Written By Shaun McCracken

On the last week of August 2003, Nintendo got a double shot of some of the best games of the year to appear on the Gamecube. Of course, we know one was Soul Calibur II and the other being F-Zero GX. Two totally different games, but share a link of being some of the best games of the year. I guess you can find another link between the two, the fact that we had to wait a few years for a long-awaited follow-up. 

Those who do not know what this game is about or know about it's origins, Soul Calibur II is the sequel to the arcade and critically acclaimed Dreamcast home version, which in turn, were sequels to a mildly accepted arcade and PS1 port of Soul Blade. The wait for the SCII sequel was a long 4 years since the Dreamcast release. We first got a taste of the game back in 2001 in it's arcade forms, then later shown as a GCN build. Later, the PS2 and X-Box versions were built, and in 2003, the game finally hit home, first in Japan back in April, then in August in the US. Was it worth the wait? That depends on who you ask. I personally think it was, but quite a few critics, while accepting the game pretty well, have been comparing it highly to Sega's Virtua Fighter Evolution. Finally, a rivalry that involves games, not the system. 

Enough of the history. Let's get into what this game is about. Basically, it almost seems like a photocopy of the plotline of the first SCII, but with a different final boss. Participants in the game go on a quest for the blade known as the Soul Calibur. Everyone has a different reason and agenda for wanting the blade. Some want to destroy the blade, others would like to use the blade to destroy their enemies.

The game is set up with a vast amount of game play options. You have the arcade mode, which plays just like it's titled. You defeat your opponents one by one for seven stages, and then fight the final boss for the eighth and final stage. You have a time trial mode, which is pretty similar to the arcade mode, but you get no continues and you're playing for a time record, rather than fulfilling a storyline of your chosen character. There's the fairly addictive Survival mode, which has you going against as many opponents as you can on just one life. There's a VS Battle mode for you to go against one of your friends (or foes) on a one on one battle. Sort of hidden in the madness lies the Team Battle mode, which is actually pretty fun, and adds a slight dimension to the game play. You can choose up to three players to join your team, and fight through 5 stages. Basically, it's almost similar to the time trial, but I think you get to continue. It's pretty reminiscent of the game play of Capcom Vs. SNK 2, but you are not as powerful if you decide to take less people in your team. Team Battle is also available in a two-player mode. Every one of the said game play modes (also including a practice mode) is also available as an "Extra" mode, which basically lets you use weapons you have won or bought in the Weapon Master mode. 

Speaking of which, we have the Weapon Master mode, which is pretty much the same mode offered in the first Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast (it may have been under a different name). The Weapon Master mode is a wonderful addition to the game. If you've ever played Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance's "Konquest" mode, then this will seem a bit familiar. Except here, the stages go beyond learning your moves and abilities, and actually offers challenges within a storyline. You can play as any character you have unlocked, and you are also able to change the character at any point before you start a stage. The Weapon Master mode takes you through different towns and challenges of varying difficulties, with a storyline in between. I won't go into storyline details for the sake of not spoiling it for you. I will say that there is a lot of reading involved, and there are no cinematic that direct the action. Seems a bit lazy on Namco's part, but there's also the fact that it probably wouldn't fit on a GCN disc. Depending on how quickly you move through this mode, or how well you do, the amount of time it takes to complete this mode will vary. I'm still going through it, but I've been all over in the game, so my focus was not totally directed on the Weapons Master mode. A great addition to the game, and one that should be explored to unlock and buy various items that can be used in other parts of the game, such as weapons or galleries. 

Soul Calibur II was indeed a long-awaited and much hyped about game. But when you really look at it, it is just a fighting game. How deep can a game like this be? Well, it's much deeper than a lot of fighters on the market, such as Bloody Roar Primal Fury or Dead Or Alive 3. But then there are somethings done in other games that seem more appealing or interesting than what is offered here. For example, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, while not a terribly deep game, offers three different fighting styles for each of the fighters that can be changed instantly during combat. While this may seem deeper than SCII's one-style fighting engine, it's also more complicated. I appreciate SCII's more approachable fighting engine, despite the fact that you're limited to weapon attacks, throws and kicks (but there are a lot of them). Then there's Virtua Fighter 4 (and the newer Evolution), which a lot of people seem to like a little bit more than SCII. The fighting system is different, as well as the overall game play. I haven't gotten into VF4 yet (mainly because I bought a busted-ass copy, and missed out on getting refunded for a broken product), but when I do, I can be able to discuss which is better. I think I may have lost focus somewhere. I was trying to explain if the game has enough depth for a fighting game. I think it does. You have a large variety of game play modes (more than MKDA), a pretty smooth and easily accessible fighting system, a great Weapons Master mode, and some unlockable content (but not nearly as much as the content in MKDA, which had a sh*t load). And depending if you're playing against other people, this game may stick around in your system longer. I will admit, I have been playing F-Zero GX twice as much as this, but I managed to get in almost 10 hours so far. I'm still not done with it, and I think when I have seen and done everything, the game play time will be around 20 hours. Not too bad for a fighting game. 

