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October 1, 2003
Soul Calibur II - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
19/9/2003EA GamesNamco1-2M15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
138KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesYesSmallYes

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Necrid is one of the new characters.
Namco. While they used to be the king of the arcades (along with Sega and Konami) the company has shifted focus back to the home console market. A good thing too considering the massive decline in numbers of people going to videogame arcades in recent years. With titles such as Ridge Racer, Time Crisis and Tekken the company certainly has a strong lineup of arcade styled titles. But it's their fighting games that stand out among the crowd. Tekken was, until the last couple of disappointing releases, a fighter arguably superior to Sega's Virtua Fighter, although many would argue that the gameplay and balance is lacking in Namco's fighter.

Soon after the release of Tekken 2 in the arcades Namco stunned the world with Soul Blade (or Soul Edge as it was also known), the prequel to Soul Calibur. This was a truly breathtaking weapons based fighting game had visuals that were unrivaled both in the arcade and on PSOne. A couple of years later and Namco unleash the sequel, Soul Calibur on the Playstation based System 12 board in the arcades, and then a massively upgraded version on the Dreamcast. To this day many, including myself, regard Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast as not only the greatest fighting game ever, but also the most stunning port ever seen from arcade to home with massivly upgraded graphics and many new hidden features.

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The effects are gorgeous.
While there were many rumours about a sequel to Soul Calibur ever since the Dreamcast game arrived in late 1999, Soul Calibur II wasn't officially announced by Namco until 2002. The game hit the arcades in early 2003 and all three major consoles (in PAL territories) in September. However, rather then identical ports between each system Namco have confirmed the inclusion of an exclusive character on each console. While XBox owners get Todd McFarlane's Spawn and Gamecube owners get to battle with Link (from Zelda), Playstation 2 owners get Heihachi from the Tekken series. Heihachi doesn't have any weapons like the other characters but relies on his fists, something which makes for some interesting battles, although it always feels wrong when blocking enemy weapons with your arms.

As for the character list besides Heihachi, the Playstation 2 game will include Ivy, Mitsuragi, Astoroth, Maxi, Cassandra, Kilik, Xianghua, Nightmare, Taki, Voldo, Yunsung, Raphael, Talim and Necrid an all new, and quite powerful, character designed by Todd McFarlane. Raphael is one of the new characters who originates from Europe and uses a fencing technique with thin bladed weapon. Another of the newcomers is Talim, a young lady from Asia who uses twin blades as weapons. Two characters have also been replaced with virtually identically fighting styled characters. Sophitia's sister Cassandra has taken her sisters place while Hwang's understudy, Yunsung, has taken his place.

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Heihachi makes and appearance.
Soul Calibur II includes 7 different game modes including Arcade, Vs, Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle, Practice, and Weapon Master. Once again it's the brilliant Weapon Master mode that makes this game so special. While most game modes are standard fare in this game it's the Weapon Master Mode that will have you hooked for weeks. Through this mode you can earn experience points (which level up your character) as well as gold. This gold can then be used to purchase new items such as weapons and costumes. Through this mode it's possible to unlock around a dozen weapons per character, which can then be used in the other modes such as arcade or Vs.

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Shake that booty baby.
It's rare that games come along and have no faults, but Soul Calibur II comes very close. One thing I found slightly annoying, and I'm not sure if it's a bug or if there's a reason for it, but at times the screen doesn't display the name of one of the fighters and the announcer won't call out names occasionally. Another niggle is the dungeons found in Weapon Master Mode. These dungeons see you fighting around 20 enemies before reaching a not so difficult boss. The fights aren't overly hard, but it takes some time and can become very repetitive, even with the random fight conditions.

Given the passing of time the graphics in Soul Calibur II don't have that same jaw dropping impact like the Dreamcast original several years ago. Don't get me wrong, this is a fine looking game, damn impressive in fact, but isn't groundbreaking. The character models are superb with some wonderful animation while the visual effects such as sparks and glows are stunning. The backgrounds are fairly limited in number, but what's there is impressive. Electronic Arts have also been kind enough to keep a 60Hz mode to keep the game full screen and full speed rather then Namco's typically (during the early PS2 life especially) horrific 50Hz modes. Even better is the inclusion of Progressive Scan support for those eight Australians with compatible TV's.

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Taki takes a hit.
Aurally Soul Calibur II is a treat thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Pro Logic II support. The music blends well with both the action and the stages in which the fights take place with some wonderful orchestral and electronic styles. The sound effects are brutal and have a terrific quality to them. The announcers voice returns which I personally love, although I understand it's a personal choice and other people loath it. The characters voices are the one disappointment with some very cheesy one-liners, and very poor acting quality.

Soul Calibur II is yet another classic fighting game which should be in any PS2 owners collection. The graphics, while not mind-blowing, are very impressive and the game modes will take weeks to fully explore. The gameplay, however, is the big winner and with a wide variety of fighters to master Soul Calibur II will have you hooked for weeks, if not months. Get this game now.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSNot as jaw dropping as expected, but still looks awesome.
SOUNDThe same voiceover, and some electrifying music make this a winner.
GAMEPLAYWeapon based combat has never been this fun, and deadly.
VALUEPlenty of replay value, the Weapon Master mode will keep you going.
OVERALLSoul Calibur II is one of the greatest fighting games ever seen on a console. While it's not as jaw dropping as the Dreamcast prequel, the graphics, sound and gameplay still combine to make this a "must have" title on the PS2. Fans of the series will not be disappointed.

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