Import Review: Soul Calibur 2 - PS2, Gamecube, Xbox

...the fighting is pure brilliance and renders all other serious fighters archaic.

I know it's not coming out here for another four months, but you have to know now that it's totally worth the import now.

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All of you should press start.

The follow up to the most critically acclaimed fighter is here and it is a true sequel in every way. For the casual gamer, it's easy to pick up and button mash. For the fighting snob, it boasts deeper gameplay than the previous SC, and more than Tekken, Dead or Alive and even Virtua Fighter.

Many fighters return, including Mitsurugi and Ivy, among new souls such as Todd MacFarlane's Necrid and a Devil May Cry-ish Dante look-alike named Raphael. Each of the console versions has a character unique to its version. The PS2 has Heihachi from Tekken. The Xbox has Spawn. And the Gamecube has Link. Namco stated that Link would be the biggest draw, as shown by Link's more featured appearance on the Gamecube cover as opposed to the other characters on their respective console cover.

The best console-specific character, aside from my love of the Zelda series, is Link simply because his ancient renaissance-esque aura fits perfectly with the sweeping theme and landscapes of the Soul series. I suppose Spawn fits in with the thug-esque of Nightmare and Astaroth, but it's evident that Heihachi from Tekken seems completely out of place, especially given that he has no weapon to use, which is a main characteristic of Soul Calibur fighting. This is a weird choice anyway, especially considering Namco made Tekken.

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Gamecube gets the best exclusive character. Link is flawlessly fitting.

But regardless, the fighting is pure brilliance and renders all other serious fighters archaic.

Each character has over 130 moves including at least five different throws, numerous parries, counters and defense-as-offense maneuvers. You have your normal vertical slash, horizontal slash, kick and block buttons as usual. When you first pick up the controller, you will realize that the returning characters' main moves are pulled off the same way. Some may be quick to judge that it's more like Soul Calibur 1.5 than a true sequel. Not so. Once you start playing for hours and hours, you will realize how much smoother the animations are, how much deeper the fighting systems gets, and how cool the Weapon Master Mode is.

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Spawn is a thug.

In the new weapon master mode, there are a few hundred challenges to complete. Once you complete a certain mission, you are awarded one of ten to twelve new weapons you can equip in all different modes. Although the new weapons react the same, they are awesome to look at and are rewarding to achieve. Of course this is where importing rears its head.

The language barrier is non-existent at first. All the menus are in English. You can save to your memory card as normal. But the instructions in the weapon mode are in full Japanese. Although it may turn you away immediately, you could probably defeat most of it through trial and error. But most of the game other than that is in English, rendering it a valid import for the English-speaking world.

The graphics are truly amazing. The backgrounds are highly detailed to a photographic nature. The landscapes are awe-inspiring, especially in widescreen. The fighters are flawlessly animated in a solid 60 frames per second. The PS2 version does suffer from slowdown occasionally, but not much. All versions run in widescreen and progressive scan output 480p. However, the Xbox version will support a true HD 720p as well, but will display the jaggies (jagged edges due to minor pixelization {you can see little squares}) a little more.

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Heihachi makes no sense. But if you only have a PS2 and no Xbox or GCN, it's still worth importing.

The cheesy announcer returns, but is welcomed. The sound effects are crisp and brilliant, making a perfect complement to the splendid animations that evoke some "aawwwww snap" from the urban kids when a hard hit is made. The music is even more brilliant. Real orchestra and creative melodies drive home the scope of the landscapes and the epic battles.

We will have an American review when it hits the shores in August, which Namco promises will have more features. Regardless, it's totally worth the dough to play this now.

Graphics: A (PS2 - B+)
Sound: A+
Gameplay: A+
Replay : A+
Overall: 99% A+ (PS2 98%)

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