Even though the Dreamcast is a now defunct system, it has left many of us with some of the most cherished gaming moments we have had to date. With some of the most original and innovative games, fans of Sega's last console were treated to amazing gameplay from stellar titles. One such title was Namco's Soul Calibur, a weapons based fighter set in true 3D. With literally hundreds of different moves, customized combos, tight and precise control, not to mention unbelievably smooth and detailed graphics, Soul Calibur was the champion of fighters, and as many argue, is still the game to beat in that genre. And now, almost 3 years after the release of the first Soul Calibur, Namco will be bringing back the legendary fighters, and even adding a few, in their newest installment in the series. Soul Calibur 2, which is set to launch later this year, is shaping up to prove once again that when it comes to fighters, 'the legend will never die'.
After the success of the first game, Namco is pulling out all the stops to make sure that Soul Calibur 2 does not disappoint. From what has been released so far, not only will most of the same characters from the last game be returning, but there will be a few fresh faces as well. Yung Tsung, a fresh-faced Korean warrior, will be taking the place of Hwang, using similar techniques but with more focus on legwork than his predecessor. Cassandra will be taking up older sister Sophitia's sword to compete on the stage of history, and Tarim is a young wind priestess who wields 'sajinkai' with aerobatic flair. While these characters may appear at first glance to both look and play like the fighters they replaced, expect much more depth to be added to their styles.
Namco plans to keep the gameplay fairly similar, including button placement, so that fans of the first game will feel right at home. However, even though the gameplay is supposed to be similar, there will be the customary enhancements that almost every sequel to a fighting game receives, such as quicker response times to player input, as well as a more balanced 8 way run system. For instance, the 8 way run system will no longer require the player to hold the D pad, but will allow them to simply run in any direction they please by moving the left analog stick. Additionally, response times, especially when executing moves such as guard impacts, will be greatly improved. The guard impacts in Soul Calibur 2 will work somewhat like they did in the first game, but with one drastic change. Guard impact is now much more diverse and easier to use, but the ability to parry attacks will not likely be incorporated, as was the case with the first game. Instead, hitting the block button in combination with the analog stick will execute a guard impact no matter how it is used. Players can perform impact blocks on high and mid range attacks by pressing the analog stick forward while blocking, and if the analog stick is pushed away while blocking, players can use guard impacts on low range attacks. Hopefully, this simplified system will be much easier to incorporate into your fighting style, especially since it is such a huge part of the game. Namco is also offering some new gameplay techniques that were not available in previous games in the series, such as the use of a wall system. Much like the wall system in Tekken 4, players who are slammed up against a wall will take extra damage. Also, after hitting a wall, players can spin away from their attacker in either direction.
Perhaps the biggest change in the sequel will be in the graphics department. The first game used a lot of motion blur to create visually stunning effects, and while Soul Calibur 2 uses that same technique, Namco has certainly added a lot more to it. Not only will motion blurring be used to enhance the game visually, but also to aid in gameplay as well. Characters from the last game, such as Nightmare, Voldo and Mitsurugi, all had unique stances they could switch between, opening up new attacks at the cost of easy mobility. In the sequel this has been remedied, and through the use of motion blurring characters can switch more easily between stances, without getting locked into one style. We all know how sluggishly Nightmare recovered from certain attacks in the first game, or how Mitsurugi tended to get locked into particular stances, but problems like that will no longer be an issue, because transitions as well as reaction times will be improved. All this is achieved by animating various parts of a character at different speeds and times, creating not only a more realistic sense of movement but smoother transitions between stances, whereas in the first game such transitions were often impossible. However, according to Namco, the game is not yet close to being finalized, so there may be some fairly large changes to the game in the next few months.
Overall, Soul Calibur 2 is shaping up to take the competition down, with more in-depth play than other fighters and what looks to be amazing visuals. There is quite a bit about the game that is still unknown, such as the use of the soul charge and how it will affect gameplay, if at all, as well as other issues. Namco has still not announced how many extras we would see in the home versions of the game, but with the first two installments in the series being so robust in that aspect, it stands to reason that Soul Calibur 2 will be just as amply endowed. The release date for the game has not yet been announced, but Namco plans on finalizing the console versions sometime later this year. We will have more details as they become available.
4/24/2002 Ryan Hartmann