A Tale of Souls and Swords…
SoulCalibur II was released in 2003. As the sequel to the original Dreamcast and Arcade title, SoulCalibur, it introduced new characters to the series. In addition to series staples, like Nightmare, Ivy, and Mitsurugi, newcomers Cassandra, Talim, and Raphael made their debut. What made the second game stand out was its inclusion of guest characters. Based on the system, players could play as Spawn, Heihachi from Tekken, or Link from The Legend of Zelda. SoulCalibur VI includes Geralt of Rivera, the protagonist of The Witcher series.
However, the game was not sold to be a gimmick to market with new characters. More than a successful marketing strategy, SoulCalibur II exuded a respectable level of polish. As I recently replayed the game, on PS3, for the first time in ten years, I realized why this was the greatest SoulCalibur game. I enjoyed its fast paced action, smooth fighting, abundance of extras, and lengthy single player campaign. I’m reviewing SoulCalibur II because it is directly tied to the Producer’s direction. In an interview, Motohiro Okubo explicitly states that SoulCalibur II was the major inspiration for the fighting used in the latest game. You can check it out here.
What sets SoulCalibur II apart from the rest of the series?
The original game was a brilliant, beautiful masterpiece. Built off of the original PS1 title, Soul Edge (also known as Soul Blade), it forewent the juggling mechanics and small lifebars for a streamlined, weapons-based fighting system. Unfortunately, SoulCalibur debuted on the Dreamcast, which had a limited lifespan. The Dreamcast met its demise in 2002, merely three short years after its release. SoulCalibur II revived the series with a much-needed release. While it retained nearly all the characters, the graphics were brightened up as well. The Mission Mode was expanded into Weapon Master Mode, and the new characters became fan favorites.
SoulCalibur III was released in 2005, exclusively for PS2. However, no guest characters debuted in this entry. Despite its beautiful presentation and Character Creation, it began the trend of a noticeably, albeit slightly, slower battle system. Moreover, the original release was full of glitches, as well as memory corruption in one of the modes. SoulCalibur IV, the series’ first HD release, expanded the character creation system. Some mechanics, such as Critical Edge and guard break, weren’t as well received. The addition of Star Wars characters was also met with scrutiny, particularly because of Yoda’s balance.With the single player features missing, the game’s story felt bare. Finally, SoulCalibur V, released in 2012, removed several fan favorite characters. In addition, the throwaway story and lacking single player modes dulled its appeal.
Why is SoulCalibur II so special?
SoulCalibur II is an example of magic that was made at the right time. Namco’s genius marketing, combining guest characters with brilliant visuals, became noteworthy to players. Fans of Link, be it from The Legend of Zelda or another competitive GameCube title, Super Smash Bros. Melee, immediately took note. Namco derived Link’s moveset largely from Super Smash Bros. Melee. For GameCube owners, they greatly anticipated the game’s release just to play as Link again. PS2 and Xbox players would get their own guest characters, be it as fans of Namco’s Tekken series or the Todd McFarlene comics.
From personal experience, I can say that Link was my original interest for the game. But once I played it at a local store, on a cabinet, I fell in love with the mechanics. I loved the beautiful animations and the fighting system. It was an absolute joy to play. You could parry enemy attacks, powerup your attacks with Soul Charge, and had many characters to choose from, each with their own weapon discipline. Plus, the beautiful soundtrack was a treat to the ears. Among these include “Brave Soul, Braver Sword,” “Raise Thy Sword,” and “Eternal Struggle.” These beautiful tracks make up a small portion of the game’s marvelous soundtrack.
How did SoulCalibur II come together overall?
Combining state-of-the-art visuals and soundtrack, it played incredibly well. Highly responsive controls and frenetic energy defined the crisp, satisfying gameplay. The fast pace awarded aggressive play. Even the heavier characters, including Nightmare and Astaroth, had plenty of tools to fight against faster characters, like Taki or Sophitia. The game’s meta includes Nightmare among the game’s best characters. Fifteen years later, players still go to SoulCalibur II competitively.
