SoulCalibur 2 - PS2

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Also for: Xbox, GameCube
Viewed: 3D Third-person, floating camera Genre:
Beat 'Em Up
Media: DVD Arcade origin:No
Developer: Namco Soft. Co.: Namco
Publishers: Electronic Arts (JP/GB)
Released: 26 Sept 2003 (GB)
27 Mar 2003 (JP)
Ratings: PEGI 16+
Features: Analogue Control Compatible: analogue sticks only, Vibration Function Compatible
Accessories: Memory Card

Summary

It’s time to make your decision. There are two kinds of people in this world. One kind sneers almost poisonously at Sega’s hardware demise. The other rues it, knowing that the true progression of home entertainment has been lost forever, trusted to companies that will never love, and most importantly, never understand what gaming is all about.

The killer app hosted by the Dreamcast was for a long time Namco’s Soul Calibur, without question the best-looking game ever to grace a home console upon its release in August 1999.

Graphically stronger than the 1998 coin-op original, Soul Calibur spawned from the successful loins of Soul Edge, one of Namco’s only 3D outings of the era that wasn’t laced with the sort of plagiarism Sega’s developers were beginning to tire of.

And so, after a showing in the world’s arcades that saw Soul Calibur 2 outperform Yu Suzuki’s Virtua Fighter and Namco’s own Tekken 4, a clamorous reception awaits the multi-platform sequel, underlining the fact that beat-em-ups are slowly but surely fighting their way out of niche-obscurity into the gaming mainstream where they belong.

Soul Calibur 2 is released simultaneously for GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox, though it’s the PS2 version we are immediately concerned with. And indeed, Soul Calibur 2 is an extremely important game in the lifecycle of Sony’s mass-market, super-selling console. This is because this is the last time that you will see the ageing PlayStation 2 outperform the GameCube and hyper-muscled Xbox. And why is this, you might ask…

The arcade original of SC2 runs on Namco’s System 246 arcade platform. This board is based around the PlayStation 2 and shares much of its innards with the home machine. What’s more, Namco developed a PS2 porting suite to enable fast, accurate and high-quality versions of any game hosted on the technology. You see, the PlayStation 2 version is the original game, taken from the proprietary coin-op hardware. Quite simply, it is the best version of the game, and if you own all three consoles, it is the version of choice, no question.

Be under no illusions, Soul Calibur 2 is not a groundbreaking game. It is undeniably brilliant, though is plagued with the issues Namco has again failed to wheedle out of its 3D fighting development. Although sophisticated players will enjoy endless hours of battling, a button-bashing novice will often triumph. Single player AI can be tooth-pullingly dull and predictable.

However, this does little to undermine the inherent beauty of the game. It’s lush in the extreme, completely overhauled since the last version. All backgrounds are reworked, and all the characters look suitably, digitally tailored. Annoyingly - if somewhat predictably - Namco couldn’t resist shooting itself in the foot, rehashing certain famous animations from the Dreamcast outing. It's obvious, but doesn’t really matter.

Soul Calibur 2 is an interesting proposition for all gamers and the decision as to whether or not to buy it involves a personal appraisal of what you want from a videogame. For instance, the dire Mortal Kombat sold by the shedload at retail worldwide,and Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, MK’s diametric opposite, struggled outside of its native arcade envirionment.

Consider Soul Calibur 2 a perfect middle ground in the oft-intimidating beat-em-up genre. It is eminently accessible and has depths to please all but the hardest Suzuki-ette.