Soul Calibur was a fantastic arcade game when it first launched. Due to it’s success it was ported to the Playstation 2, Xbox and Gamecube for home enjoyment. Developed by Project Soul and published by Namco it complimented the bare knuckle technical fighter Tekken perfectly. It’s emphasis on weapons allowed it to branch out from the usual pummel fest to allow it to come out of Tekken’s shadow and be it’s own franchise.
I’d like to say that it was the use of the 3D environment, the full 360 degree movement and ability use each weapon in a myriad of different ways that enamoured me to it. Sadly it wasn’t. The 8 year old Ninja Turtle that still inhabits me just loved smashing people’s skulls in with a pair of Nun chucks!
Almost 11 years after initial release a HD remake has made it’s way onto home consoles with an online feature tacked on. 11 years is a long time. You can do a lot in that time like make 3 Lord Of The Rings movies, launch 2 new Playstation Consoles or even read a Game of Thrones book (just about). Since then we have seen some stellar fighters be launched like Street Fighter 4, Injustice, a Mortal Kombat reboot and a few Marvel VS Capcom titles too. Well, Soul Calibur 2 HD Online is definitely not as good as those but it’s a great trip down memory lane.
It’s roster of Characters is larger than the original Soul Calibur and the weapon choices are extremely varied. But it’s the way that each avatar wields it’s weapon of choice that made this game a little bit better than the rest. From the swift and abrupt slashes of the Katana sword to the blunt force trauma of the staff the game allowed you to experience the pros and cons of each one intimately. For example my favourite character Maxi would have to swing his nun-chucks across the fighting arc of an opponent and then bring them around from the back to reset into a defensive position. This moment of vulnerability allowed other players to take advantage of this and retaliate. Also the arena allowed for people to move about in the 3d space to turn the tables and occasionally get in a reverse attack. It’s use of block and counter was simple but effective too.
Through the several iterations that followed (3,4 and 5) many features were added and the characters became more outlandish as the series evolved. Soul Calibur 2 by comparison is a fairly subdued game in terms of design which is actually a strength rather than a hindrance. It is positively realistic compared to 4 and 5.
Sadly it’s still an 11 year old game that has some retro control features like the emphasis on the D-pad that still reminds you that dual analogue was in the early days of development back then. The ring out feature that made the game tense in a one on one contest (and kept everyone on their toes) is severely overused in the Online version. The amount of times I was close to bringing an opponent to their knees only to have them get their spin on and get a lucky “Ring Out” was numerous. Also, the 3D arena seems to make some battles feel like a rolling contest on who can make the other player puke from motion sickness first.
Graphically though it’s incredibly solid. It’s bright and full of HD textures that make it a bit more current. It’s not as detailed as 4 or 5 but on a PS3 it’s stutter free and incredibly smooth. The arena backdrops are a little lacklustre but once you get engrossed in a fight the backgrounds allow you to keep focused on the foreground melee much more.
The soundtrack is still intact and the listing of each tune at the start of a round really takes you back. Unfortunately the UK version only supports the english language version and has been stripped of the original Japanese/subtitled one which may put off a few purists. But on the whole the english language version is fairly well handled and doesn’t sound like it was poorly compressed or recorded.
The online feature is simple to navigate and players can jump in without too much delay allowing for more fighting than waiting, something a lot of modern online games could learn a bit from.
Soul Calibur 2 HD Online is a good re-skin of a classic arcade beat em up. The online feature will keep a lot of traditional fans who loved the game coming back for more but for younger people who don’t quite remember the original release they will most likely just gravitate towards one of the newer sequels to get their fight on (and who can blame them?)
Oh, did I mention you can fight as Spawn and Heihachi?
Yeah you can totally do that!
MLG Rating: 7/10 Format: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 Release Date: 20/11/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Soul Caliber 2 HD Online for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of a week on the Playstation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.