Soul Edge was a much underappreciated game when it was released on the PlayStation back in the late 90s. It was far deeper than the competition and had some great 3D swordplay action to boot. Yet the nation was still enthralled with Sega’s Virtua Fighter
series and Namco’s masterpiece was forced to take a back seat. A few years later a sequel was released on Sega’s now-defunct Dreamcast platform. Again the game was underappreciated because it was released to a fairly small audience. This time the game added more fighters, tightened up the gameplay even more and polished up the graphics until they were like nothing that the gaming world had ever witnessed. Strangely enough, all of the hardcore DC fans who were kind enough to support the game (all fifteen of them) were inspiration enough for Namco to produce a sequel. Sure the company took a huge chance but hey, you can’t make money without spending money.
Forget everything you thought you knew about 3D fighting because Soul Calibur 2 has rewritten the book on what we should come to expect from the genre. It comes complete with the Sword Master mode that was present in Soul Edge but was mysteriously missing in the DC Soul Calibur. In this mode players get the opportunity to travel the land, beating foes and acquiring new weapons for their characters to use in combat. In order to do so players are placed into a battle with specific objectives. For instance maybe you’ll have to beat a character using just throws or moves that are Soul Charged. There’s plenty of depth to be had here and being able to acquire new weapons is a nice way of rewarding gamers for pouring hours and hours into the game.
Players will also be able to use the newly acquired weapons in the Arcade mode. Upon completing the game for the first time you’ll unlock Arcade Extra, which allows you to use weapons against the AI and your friends. This is a nice way of balancing out gameplay in addition to the health meter handicapping system. By letting newer players use the stronger weapons they’ll be better equipped to win the battle against veteran players from time-to-time. There are fifteen characters available from the start and eight extra characters that can be unlocked. Most of the characters make a return appearance from SC including Maxi, the nunchaku wielding pirate(?), Mitsurugi, who does Haohmaru impersonations on the side, and Xianghau, the stereotypical Chinese babe who’s one tough momma. Sadly some of the unlockable characters really aren’t all that new and are just rehashes of some oldies like Rock from the first SC.
What makes the fighting so compelling is that all of the fighters are amazingly balanced. Big Lumbering guys like Astaroth are more than capable of keeping up with fast guys like Maxi while people with short weapons like Xianghua can still fight against the stick-wielding Kilik. Sure you’ll have to be more tactful in order to move in close enough to take our your opponent but you’ll be well-equipped for the task. Like before you’ll have two weapon-based attacks at your disposal (vertical and horizontal slash), a kick move that can be used to quickly counter attacks, throws, blocks, parry maneuvers and the soul charge tactic. Players will always be able to move in eight directions as they please, for quick players going against slower players this is a must-have tactic. When you sense a juggernaut going for a vertical slash you may want to sidestep it, leaving him vulnerable and open to your combos. He’s coming with a horizontal slash? Then maybe you’ll want to duck underneath it or counter it with a quick kick or vertical slash. Parry maneuvers, which require you to press back and block in cadence with an enemy attack, are particularly useful for counteracting the tactics of a predictable foe.
While there is definitely some strategy to be had in the midst of combat Soul Calibur 2
still boils down to being a simple button masher. This works out as both a blessing and a detriment for the game. Experienced gamers who want to play with skill and precision may find themselves having a great time against other precise players. However, playing against a button-mashing newbie can prove to be an aggravating experience, especially after they lose to a five-year-old playing as Maxi for the fifth straight time. The simple fact is that SC2 has far too much button mashing in it whereas other similar competitors such as Virtua Fighter 4 Evo
on the PS2 require much more expertise and preciseness. In fact, hardware boy John boasts that he can ring out an opponent standing in the middle of a ring with the use of one large continuous combo. Now that’s no fun, getting hit once and knowing that you’re practically dead meat.
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