In online gaming communities, there are a lot of series that come up as being popular, but sometimes you only hear mostly of one game. I’m talking about games like Silent Hill 2, Street Fighter 2, Final Fantasy 7 (or 6 in some cases); these games are said to be better then it’s predecessors and nothing that’s come yet has beaten it either. Today’s game is one of those examples: Soul Calibur 2. Despite having a couple of games in the Soul series come before it, and 5 different games after, no one really cares for those, but mention this one and you’ll get a lot of excited gamers. Why do so many people like this one? That’s what I’m going to try to explain in this review of Soul Calibur 2 released for the PS2 and X-Box, but I’ll be playing the Gamecube version.
In most fighting games, one issue I always had was that they were very boring when playing alone: all you normally get is an “arcade” mode where you fight enemies one by one. Soul Calibur 2, though, gives you Weapon Master mode just made for single players: you pick a character, complete missions and move across a map. Sure, the mission will always be based on the normal one on one fighting, but each time you’ll get new conditions: you may have to beat a series of enemies within a time limit, you may be forced to play as a certain character or you may only be able to damage your opponent using a certain technique (and the list goes on).
Of course, this is called “weapon master” for a reason. As you’re completing challenges, you’ll receive money and unlock new areas. In each new area there’s a shop where you can buy new weapons. Though each character has their basic weapon, like Asteroth’s ax or Mitsurigi’s katana, they can be changed with similar weapons with different effects (often affecting the defense or offense of the holder). You can use these weapons in Weapon Master and the “extra modes”, so that, even if you and a friend play for hours, you can keep things constantly interesting by switching weapons. All this to say that Namco figured out an easy, fun and simple way to keep people playing whether they were alone or not, which isn’t something a lot of fighting game developers seem to consider.
As usual for a review on fighting games, I have to take a look at the diversity in the characters, and I have to say, this is one of my favorite selections. In essence, we have a pirate, a ninja, a samurai, a knight, a fencer and almost 20 more characters. (This is of course not even counting Zelda’s Link, Tekken’s Heihachi and Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, which were exclusive to the games on the Gamecube, PS2 and X-Box respectively).You can argue that one of the characters is a random copy of another’s moves and 4 are composited from a selection of them, but their unique looks, designs and personalities more than make up for it. And when I say “personality” I don’t mean that metaphorically, like the impression I get from them. I mean that each character has their own personality and back story. While you’re playing some of the original modes, you’ll see some cut scenes that talk about the characters motivations and you also unlock full profiles for each person. If you’re just in the mood to play, don’t worry, the story never gets intrusive and everything can be skipped. But I, for one, really appreciate all the work that went in to making each fighter unique and 3 dimensional, and this is actually one of the few games I WANT to see made into a movie for this reason.
There are so many things I wish I could have mentioned, such as the graphics that blew me away and the dramatic soundtrack, but I just don’t have the time. So, let’s look back. Unique characters full of personality. A story that connects them all. Gameplay that makes both single and multiplayer fun and constantly interesting. Looks good. Sounds good. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about this game. It’s not hard to see why it outshines the rest of the series; having improved on the previous games, it set the bar too high for the next titles to reach, so the reaction wasn’t as impressed. This game falls really high on many people’s top 10 lists for Gamecube game and it’s not hard to see why. I give Soul Calibur 2 for the Nintendo GameCube 10 levels out of 10.