Replay Value: 10
A few years ago, with the launch of the Dreamcast, Soul Calibur was the most revered fighting game at the time. It is the most praised fighting game in the history of the genre and remains at a locked #3 position on Game Rankings. What makes this feat more incredible is that Soul Calibur is unlike every other fighter, including series' such as Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter, Tekken and Dead or Alive. What made Soul Calibur different was that it was, more or less, strictly a weapons based fighter. So, in a world where the aforementioned dominate in the fighting genre, seeing Soul Calibur so warmly received by the press and public alike was somewhat of a shocker. A third in the Soul Edge universe was in mention about 6 months after the release of Soul Calibur, and thus Soul Calibur 2 surfaced at the height of 2001. (An FYI: Soul Edge was the first in the series, followed by Soul Calibur. Soul Calibur 2 is the third game in the Soul Edge universe). It's been a grueling wait, one that has come with its fair share of surprises over the past two years. But finally, Soul Calibur 2 arrives and is ready to tear you a new one all over again.
I've mentioned the depth of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, and I'll reiterate that VF4: Evolution is the deepest fighting game in terms of move-sets. But Soul Calibur 2 easily puts one over Evolution in terms of gameplay depth; which, for the most part, has to do with the amount of gameplay modes SC2 has to offer. As opposed to Evolution's somewhat limited gameplay modes, Soul Calibur 2 boasts an enormous 15 modes of play, and various gameplay modes have alternative modes to them - so in a way, it's like a mode...within a mode. Does that make sense? There are the standard "original" modes, which include: Arcade, Versus, Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle, Versus Team Battle and Practice. Then we have "Weapon Master" mode, which is the meat of the game, much like "Quest” mode is to VF4: Evolution. As you progress in Weapon Master mode, you will earn experience points and also credits that you will be able to spend in the game's shop. The shop is rather limited when compared to VF4: Evolution and its1500 purchasable items, but it's still nice, regardless. SC2's shop allows you to purchase new weapons for every character in the game, and you'll also be able to purchase new costumes and modes, as well. The Weapon Master mode is really nice and offers plenty of challenge. You don't just fight opponents, often times you'll have to defeat them under certain regulations, be it a time handicap, health handicap, or a handicap where only air juggling will count for damage, it's quite varied all around.
Then we have the "extra" versions of the aforementioned modes (excluding Weapon Master and Versus Team Battle), but the difference to them is that in the "extra" versions, you can use items you've obtained in the "Weapon Master" mode. So it’s almost like playing remixed versions of each mode. Each fighter is able to obtain at least 10 different weapons, though, keep in mind; they're only present for show, as they don't alter the strength of the fighter. Regardless, the weapons still look pretty slick, for the most part. In addition to the interactive gameplay modes, SC2 also features a hands-off section called the "Museum". The Museum features modes that must be unlocked or purchased, and they include Battle Theater, Character Profiles, and Demo Theater. Battle Theater is CPU vs. CPU, and Character Profiles is just that. Demo Theater is where you can take a look back at all of the character endings you've unlocked. Basically, Soul Calibur 2 has more gameplay modes than you can shake a stick at. And we'll just leave it at that.
Most of the Soul Calibur cast returns in SC2 (some fighters are missing, unfortunately), and yes, so does Sophitia (rejoice!). Though, in addition to the older fighters, new fighters such as Cassandra, Raphael, Charade, Talim, Necrid, and, of course, Heihachi join the pack. Some of the new fighters are texture swaps (think, Ryu and Ken), while others have their own unique move-set. Obviously, everyone wants to know how well does Heihachi fit in the game. Well, when I first received Soul Calibur 2 back in March, I was pretty insistent on not using Heihachi in the game. "I've played Tekken enough", I said to myself. Well, the really curious part in me gave him a shot, and I was rather surprised with Heihachi. He's a pretty decent fighter, more so than I expected him to be. He's agile, precise, and quite deadly, as well. He's a surprisingly enjoyable character to fight with. It's true, the most powerful weapons are indeed someone's fists (was it Bruce Lee who said so?), so it's nice to see Heihachi complete the Soul Calibur cast with his presence. In terms of move-sets, Soul Calibur 2 is every bit as deep as the original and them some. It's the second deepest fighting game of our time, and chances are few fighters will ever come close to this kind of depth and detail. With the amount of detailed poured into the game, Soul Calibur 2 is arguably the smoothest playing 3D fighter on the market, and I’m purely referring to the actual gameplay aspects, nothing technical.
Moving on to the technical side of things, Soul Calibur 2 sounds fantastic. The game's soundtrack is beautiful. The tunes ring with both vibrant, gothic and Bach-like symphony sounds -- a true feat for the ears. The game also features Pro Logic II support, so audiophiles should feel rather happy to hear that. Visually, as I'm sure you all know by now, Soul Calibur 2 is downright stunning. It edges VF4: Evo slightly in visuals, but that's only because it features larger battle locales, that are also somewhat more detailed than Evolution's. The color palette in SC2 is that of a painting and the imagery is absolutely vivid. If that wasn't enough, the character detail, and the texture detail is splendid. Namco really did a solid job with every technical aspect that Soul Calibur 2 features. No one should be disappointed.
I hope that by now you've purchased Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, because there are no sole recommendations to be made. Both Soul Calibur 2 and Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution deserve a purchase, and I can't say that I clearly prefer one over the other. With Evolution priced at a mere $20, there is no reason as to why you shouldn't own both fighting games. They both feature a tremendous amount of depth, and both feature utterly fantastic core modes. The bottom line is: Soul Calibur 2 is worthy of the Soul Calibur namesake and it lives up to the original in every way imaginable, and manages to considerably outperform it, as well.