I’ve had the experience of playing SoulCalibur II at recent fighting game events, such as the Florida-based event, CEO. The hosts hooked up SoulCalibur II cabinets at the event. I pick Nightmare, since I’m a greatsword user, and gain access to a strong, fast character with a multitude of ways to play. His ability to switch stances allowed for rewarding mixups and perhaps the most intense pressure in the game. Yet he’s one of the many characters that made the game exciting.
What are the game’s extras?
SoulCalibur II’s lengthy campaign, Weapon Master Mode, was more than a commodity to the Arcade classic or competitive modes. Weapon Master told the story of you, the player. You’re the hero that sought Soul Edge and, later, SoulCalibur. You traveled across many lands while fighting epic battles. In this mode, you used money to buy weapons, art galleries, and more. All the while, your progress unlocked characters, Time Attack, Survival, and Team Battle modes. Moreover, the unlockable weapons became part of “Extra” mode, which allowed various stats, such as health regeneration, guard break, and enhanced reach.
In addition to the normal campaign, players unlocked an extra campaign as well. The battles were harder. And it’s more than just pure fighting, but various stipulations. Wall-crash attacks, bombs and earthquakes challenged the player. Wins earned money and experience, just like in an RPG. Players who hit Level 72 could challenge the final, hidden chapter of Weapon Master Mode. There were at least 12 hours of play from the campaign alone. Rewarding the player was paramount in SoulCalibur II. Bandai Namco ensured rewards to play a constant part of the mode from beginning to end.
How is this important to SoulCalibur VI?
As mentioned earlier, the game’s Producer chose to use SoulCalibur II as a basis for the game. As the most popular entry in the series, SoulCalibur II brought forth the glory that waned in the series’ later years. While III, IV, and V had a loyal fanbase, none of them quite captured the magic of SoulCalibur II. The time span between V and VI is a total of six years (2012-2018). This is longer than any time span in the series, which ranged between 2-4 years at a time. Unfortunately, Bandai Namco shelved the series after the release of V. While people hyped the return of the series for years, the probability wasn’t likely.
SoulCalibur VI features Mitsurugi and Sophitia, the latter of which was absent from the latest game. In addition, a 15-year timeskip happened from IV to V. This means characters aged. SoulCalibur VI’s timeframe features the span of the original games. This means the return of series’ favorites, such as the aforementioned Sophitia, as well as Talim and Kilik, complete with his classic moveset. SoulCalibur VI utilizes the “super” attacks, first introduced in SoulCalibur V. However, this is accompanied by its faster fighting mechanics, powered by the Unreal Engine. Whether you were a fan of past releases, or felt the decline of the series after II, SoulCalibur VI will certainly be worth your while as the game’s release draws nearer.
I’m a huge fan of the series. I’ve played every game in the series, to include Soul Edge. SoulCalibur I is the definition of perfection, while SoulCalibur II capitalized on it and added more. The HD Online edition, released for PS3 and Xbox 360, added both Heihachi and Spawn to the mix. The remastered visuals made the game prettier than ever before. In addition, Bandai Namco increased the font size and added online play to the game. This allowed players to fight their friends and other competitors. Plus, you don’t have to be a fighting game fan to enjoy it. The Weapon Master Mode and Time Attack modes suffice for anyone who just wants to try something different.
Playing through the HD re-release inspired me to write a review on one of my favorite games of all time. Whether it was watching the epic Arcade Mode endings or earning trophies, I was proud of every moment I played in the game, reliving my teenhood vicariously. If you own a PS3 or 360, whether you’re a fan of SC2 or have never played the game, they’re still available for purchase on PSN and the 360 marketplace. If you’re looking to get your SoulCalibur fix while preparing for the sixth game, there’s no better place to do so. Keep an eye out for trailers from this year’s E3 and pre-order the game here!
Thank you for reading our SoulCalibur II Retro Review. Did you enjoy the game? Are you looking forward to SoulCalibur VI? Let us know in the comments!