in which you pick a character and go search for Soul Edge. This is the best (and only in most cases) way to unlock extra features, and believe me there are a ton of them. From new weapons, to costumes, to characters, the game gives plenty of incentive to keep playing. That also adds to what I believe to be a very high replay value.
Overall, this game is a classic, simply put. Great graphics, sound, and fighting system make highly enjoyable game. And the best part is that it can be picked up for very cheap now. I give it a 9/10 simply because I’m a hard critic and never give a game a 10. Hey, nothing’s perfect…