Soul Calibur II Updated Impressions

We've got details on the hidden characters and numerous gameplay modes in the Japanese home versions of Namco's fighting game sequel.

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Following our initial look at the three versions of Soul Calibur II, we've continued putting the game through its paces. In short, Namco appears to have continued its track record of high-quality home conversions of its fighting games with Soul Calibur II. Generally speaking, each version looks comparable to the arcade game. Each version of the game also plays to the strengths of its respective platform, and all feature a smooth frame rate and detailed character models. In terms of its content, Soul Calibur II has a wide array of unlockable features ranging from hidden characters and modes to alternate weapons and costumes for the various fighters.

As noted in our previous story, Soul Calibur II is a great looking fighter on any of the systems. There are a few minor differences between versions, mostly in the color usage and textures. At first glance, the GameCube and Xbox are the crisper looking versions of the game, with the Xbox having a slight edge in resolution and color. However, the PlayStation 2 version of the game is no slouch, offering some of the best visuals seen in any fighting game for console to date.

Soul Calibur II's presentation is complemented by Namco's use of the technical features offered by each platform. The GameCube game features support for 480p progressive scan, the Playstation 2 offers 525p progressive scan support, and the Xbox supports 480p and 720p progressive scan. The GameCube and PlayStation 2 look solid via progressive scan, although the enhanced resolution makes some of the jagged edges in the game a bit more noticeable. The Xbox version, on the other hand, looks stellar at 720p. The audio in each of the games follows a similar pattern, with the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions making good use of Dolby Pro Logic II--but the Xbox edges them out thanks to its support of Dolby 5.1.

As far as content goes, Soul Calibur II has quite a bit to offer on all three platforms, including standard arcade, versus, and team play modes, a museum mode for viewing character endings and profiles, and numerous extra modes. The weapon master mode is similar to the mission and edgemaster modes seen in the home versions of Soul Calibur and its predecessor Soul Blade, and consists of story-driven series of progressively difficult battles. Playing through the weapon master mode will also unlock the game's hidden characters and plenty of other extras, including costumes and additional weapons. So far we've managed to unlock the shapeshifter Charade, the cutesy polearm fighter Seung Mina, blonde-haired Sophitia, the pirate Cervantes, and Tekken's space ninja Yoshimitsu. The character select screen in Soul Calibur II initially has five blank spaces, and all those blanks are filled once those hidden characters are uncovered. We also unlocked a sexy alternate outfit for Ivy and an alternate outfit for Nightmare where he looks normal, rather than infested by his evil sword.

The arcade game's original roster of fighters has been fleshed out on each of the consoles by the addition of Link, Heihachi, Spawn, and Necrid and the five unlockable characters previously mentioned. We've spent quite a bit of time with all of them now and are generally impressed with them, especially the console specific characters. For the most part, each of the characters has its own unique feel. Link is a versatile fighter whose array of moves draws on the actions seen in the various Legend of Zelda games. You'll be able to use a variety of special moves such as shooting arrows, and throwing bombs and Link's boomerang, and also do a charge attack with the Master Sword. It's strange to see Nintendo's well known character in Soul Calibur II, but he seems like he can hold his own.

Heihachi is a slightly better fit than Link, and now is armed with bracers that he uses to deflect his opponents' weapons. Tekken fans will find he has access to a solid helping of his moves and that the loss of a button hasn't changed the way he handles. He is still a very powerful fighter who can dole out a considerable amount of damage. He's got all his classic moves and even his 10-string attack combo, plus his character model is totally redone for Soul Calibur II.

Spawn is probably the oddest fit across all the platforms thanks to a varied array of moves that includes an ability to fly and some projectile attacks that allow him to do a fair amount of ranged fighting. While these moves do seem to provide a rather unfair advantage, it's certainly possible to overcome them. Spawn fans will appreciate that his second outfit shows Todd McFarlane's classic character unmasked.

Necrid, the other McFarlane character, doesn't handle that uniquely due to his ability to perform many of the moves used by the other fighters--his character-specific moves aren't quite as effective. His monstrous form makes him look somewhat out of place among Soul Calibur II's cast.

Charade replaces the Edge Master character found in the Dreamcast version of Soul Calibur. This particular character also bears a passing resemblance to the game's final boss, Inferno, and randomly takes the form of one of the game's other characters at the beginning of each round. Seung Mina, Sophitia, Cervantes, and Yoshimitsu all should be familiar to fans of the series. While there have been some tweaks to their overall balance and move sets, they all handle pretty close to the way they did in the previous games.

The weapon master mode gives Soul Calibur II some added replay value. Essentially, you can select any character and go through a series of fights, some of which require you to fulfill certain objectives as opposed to just defeating the other character. By winning and even just participating in fights, you'll earn money that you can use to purchase additional weapons for characters in the game that they can use in other modes.

Overall, it appears that Namco has devoted an equal amount of time to all three console versions of Soul Calibur II, so a player's personal preference for any version of the game will boil down to which of the exclusive characters most appeals to them. Of course, there are some visual differences between the three versions of the game, but they're largely negligible. We'll have much more on Soul Calibur II in the coming days.

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