Ok, so we get that out of the way. Before I go on to the graphics, I want to talk about the controls. A lot of critics from different gaming publications have bitched about the GCN controller. "It's not well suited for this game", "The D-Pad is too small", "The PS2 controller is better". You must really suck at gaming if you can not tolerate this controller. These people have probably been using the Gamecube longer and more often than I have (although I've had mine for over a year, so I've had time with it as well), so I would suspect they could find their way around this game just fine. But from the way they complain, they sound like they are just too inept to use a controller such as this. In fact, the only publication that didn't slam the GCN's controller as much was Gamepro, which is one (publication) I never really cared for. In fact, they made a valid point by citing that the X-Box may be harder to control, because it has two different controllers. People are so used to the controller S now, that they may forget that some people actually still own the huge and cumbersome controller that originally debuted with the system. Nintendo never changed their controller halfway through the GCN's life cycle, and has remained the same. So, why bitch? Ok, here's the point I'm trying to make: Personally, I have no problem with the GCN controller. The stick works just as well as a D-Pad for me (I would prefer to use the analog stick), and the button layout seems pretty fair. In fact, every move you need to make is available on the face buttons (except for the soul charge, which can be done by using Z). I found the layout fairly intuitive, and never really struggled with the controls. So why is it I, who is not really a professional gamer and run a site I don't even get paid for, manage to find my way around this game without complaining about the controls? 

Well, now that my semi-rant is done, let's get into the visuals. When I played the demo of this game, I was kind of mixed about the graphics. The library stage and the palace stage that was offered looked great, as well as the characters, but the green underground stage didn't look as nearly as good as I would expect. Well, most of the game's stages look spectacular in the final version, in comparison to the "green stage". The detail and textures are done very well, the characters look great, the lighting looks great, the frame rate is fluid and runs at 60 FPS and the character animations are done right. So far, this is the best looking fighter on the system, and looks more realistic than the action figure like characters done for Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance (I think we can thank RenderWare for that). And seeing how this was a multi-console game, it's surprising to see that no quality was sacrificed here. If Namco continues the trend, R: Racing Evolution will kick ass.

The sound is equally great. The music is excellent, the sound effects are fantastic. You now have a choice in voice-overs for the characters. You can keep them in the English format, or have them speak Japanese (which was the only option you had in the first SC). While it's great to have English, it's nice to know that you can play the game the way it was originally done it it's Japanese form (minus Japanese in subtitles, they're all English here). I should say, that the English voices are not that perfect. Some phrases have awkward pauses or are just said in an awkward fashion. It's not terrible, but it seems a little jilted. Some come off well, other's don't.

Well, the question is to get Soul Calibur II or not. Well, if you're starving for a fighting game (especially on this system), then this will do you very well. If you're expecting a radically different sequel, with brand new changes, it may disappoint you. It's overall design is pretty similar to the Dreamcast SC. If you're looking for a good game, you can't do wrong with this one. If you own a Gamecube, and want this game, I encourage you to get this version (if you own other consoles). The game plays just fine, I doubt it's that much better on the X-Box, and since it's not online for any system, there's not much reason to bother with the PS2 version. Plus, we get Link, the X-Box and PS2 people don't. Does it seem like GC favoritism? Well, not really. I remember that the game started out on the GCN, so really it was the first console version to be developed and shown (prove me wrong if you can), so really this should be the better version. Also, isn't it time for the GCN to have it's moment in the sun?




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One of the best fighters on the system since Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance

Mortal Kombat Deception

Bloody Roar Primal Fury

Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution

Dead Or Alive 3

Super Smash Bros. Melee

2003-2006 SPM

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