|Sort of a mediocre follow-up to the impressive Dreamcast version. Not that SCII is a bad game by any means, just that Soul Calibur on DC makes for a pretty tough act to follow, especially since a lot of its impact at the time was due to the unrivalled graphics, and while SCII looks somewhat more detailed and rich, its visuals aren't the amazing leap that SC was from the from PS1's Soul Edge.|
And SCII doesn't go out on many limbs in its little forest. You can play through Arcade mode, naturally, and Weapon Maker mode, which is pretty much like the mission mode from the first game, except that now you can unlock or buy variant weapons for each character. The weapon variation is cute, and has minor effects on gameplay since some weapons are better at offense, or defense, or they're slightly shorter or longer, etc, but it certainly isn't earth-shattering, in fact it feels a bit gimmicky.
Still, I came to this just hoping for a nice beefy mission mode like the first, and this doesn't disappoint--indeed, so far the mission mode looks a lot more expansive this time around. Good, I just hope for the next time around they take this farther--make it a full-fledged fighting RPG type of thing or something.
Speaking of RPGs, the story here, with rival good and evil swords or something, is a complete loss, and the cheesy voice clips have gotten even cheesier. And I never liked some of the character designs--really, how exciting is it to play through the battles of Arcade mode only to get to a boss who looks like a dim light-bulb? A few of the new characters, such as the fencer Raphael or the combined Siegfried/Nightmare, have clean designs and fun fighting styles, but we also have to suffer through abominations such as the horribly out-of-place Link of "Legend of Zelda" fame, the ultra-goofy "Necrid" from Todd McFarlane Studios (tm) (argh), and "Talim," the new peppy 15-year-old girl who dresses like an Asian Pippi Longstocking and spouts such platitudes as "I am one with the wind" in a sickeningly cutesy voice (I should try switching to the Japanese voices--she can't possibly be as annoying in that language, since at least I won't be able to comprehend the words she's slaughtering). And Sophitia's kid sister is disappointingly dull. Talk about a poverty of inspiration. Why can't all the characters here be as cool as Mitsurugi or Ivy? Ahh, dear Ivy...
But even though it does almost nothing to improve upon what I've always felt was a somewhat button-mashy fighting engine, or to give us exciting new gameplay modes (there are of course a ton of variants you unlock, but they mostly just quibble things slightly, like allowing you to choose two characters, or use an acquired weapon), dash it all if it isn't fun nonetheless. It's hard to feel angry for long when faced with Namco's usual superb production values, including truly fantastic sound and music, and the game loads so quickly and you unlock so many shiny new doo-dads at every turn that you could be forgiven for forgetting to demand real evolution and just settling for what is, essentially, a highly-polished expansion pack to a four-year-old game.
|This would be a good place give cyber-lip service one of the real lasting good things to come out of this game: Hori's "Soul Calibur II" console arcade sticks. Sure they have goofy color schemes, and I would have preferred round or at least octagonal stick holes to square ones, but they're very solid, along the lines of Namco's old grey PS1 sticks if you've ever had the pleasure of handling one of those, and respond effortlessly. Just the things to use with the Game Boy Player (entry 86)--or any GC game using digital controls, for that matter. Not quite as smooth as ASCII's "Capcom vs SNK 2" sticks for PS2, in my book, but quite good.|| ||