19th game played so far
Year of Release: 2002
It is with great pleasure that I introduce our first attempts at covering a fighting game!
Being a long-time exponent of the fighting genre it was great to see so many included on the list itself, and there are fewer better ways to introduce them than with SoulCalibur II. Having started out in Japan as an arcade game this was successfully ported onto the PS2, XBox and Gamecube with the latter being the best reviewed of the three. Each version also contained an exclusive character with Link appearing on the Gamecube, Heihachi Mishima was on the PS2 and comic-book character made his way onto the XBox.
It was thanks to this game that the Soul series was able to join the ranks of fighting games alongside Tekken, Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter.
There is only way that you can play through a fighting game; play every mode in the attempt to unlock all the characters as well as teaching Jeroen who is the true king of beat ‘em ups (as other people have found out in respect to Tekken). We will be playing the Gamecube version that I bought in New York with birthday money… the fact that this means I have to keep my Gamecube since it’s unplayable on my Wii does make it slightly annoying.
So buttonmasher, your first beat ‘em up from the list. So it is. Although I’m not sure ‘buttonmasher’ is entirely appropriate. I tried to use some strategy; I just forgot half the controls at the second session which resulted in you doing the same punch for an entire round. It worked and I changed it around later, made my tactics more varied (which was much appreciated), it made it a lot more fun.
Although, as we can state, right now it’s not a genre I’m as proficient with as you are. Beat ‘em ups/fighting games have always been one of my favourite genres. The Soulcalibur series being one I love (except the third one, which was pants).
That leads me to the question that matters here. We can go on about graphics, sound, gameplay, design, story and more of that in a bit, but what my main question is (as someone who knows nothing about this) – what sets the series, and this part in particular, aside from other similar games?
Firstly is the use of handheld weapons. The SoulEdge/Calibur series may not have been the first to introduce them into a conventional fighting game but they were the ones who have made them a real boon. Each weapon comes with a different fighting style (and dare I say personality) which leads to a highly varied gaming experience. Something I’ve noticed with the different characters that we’ve played.
In your conventional beat ‘em up everyone has a set radius of attack, when you introduce long-range weapons such as large axes and the Valentine Blade versus shorter range ones like nunchucks and a rapier then you really have to formulate a variety of tactics. This nicely co-insides with a wide variety of characters where each of them has fleshed out back story meaning you can understand their intentions for fighting rather than it being a free for all.
The controls too were very well organised, especially on the Gamecube (less so with the Xbox version) meaning that it is not too much of a stretch to go from a simple vertical slash to a complex throw. The variety of tactics shows itself clearly, and broke me up during our two player games, where my performance depended a lot of what I could do.
The controls were well organised as long as you can remember them. I probably didn’t play long enough to get the reflexes and innate memory. Reflexes are something that develop from a lot of fighting game experience. Bear in mind I’ve owned titles from the Soul, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises.
I guess that’s why (as you said when we were playing) button mashing isn’t rewarded as much in this game. The controls don’t seem to make it easy to execute combos or allow you to be effective that way most of time, while even going into a bit more makes the game better. The effort gone into getting the control pays off soon which means there is a great ‘pick up and play’ quantity even for amateurs. Yeah, it works for players on multiple levels, and the difficulty in the game seems to be able to scale based on that; although some game modes are more difficult than others.
The Weapon Master mode is an interesting side section, especially since it allows the purchase of different weapons for each character which then influences play even more. Such as a weapon which enhances strength but leeches from your health. The game seems to contain a relatively large variety, even if it does not show in all game modes.
Another interesting thing of note is the console-exclusive characters. I mentioned this already in the introduction but this is something that they actually repeated again in SoulCalibur IV so thought it worth another shout out. It’s an unexpected touch, but that makes it interesting. The PS2 really got the bad deal with theirs, since Heihachi Mishima is a stalwart of the Tekken series. If anything Link (exclusive on Gamecube) was the most interesting as they had to invent his attacks basically from scratch. Which means he’s horrid to play as… but worth a go (even if I have yet to actually do so). It’s weird when he whips out the bow and arrow and then follows it up with a bomb. Not something that’d normally fit with the game, but it also seems like it’d be possible to fit it in. But with all of them being different-range melee characters, one focussing on range doesn’t seem like he’d fit and the limited size arenas don’t help that feeling.
The arenas themselves are beautifully made though, such a variety of environments. Made me wish there were more of them. Makes me itch for the sole entry from the Dead or Alive series… now there is a game who knows how to make arenas. That’s for another time
Still, obviously this is a game worth playing for the fans. I’m not sure whether it’s the best for the beginners to the series (where I suppose the Super Smash Bros series would be better), but even then it seems worth a try to get something different.
The graphics are beautiful. Some may no longer consider them as realistic as they could be, but they hold up and the art style matches, with the arena being even more promising than the characters you play. The variety is surprising and shows how these games have moved past a simple matter of two characters fighting in a 2D environment, where forward, back, punch, kick and dodge is all you do and where everyone looks the same anyway. With a full storyline with some minor RPG elements, the fighting is almost little more than a gameplay element, which makes the game more fun to play.