The ultimate fighting championship has arrived on PS2, GameCube and Xbox and if you've ever played a Soul (Blade, Edge, Calibur) game, you'll know exactly what to expect from this high energy product from Namco. That isn't to say SCII isn't a fine upstanding product; it is in spades. It just happens to be more than a little predictable and without sounding unappreciative, it's more or less like the excellent Dreamcast verison released back in 1999.

So why do you need Soul Calibur 2? There are a few reasons to be sure. One is that you may not be able to locate all of the Dreamcast hookups if you need a Soul Calibur fix. Another 3 major reasons are directly tied to the way cool guest stars that make an appearance in the 3 console versions of the game, notably Link from Legend of Zelda in the GC version, Heihachi from Tekken in the PS2 version and Todd McFarlane's Spawn in the Xbox version. Let me just say now that there won't be any codes to unlock any of those characters in a different console version than the one they are licensed to appear in. There is also the other new addition to the clan - Todd McFarlane's creation Necrid - who appears across the board in all 3 versions. Of course you can't knock the insanely beautiful graphics, superb (yet somewhat recycled) character animations and the "button mashing on the surface yet satisfyingly deep once you get to know it" style of gameplay that the Soul Calibur series is known for.

Soul Calibur's gameplay has always divided gamers. There are those who play it for ten minutes, get bored and call the game a button masher. And then there are the purists who understand the nuances of the fighting engine, learn the timing to the counter attacks and the blocking system and get much more out of their experience with the game. Those of us who have the ability to fight against other human opponents who really take their SC seriously, know how entertaining a good match can be, but there are far too many gamers who will set this on the easiest skill level, battle their way to the end and never pick up the game again. That's their loss. The one serious knock that I could level at SCII is that none of the versions support online play. WIth the ability to go online with all three systems it would have been something to offer players with different versions the chance to play Link against Spawn or Heihachi. That would have been worth triple the price of admission. Unfortunately online play isn't offered in any of the versions, which diminishes what could have been one of the coolest features of the decade into something more closely resembling a tight and well polished fighting game but nothing that we haven't seen before.

Clearly the inclusion of the aforementioned characters was pure genius on everyone's part as it gives SCII the clout that it wouldn't have had without it. I'm not that big of a fan of Tekken's Heihachi Mishima, but playing with him in this game is a nice diversion. My favorite addition is Link on the GameCube who suits the swordplay style the best, although Spawn is very cool as well. Unfortunately the GameCube is my least favorite in terms of control, with the PS2 being the most comfortable controller to use. Most gamers who don't have all three systems to compare won't have any noticable difficulties playing the game with the controller, this is purely a personal observation. Although the game is played in a pseudo 3D, it's still advised to use the D-Pad for inputting moves and that's where the PS2 controller makes the others cry "Mama!". The GC D-Pad is entirely to small and finicky, the Xbox D-Pad is too rounded and sloppy but the PS2's just right. Now I know how Goldilocks felt - I always thought she was a little too high maintenance, but I guess she really had something there. For those with the Xbox and GC versions, just make sure you never play the PS2 version or you won't go back.

As with any fighting game these days, developers like to give you some incentive to keep playing, so expect numerous unlockables. If anything it gives the lone player something to strive for after he or she has beaten the game a few times. Along with the story mode and arcade mode, players can also play the Text Mode - which is my sarcastic name for the Weapon Master Mode. This feature is a half-baked mission style mode (that originally appeared in games Tobal 1, Tekken etc) in which the characters fight each other for purposes other than what is outlined in the story mode. Between each fight is text upon text explaining just what the hell is going on and it reminds of movies that start with a few pages of text to fill you in. This is just a personal opinion of mine but I'm not a big fan of mixing mediums to that degree. If it's a movie, I want to watch not read. If it's a game, I want to play not read. Considering it will only appeal to the uber-SC fan who will be able to dig deeper into the lives of their favorite characters, most of us just don't care all that much and that's why we'll skip on ahead thanks to our flea like attention spans eagerily hunting for the next bit of action.

Visually Soul Calibur 2 looks great across all three platforms. In fact, having all three going at once and flipping back and forth between them I was sometimes hard pressed to tell what version I was playing. For purely reference purposes I hooked up my Dreamcast, tossed in Soul Calibur and flipped between that too. Let me just say that Namco kicked ass back in 99. It's stunning how good the DC game looks in comparison to the next gen systems. Why did the Dreamcast fail again? I'm still not sure I quite understand...

Excited fans who have already been playing the heck out of their import versions won't have any reason to jump ship. Soul Calibur 2 is exactly what you make it. If you are a diehard fighting fan you'll get the most out of your time with the game. If you are a casual fan attracted to the pretty graphics like a moth to a flame, expect to play for an hour or two, get the jist and move on to something else. You will notice that out of all three systems, the PS2 system takes the cake with 4.75, the Xbox with 4.5 and the GC with 4.0. I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

Soul Calibur 2 Preview Posted By Fenix

Super SizeAlready shaping up to be one of the best fighters ever, Soul Calibur 2 is also going to be a big hit with pop culture fan boys everywhere. Why? Let me tell you. Each console version of SC2 will feature a specific special character. The Xbox version will feature Todd McFarlane's Spawn, the Cube will feature Nintendo's Link (as already reported by us months ago) and the PS2 version will feature Tekken (and Namco's) Heihachi, which is sort of a no brainer.

Check out the screens below and cry like a baby when you realize that all of those cool characters won't be able to fight each other. Spawn vs Link? Link vs Heihachi? Sorry, not gonna happen. To ease the pain, each version of SC2 will feature a newly created Todd McFarlane character called Necrid (the big green dude) as well as many other Namco guest stars which will be revealed as the weeks go by until the March 23, 2003 Japanese release date.

Soul Calibur 2 Preview Posted By Fenix

Super SizeUndoubtedy one of the best fighting games to have ever graced a console, Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast was proof positive that high-tech arcade games could be brought into your living room and turn ordinary people into gaming zombies. In fact, the Dreamcast game is still one of the best looking fighters around, even though the PS2 is technically a much more sophisticated and powerful machine.

This 3D fighter even surpassed the arcade version on the DC with incredible graphics and its depth of gameplay. One of the most important elements of the game was the character control. An eight-way direction system allowed for great maneuverability while the physics of the game made concessions for the weight of weapons. The characters were detailed to reveal facial expression and muscles movement. Everything was animated at a very smooth 60 fps. But that was way back in '98; so let's quit living in the past. What's new with Soul Calibur 2? Does it even stand a chance of being a fraction as groundbreaking as the first one?

Super SizeAccording to Namco, the game will retain much of its ancestor's look and feel. The sequel will not stray too far from the original but we have learned it will be bigger if not better, and in this case, bigger will be just about as good as better. Heck, you can't improve on Lay's Salt and Vinegar chips but you can sure increase my pleasure (and waistline) by offering me more. Soul Calibur 2 may also be released for the PS2 but don't hold your breath...we're hearing rumblings that this may be a GameCube exclusive.

Click For Media
System: GC
Dev: Namco
Pub: Namco
Release: TBA
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Vaughn