Soul Calibur 2 HD Online Review
God, what happened to Soul Calibur, eh? Once upon a time it was regarded as one of – if not the – best fighting games on the market, now it has descended into an unbalanced farce, relying on daft character cameos to make people go ‘oh, he’s in the game’ for a cheap bit interest.
There seemed to be this ridiculous notion that people cared about the plot in a fighting game, and a focus on a single player campaign.
As such, Soul Calibur as a series has fallen out of favour with the resurgent fighting game community, no longer played at a truly high competitive level.
Soul Calibur 2 was the glory days, though.
Soul Calibur, for the uninitiated, is a surprisingly simple game. The face buttons are mapped to a horizontal attack, a vertical attack, a kick and a guard, and excluding a few techniques such as throws etc, that’s pretty much it!
Special attacks are created by directional presses combined with the buttons and combos are similar to the ‘Punch Punch KICK’ of the Virtua Fighter series.
Easy to pick up, but of course, you’ll never truly master it.
The characters are what brought variation to this simple set up, and with no one character overtly cheap or unfair, it is rightly regarded as a masterpiece.
So when the original came to Xbox Live in the early days of the service, it was a surprise that it was met with such disappointment.
This was due to it lacking a lot of the features that the legendary Dreamcast version had, as well as online multiplayer, which seemed like a no-brainer.
This new version of Soul Calibur 2, subtitled ‘HD Online’, does not have these problems, and it might just be one of the best fighting games currently available.
Soul Calibur 2 was a great game – a tight roster of balanced characters, built around the combat system that already excelled in the original game – and it remains one here, on the cusp of the next-generation, but the job done in shining it up from last-generation to current-generation is a fantastic one.
It has been fully reworked to look its best in full screen HD, and still looks excellent, a few low-poly models aside.
There’s this weird thing with these HD remakes where the menus look really garish and out of place because they’ve just reworked things like text so it is readable in the higher resolution, and it always seems really cheap and lazy.
Here, Namco have done a really solid job in making it look like an idealised version of what came before, re-doing all the menus and cleaning up the textures so – brilliantly – this game looks exactly like how you think Soul Calibur 2 looks, when you’ve got your rose tinted specs on.
Full online multiplayer is here, and in the handful of scraps we had, appears to be rock solid and lag-free. There’s real potential for a decent community to show up around this. The standard Arcade modes are all present and correct, as well as the museum mode.
It also includes the brilliant ‘Weapon Master’ mode, a sort of quest mode that is basically a series of fights under varying conditions.
For instance, one of them will have you only being able to damage your opponent with throws, or one where each hit passes a ‘bomb’ back and forth between the combatants, with the one left holding it when time expires losing in explosive fashion.
Battling your way through these unlocks new characters and weapons for existing ones, as well as content for the museum mode, but also does something else.
It teaches you some of the more advanced techniques to get to the highest level of ability.
Yes, some of the conditions it forces you to deal with are played purely for fun, but when you can only win by parrying an opponent who has had their difficult setting cranked up to maximum, that’s a game trying to teach you a worthwhile lesson. Get better. Be better. Go beat up other players until you meet your match. Repeat.
Another place Soul Calibur 2 excels where other fighting games struggle, is it is one of a few that actually plays really well with the current set of controllers. No, really! Come back!
Unlike something like King of the Fighters XIII, which is borderline unplayable with *that* D Pad or *those* buttons on the Xbox 360 controller, the simplicity of Soul Calibur 2’s set up allows for you to play to a very, very high standard without need for an arcade stick.
Don’t believe us? Remember, this was a fighting game that originally was at its BEST on the Gamecube, with that control pad and everything.
I think it speaks volumes of this HD re-release that the only real disappointment is the lack of Link as one of the guest characters.
Sure, he beats out the still present Heihachi Mishima and Spawn in terms of how awesome it was to have him in Soul Calibur, but from a pure gameplay point of view, he actually fit into the existing roster far better than the others.
There’s absolutely no way Nintendo would allow it, though. No sign of a Wii U version either, which is a real shame.
This generation has seen the complete resurgence of the fighting game. It feels almost right that, as we head into the next-generation of consoles, we’ve finally got a great Soul Calibur game, one that is worthy of standing alongside recent greats such as Virtua Fighter 5 Evolution and Street Fighter IV.
The brilliant gameplay was always going to remain, but the HD polish and really sturdy multiplayer make this well worth a look even if you don’t have an attachment to the original, but have a thing for all things fighty.
Sure, the series may have taken a few missteps in the past few years, but this does show that somewhere, away from the Star Wars character cameos, unbalanced, ludicrous custom fighters and overblown story modes written by the writers of some children’s cartoon – the soul still burns.