For anyone who has played the original Soul Calibur, the words "the legend will never die" are not likely to ever be forgotten. With near perfect balance that is not found in most fighting games, coupled with amazing graphics that truly pushed the limits of the Dreamcast, Soul Calibur is a fighter for the ages, and is still arguably one of the best games ever made. True to its word, the legend of Soul Calibur will not die, as Namco is bringing the series back for another go, this time with even better graphics, more balanced gameplay, and an even deeper mission quest.
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 So smooth, so detailed, it makes most other fighters look pixilated and outdated.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 incredibly detailed weaponry. There are 2 costumes per character in Soul Calibur 2, one of which is totally new, while the other is 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 it's downplayed so that it doesn't 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, in addition to a plethora of new moves, holds, and throws. 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 character's 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. For instance, knowing your characters moves allows you to keep an opponent pinned against a wall while you beat them senseless, which is joy distilled. 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 enclose you, so if you wanted to, you could easily work your opponents right out of the ring, which should bring back some fond 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 wrists. With these, she has an incredibly short range, but she's 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 and morph them into any weapon used by the other fighters, and has his own special attacks and combos. He isn't an especially effective character, though, as most of his attacks are just too slow and untimely. Unlike other bigger characters, his attacks are hard to properly time when up against faster foes, simply because he is literally too diverse. It will take a lot of investment in time to be able to use him proficiently, and personally, I would have been happier to see Edge Master make a return appearance instead. Necrid does possess great strength, however, and if one takes 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 isn't a new character, per se, but he is new to the Soul Calibur series. He retains his moves from the Tekken series, and really has a hard time against long range foes. If he can get inside, he can be effective, but not only is he short ranged, he is slow compared to most other close range fighters. He is about as nimble as Astaroth, which doesn't serve him well.
The original Soul Calibur was about as close to perfection as fighters come. However, Namco has amazingly managed to polish the original by adding new features in the sequel that compliment the original without sacrificing any of the aspects that made the first game so much fun. Soul Calibur 2 is set to hit a game store near you this summer, so stay tuned for more updates on this title, and remember, the legend will never die!
5/27/2003 Ryan Hartmann