Soulcalibur II is the third installment in the Soulcalibur series, a franchise of fighting games developed and published by Namco. Soulcalibur II introduced a collection of new characters and stages as well as an improved presentation over its predecessors.
At the end of Soulcalibur, the azure armored knight Nightmare and his many followers had collected enough souls and energy to begin to prepare for the restoration ceremony that would bring Soul Edge back to its full unspeakable power level, in the once proud Osthreinsburg Castle. However, just as the ceremony is about to begin, three young warriors assault the castle; Kilik, Maxi, and Chai Xianghua. Nightmare's followers attempted to fight them off, but in the end, only Nightmare stood against them.
After an intense battle, Nightmare was defeated, but the evil soul within Soul Edge sent Kilik, Maxi, and Xianghua into a vortex of destruction. As a reaction to the living sword's evil aura, the sword wielded by Xianghua, the Krita-Yuga, reveals its actual form as Soul Calibur, the true opposite to Soul Edge. With Soul Calibur in hand, Xianghua managed to destroy the hellfire vortex, and strike Soul Edge with such strength that the evil blade shattered into pieces. About half of the pieces immediately merged back together into a sword the same size as the finished Soul Edge, but at a fraction of its former power level. The rest were scattered all over the world, their evil influence causing chaos and bloodshed wherever they landed. Although Soul Edge had been defeated, both the demon blade and its wielder vanished and were transported to a "safe" location.
Siegfried Schtauffen, the young man that had been possessed by Soul Edge and corrupted into the monstrous Nightmare, awakens to find his mind cleared and his body under his own control. Recognizing the sins he had committed, he set out on a journey to atone for his misdeeds. However, Soul Edge still held sway over Siegfried. When he slept at night, the sword would take control of his body and force him to take the lives of those nearby, absorbing their souls to become more powerful, and constantly driving him to seek out the other fragments of Soul Edge.
Four years later, Siegfried's efforts to atone have proven fruitless, and he wanders Europe as the evil Nightmare once again. Around this same time, the shattered remains of Soul Edge have been located and are spreading around Europe and Asia as they pass through numerous hands. Sensing this, the reborn Nightmare sets out to collect as many shards as he can in order to restore Soul Edge to its full power. Upon learning that Soul Edge is not truly destroyed and that Nightmare still lives, various warriors set out on journeys to fulfill their own goals; some hope to destroy the sword, and some hope to claim it for themselves.
Like its predecessors, Soulcalibur II is a one-on-one weapon-based fighting game that allows for free movement around 3D space. Characters have vertical and horizontal attacks as well as special moves that can be performed using specific button and directional input combinations. Among these special attacks, each character also has an unblockable attack that deal a devastating amount of damage at the cost of a slow wind-up and being easy to avoid.
Rounds end when one fighter knocks out the other by depleting the opposing fighter's health to zero. Depending on the arena in which the fight is set, rounds may also end by ring out, in which a fighter is knocked outside of the arena's boundary, whereupon they are instantly defeated.
Soulcalibur II offers a number of modes and features that are commonplace in the fighting game genre:
- Arcade Mode: A standard single-player mode in which the player selects a fighter and progresses through a series of fights until ultimately facing the boss, Inferno. The seventh battle in Arcade Mode and the last before the battle with Inferno is a story-based match referred to as a 'Destined Battle'. The opponent fought in this match is dependent on the fighter the player has selected and is always the same for that character.
- Versus: A mode in which two players may fight against each other using selected characters.
- Team Battle Mode: Similar to Arcade Mode, the player creates a team of fighters and progresses through a series of matches
- Time Attack: The goal of this mode is to defeat all of the opponents in as little time as possible in order to set new records.
- Survival: A mode in which the player must defeat as many enemies as possible with only one life bar.
- Training Mode: A practice mode in which the player may freely practice a fighter's moves and techniques.
- Museum: A special mode that offers a variety of extra features. The player may view concept art, listen to character voices, view details on various weapons, or watch versus matches between two CPU-controlled opponents. There are also weapon demonstration videos in which the characters perform katas.
Like Soul Blade, the original game in the series, Soulcalibur II features the inclusion of extra weapons. However, instead of Soul Blade's weapon statistics system, the abilities of the weapons in Soulcalibur II are merely based on Power and Defensive percentages. Weapons also have abilities that grant them special effects such as the ability to drain energy from enemies or ignore the opponent's defense.
Each character has twelve different weapons of choice, including the standard first and second-player variants of the characters' signature weapons and a variety of more powerful weapons with varying abilities and effects, as well as an 'ultimate' weapon akin to the Soul Calibur. All characters also have access to a "completed" Soul Edge version of their respective weapons that, while powerful, also inflicts a draining effect on the wielder's health.
Finally, all characters each have a single joke weapon. The stats and abilities of these weapons are poor, but their appearances and abilities are deliberately silly, for humorous effect. All weapons in the game have back stories that can be read in the Weapon Gallery section of the Museum.
