In this preview of Soul Calibur 2 we will be focusing solely on the combat system, how it will relate to the original game, and what changes we might expect. Soul Calibur, more than any other fighting game, is known for both its depth and incredible balance, things that many other popular fighters do not share. Soul Calibur 2 will look to continue this trend while building on many key factors.
The core gameplay that was so addictive in the first Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast will be largely retained in the sequel. Due to its unprecedented depth, even the basics of that game required time and patience to master. Being a weapons based fighter, there is much more to take into account than size and strength of a character, such as type of weapon, size of weapon, range, speed, weight, etc. On top of that, how these important weapons figures relate to their character is also of concern. Obviously, a huge beast like Astaroth is going to have an easier time swinging a 100lb axe than a petite girl like Xianghua. All this had to be taken into account when creating the game engine, and to do this Namco employed a revolutionary physics engine that would take into account all data on weapons and characters to create realistic speed, strength and range stats. This being said, combat in Soul Calibur was the most realistic ever seen in a game from that perspective, and we can expect no less from its much anticipated sequel.
There are several key maneuvers in Soul Calibur 2 that must be properly executed in order to prevail against a skilled opponent. One of these is the 8-way-run. In the first game, this system allowed the player to run freely in any direction by pressing the D-pad and using the analog stick. This gave the player massive amounts of freedom, allowing side steps, rushes, and parries to be executed with ease. In the newest installment in this series, this system will work even better, by foregoing the need to use the D-pad at all, and instead making true 3D movement easier than ever before, by requiring nothing more than input from the left analog stick.
Another key basic in this series is defense, and more specifically, what is known as the 'guard impact'. Guard impacts are used not only to deflect attacks, but also to set your character up for a counter strike by throwing the opposition off guard. This is executed by using the block button in conjunction with the analog stick. Instead of using the same system from the first game, Soul Calibur 2 will change up the guard impact feature by doing away with the ability to parry in this mode. Instead, all attacks defended in this way will be done with a guard impact. To execute this move, you will need to press the analog stick forward while blocking to impact a high or mid range attack, and press the stick away from your enemy to impact a low range attack. While this may seem like a simplified system compared to the original, which allowed for the parrying of an attack if you pressed the stick away when blocking, this new version should be both more intuitive and beneficial, as executing guard impacts or parries on low attacks in the first game were somewhat difficult. Now players will have the ability to counter almost any move, save unblockables, from any position, regardless of the range or style of attack.
So, with this knowledge of the basics and how they will be employed, here is a brief rundown of the combat system in Soul Calibur 2: You can use the 8-way-run to side step a vertical slash, but a horizontal strike can counter a side step. Also, vertical attacks will beat out horizontal slashes due to greater speed. There will, however, be much more to this game than such simple basics. It is Namco's goal to create a centralized philosophy with this game, basing most of the balance on those three moves; vertical and horizontal attacks, and the 8-way-run. Like most martial arts, more complex moves and combos will arise from a mastery of the basics.
With any great fighting game, there is a subtle yet profound balance that must be manipulated in order to be victorious. The first Soul Calibur definitely achieved such balance, and the second will be building upon the same ideals to create an incredibly balanced game. By taking the basics into account, it will be up to players to use characters that best fit their styles in order to properly manipulate the system. You won't be able to use Mitsurugi in the same manner as Kilik and expect to win. Players will need to take into account the speed and range of their characters, as well as innate strength, and formulate a battle plan accordingly. For instance, characters such as Kilik will obviously have great range, but on top of that, they will be able to use that range to greater effect against players that abuse the 8-way-run, because greater range allows for a longer reach to each side as well. Conversely, while players such as Taki may be more vulnerable to long distance attacks due to the range of their weapons, they will be able to take greater advantage of the 8-way-run system, manipulating it for their benefit and allowing them to close the gap between their enemy, taking away the advantage that characters like Kilik or Ivy would be looking to expose.
