E3 2003: Soul Calibur 2: Hands-on impressions
I was so amazingly disappointed and hurt last year when Namco didnít show off Soul Calibur 2. I was equally relieved and elated when I finally got the chance to lay my hands on the Playstation 2 version of this game. The first Soul Calibur is arguably the finest fighter ever made, but Soul Calibur is even better.
The graphics in Soul Calibur 2 are insane. So smooth, so detailed, it makes most other fighters look pixilated and outdated. Every character is remarkably well drawn, with flowing hair, ruffling clothes, and more. There were 2 costumes per character in Soul Calibur 2, one off which was totally new while the other was an updated style of a previous costume found in Soul Calibur. Also, there is a nicely done anime-styled theme in Soul Calibur 2, but itís downplayed so that it doesnít dominate the visuals. Overall, the new visual aesthetic in Soul Calibur 2 is light years ahead of the original Dreamcast fighter.
The gameplay has received an extensive update as well. Every character retains their entire move set from the first game, with a plethora of new moves, holds, and throws added in. The button layouts are exactly the same as the first game, as well, allowing one familiar with the original to dominate right out of the box with a characterís classic moves. There is also a wall system in place in Soul Calibur 2, and while extra damage, if any, is not really important, the inclusion of the walls allows you to manipulate your foe in a whole new way. However, I still had to keep my eyes out for the edge of the ring, because the Ring Out is still alive and kicking in Soul Calibur 2. The walls never completely enclosed me, so if I wanted to, I could easily work my opponents right out of the ring, which brought back some good memories.
The new characters in Soul Calibur 2 are really what make this game shine. Talim, Cassandra, Yungsung, and Raphael are all great additions to the Soul Calibur family of heroes. While Cassandra is basically just an updated version of Sophitia, and Yungsung is just a substitute for Hwang Kyung-Sung, they both have their own moves and still fight differently. Talim and Raphael, however, are completely original fighters with new weapons and styles.
Raphael is a fencer with a lot of speed, and is almost as fast as Taki. None of his normal attacks are especially powerful, but he can strike quickly several times in a row and has great timed patterns. His saber and his left handed fighting style tend to throw other fighters off balance, giving him an edge against bigger foes.
Talim uses a pair of Tonfa Sticks, which are basically just short blades attached to her arms. With these, she has an incredibly short range, but sheís really quick and once she gets up close, she can be devastating. The Tonfa are actually pretty powerful weapons, and when striking repeatedly she can pretty much own any foe on the stage. Her throws are amazingly cool as well, I might add.
Necrid is another quasi-new character, as well, as he stands in for Edge Master from the original version. He can extend his arms into any weapon used by the other fighters, and has his own special attacks and combos. He wasnít an especially effective character as most of his attacks were just too slow and untimely. Unlike other bigger characters, his attacks are hard to properly time when up against faster foes. He does possess great strength, however, and if one took the time to properly master his move sets, he could become a force to be reckoned with. As is, however, Necrid is not an especially exciting fighter.
Heihachi isnít a new character, but he is new to Soul Calibur. He retains his moves from the Tekken series, and really has a hard time against long-range foes. If he can get inside, he could be effective, but not only is he short ranged, he is slow compared to most other fighters. He is about as nimble as Astaroth.
My love for Soul Calibur made me feel compelled to check out the other console specific characters, Link and Spawn. Link was an amazing character that had a great collection of items from his series to use as sub weapons, such as the bow, the boomerang, and a bag full of bombs. Spawn was big, strong, and quick, making him a fun character that had a lot going for him. My journalistic obligations prevented me from getting too in depth with these characters, but you can rest assured that Link was the most popular fighter on any console. He just rocks that damn much.
Iíve been waiting for this game for a long time, and all the expectations that I have built up in my head have been met, and then some. The beautiful graphics, amazing music and sound, and ridiculously amazing gameplay make this a fighter for the ages. You can be sure weíll have more on this game as shortly as possible.
5/15/2003 Ryan Hartmann