Conquest and Weapon Master Modes
The arcade version of Soulcalibur II features an exclusive Conquest Mode which allows the player to create a profile and character, and then choose one of three armies to represent. The player then fights against the CPU-controlled characters of the players representing the other armies. The more the player fights, the more experience points and levels are earned by the character, allowing them to become more powerful and more difficult to defeat when controlled by the computer.
By winning fights, the faction represented by the winner will gradually grow in strength while the loser will weaken until there is only one faction remaining. When a winner is declared, the mode is reset and the process begins anew.
Weapon Master Mode
In place of the arcade version's Conquest Mode, the home console versions of Soulcalibur II feature Weapon Master Mode; a mode similar in nature to the Edge Master Mode found in Soul Blade and the original Soulcalibur's Mission Mode.
In Weapon Master Mode, the player advances through a series of challenges split into a series of chapters through which a basic narrative plays out. Over the course of the mode, the player fights enemies to gain experience and raise the rank of his or her selected fighter. Money earned in this mode can also be spent in the shop to obtain new weapons, costumes and other bonuses.
The actual story in Weapon Master Mode sees the player control a warrior journeying in search of Soul Edge. However, the player comes across a rival named Veral who is searching for the sword for his own desires.
Universal Success & Criticism
For the most part, Soulcalibur II was favorably received by the gaming media with consistently high scores and glowing reviews from numerous gaming media outlets. It also became a popular choice for use in fighting game tournaments held in both Japan and North America for several years after its release.
Though the game was well received, a number of issues and bugs arose at the higher levels of play. One example is the 2G Bug, which allowed players to block immediately after being guard impacted. Another example is the G-Step, which allows players to cancel out of the eight-way run after dodging a vertical attack, allowing for instant punishment. There were also many moves in Soulcalibur II which were safe on block, which meant that if they were guarded, their user would recover to a neutral state before their opponent could try to attack again. Characters such as
Astaroth benefited from this the most.
Following the arcade version's release, Soulcalibur II was released on the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox. Each edition offered one console-exclusive character:
- Link from the The Legend of Zelda is the exclusive character in the GameCube version of the game. Link uses the Master Sword and Hylian Shield as his signature weapons, with other swords and equipment from the Zelda series available as unlockables.
- Heihachi from Tekken is the exclusive character in the PlayStation 2 version of the game. A hand-to-hand fighter, he uses bracers as his weapons. His ultimate weapon, "Tekken", which leaves him bare-handed, implying that the bracers are merely holding him back. It is rumored that Heihachi wasn't Namco's first choice to use in the PS2 version, as they initially wanted to use Cloud Strife or Squall Leonhart from the Final Fantasy franchise.
- Spawn, the comic book character created by Todd McFarlane, is the exclusive character in the Xbox version of the game. Spawn's weapon is his magical cape shape-shifted into the form of a one-handed axe known as Agony; it is openly stated that all of Spawn's weapons are actually his cape just mimicking the original axe.
All three of the home versions also include Necrid, who was not included in the arcade version of Soulcalibur II. Like Spawn, he was created by comic book artist Todd McFarlane. Necrid is considered the first non-cameo "guest character" in the series, as he did not appear in subsequent Soulcalibur titles.
In terms of technical differences there are a few between the three console releases.
- In the audio department the Xbox version of the game contains the best sound due to the use of in-game Dolby Digital rather than the Dolby Pro Logic II used in the GameCube and PlayStation 2 release. Overall the Xbox has a better bass and separated treble giving the game a more 'punchy' feel to the games sound.
- Graphically the PlayStation version does feature some flicker and aliasing that is more noticeably than on the GameCube and Xbox. In addition to this within some of the more complex stages the PlayStation release features some noticeable graphical differences such as lighting differences (shadows being less stand out and defined) as well as more pixelated backgrounds and textures. In motion the textures also appear to shift slightly whereas the GameCube port by comparison remains stable and does not move at all. The Xbox port however does also feature some slight movement (though not as much as the PlayStation release) but counters this with its ability to display sharper, more detailed background environments. It is also worth noting that the Xbox and GameCube releases support progressive scan (480p) whereas the PS2 does not and the Xbox version also supports the 720p format while the GameCube and PlayStation versions are incapable of this.
- The framerate renders at 60 frames per second on every version of the game although none of the consoles are capable of running at a steady 60 frames. The PlayStation version in particular experiences slow down during complicated particle effects and within some of the more complex and detailed stages. By comparison the GameCube and Xbox ports fair better and only typically experience slow down during the final boss battle with the GameCube coming out on top as it handles it better than the Xbox; thus making it the best version when considering the frame rate differences.
- In terms of the load times with the exception of the initial boot-up load there are very minor differences between the releases with the PlayStation being the slowest of the three and the Xbox slightly faster than the GameCube. Below are the average times required for loading:
| ||Boot-Up Load||Average Stage Load|
|GameCube||17 seconds||5-6 seconds|
|PlayStation 2||24 seconds||7-8 seconds|
|Xbox||12 seconds||5 seconds|
Characters and Weapons
Character names marked with an * are characters who must be unlocked somehow before they become playable.