Basically, what this all means is that regardless of your character, and the style you choose to implement, there will be no character with an unfair advantage in this game like there are in other fighters. It's a fact that many gamers have come to either loathe or adore Tekken's Eddy Gordo for his incredible range, ease of use, and diversity of attack. There will be no 'Eddy Gordo's' in Soul Calibur 2. Every character will require skill to manipulate the system to their advantage.
Tweaks and Improvements
As stated before, Soul Calibur 2 will be retaining most of the combat system from the first game, but like every other fighter out there, tweaks to improve the flow of the game are only natural. While arguably the best fighter to date and nearly flawless in gameplay, there were a few aggravating issues that popped up in the first Soul Calibur. One such issue was reaction time for certain characters, most notably Ivy, Taki, and Nightmare. Taki had perhaps one of the coolest moves in the first game, her 'stalker' leap that let her jump over and behind the competition. The only problem was that it took what seemed like forever to recover from this move before being able to take advantage of the situation. Therefore, unless you were facing a novice, or an incredibly slow character like Astaroth, this move almost never paid off and sometimes ended in Taki taking some harsh punishment. Nightmare, the strongest character in the game, had some devastating moves, but with some of those impressive moves came sluggish reaction times that left him open to counter attacks. While its obvious that slower characters will pay for their strength in terms of speed, recovery after an attack should not be where this comes into play, but rather during an attack, giving faster characters the chance to dodge and/or counter these slower moves. Fortunately, you can expect these types of flaws to be greatly improved upon if not totally eliminated in the sequel, as Namco has acknowledged both their existence and their determination to remedy these problems.
Another problem in the first game that Namco hopes to fix is the limited mobility of characters such as Nightmare and Mitsurugi. These characters could switch into stances that opened up different attack styles, but at the cost of easy mobility. On top of that, Mitsurugi in particular seemed to get hung up in certain stances, making it quite difficult to switch back to his default stance. However, through the use of motion blending, the use of different speeds of animation applied to different parts of a character's body, Namco will be able to provide smoother transitions. This is because the problem with switching between these stances in the first game was one of proper character animation, something that will be eliminated in the sequel.
Additionally, look for some type of wall system to come into play in Soul Calibur 2, similar to that found in Tekken 4, also developed by Namco. A wall system was completely lacking in the first game, with more importance placed on Ring Outs instead, where a character was forced out of the elevated ring. Namco states that while the importance of the Ring Out will not be diminished in Soul Calibur 2, the wall system should to come into play just as much. When players are slammed up against a wall, damage from that attack will be increased. However, the defending character will be able to use that wall to spin quickly in either direction, positioning themselves for a countering move, making this system a two-sided coin. While the possibility of increasing the damage you deal out to your enemy is certainly an attractive proposition, one has to consider if it is worth it given the probability of a counter attack from the opposition. This wall system looks to be just one more area in which Soul Calibur 2 will be both incredibly complex and appropriately balanced.
While the game is more than 50% complete, there is still much about Soul Calibur 2 that is not known. There are some new faces in this installment, such as Yung Tsung and Cassandra. Both of these characters, however, are replacing some of the original cast, namely Hwang and Sophitia, so you can expect their styles to be at least somewhat similar. However, there is at least one more confirmed character, who has not been shown in action, named Tarim, a 15 year old wind priestess. The only thing known about Tarim is that she wields a pair of 'sajinkai', and practices a dance-like martial art.
There is also one more known, yet unconfirmed, factor in the game, known as the 'break' system. Supposedly, players who focus too much on defensive blocking may find their weapon broken to pieces after repeated blocks, forcing them to engage in hand to hand combat and putting them at an extreme disadvantage. However, nothing new has been revealed about this in several months, and it is entirely possible that Namco has scraped this idea due to logistical problems.
All told, there is much to look forward to in this sequel to the most in depth fighter of all time, Soul Calibur. Surely there will be much more information available at this year's E3, and yours truly will be bringing you all the details just as soon as possible.
4/25/2002 Ryan Hartmann