- Astaroth - "Kulutues", a Great Axe
- Cervantes de Leon* - "Soul Edge & Nirvana", a Long Sword and Pistol Sword combination
- Chai Xianghua - "No Name", a Chinese Sword (Jian)
- Heishirō Mitsurugi - "Shishi-Oh", a Katana
- Inferno (non-playable boss) - Inferno is a mimic character, randomly duplicating another character's fighting abilities, and their default weapon along with it
- Isabella "Ivy" Valentina - "Valentine", a Snake Sword
- Kilik - "Kali-Yuga", a Bo Staff
- Maxi - "Soryuju" a set of Nunchaku
- Nightmare - "Soul Edge", in the form of a Zweihander
- Seung Mina* - "Scarlet Thunder", a Naginata
- Sophitia Alexandra* - "Omega Sword & Elk Shield", a Sword and Shield combination
- Taki - "Rekki-Maru & Mekki-Maru", dual-wielded Kodachi
- Voldo - "Manas and Ayus", dual-wielded Katars
- Yoshimitsu* - "Yoshimitsu", a Katana
Seung Mina and Sophitia Alexandra are not playable characters in the arcade edition of Soulcalibur II.
- Cassandra Alexandra - "Omega Sword and Nemea Shield", a Sword and Shield combination
- Charade* - Charade is a mimic character, randomly duplicating another character's fighting abilities, and their default weapon along with it
- Hong Yunsung - "White Storm", a Dai Dao (Chinese Broadsword)
- Raphael Sorel - "Flambert", a Rapier
- Talim - "Syi Salika & Loka Luha", dual-wielded Tonfa Blades
- Berserker - "Great Axe", self-explanatory
- Lizardman (just a lizardman, not series regular Aeon Calcos, who goes by the name Lizardman) - "Gyulkus Weapon", a Sword and Shield combination
- Assassin - "Assassin Blade", a Dai Dao (Chinese Broadsword)
- Al "Spawn" Simmons - "Agony", a One-Handed Axe
- Link - "Master Sword & Hylian Shield", a Sword and Shield combination
- Heihachi Mishima - "Kiaiissen", a pair of Bracers
- Necrid - "Enigma", a mysterious energy that can transform into the shape of any weapon
Some of the fighting styles of a number of the Soul characters are similar. For instance, the characters of Cassandra and Yunsung are based around the same fighting styles of older characters Sophitia and Hwang.
Charade, much like his predecessors Inferno and Edge Master, copies the fighting styles of the other fighters and will switch between them each round. The generic characters Berserker, Lizardman, and Assassin, created as opponents in Weapon Master Mode and are unlockable for use in other modes, are based on the fighting styles of Rock, the Aeon Calcos Lizardman, and Hwang.
|1.||"UNDER THE STAR OF DESTINY"||運命の星の下に||2:08|
|4.||"GUIDED BY WIND"||己を導く風のささやき||3:58|
|6.||"RAISE THY SWORD"||己が剣を高く掲げよ||3:31|
|7.||"BRAVE SWORD, BRAVER SOUL"||鋼の信念||3:42|
|9.||"DESTINY AWAITS NO ONE"||運命に追い越されないように||3:45|
|10.||"NO TURNING BACK"||一線を越える決断||3:26|
|14.||"SWORD OF THE PATRIOT"||愛国の剣||4:12|
|16.||"IF THERE WERE ANY OTHER WAY"||非情なる宿命の絆||3:27|
|17.||"NOTHING TO LOSE"||すべてを賭けて||3:30|
|19.||"THE BATTLE ENDS"||戦いの終わり||0:38|
|20.||"SLAVE OF DESIRE"||欲望の虜||0:37|
|22.||"THE JOURNEY CONTINUES"||永遠に続く旅路||0:36|
|23.||"PATH OF DESTINY"||自ら切り開く運命 (Arcade Version)||3:06|
|1.||"TALES OF SOULS AND SWORDS"||剣と魂の物語||1:48|
|2.||"QUEST FOR GLORY"||栄光への道||3:20|
|4.||"MAZE OF THE BLADE"||剣王の墓||6:49|
|5.||"LABYRINTH OF MOONLIGHT"||月光の迷宮||5:38|
|6.||"WHISPERS OF THE SWORD"||共鳴する剣と魂||1:05|
|7.||"PATH OF DESTINY"||自ら切り開く運命||5:27|
|8.||"INTO THE WHIRLWIND"||戦いの嵐の中へ||2:53|
|10.||"THE NOBLE BLADE"||誇り高き魂の剣||0:57|
Soul Calibur II HD Online
At Namco's 2013 Comic-Con panel, they revealed an HD online-enabled version of Soul Calibur II would be coming to Xbox 360 & Playstation 3 in Fall 2013. It will feature both Heihachi and Spawn on both platforms, and will include all of the modes from the original console release of the game.