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Replay: Soul Calibur 2

Have you ever played a game, thinking it was the best thing since Stacy Keibler lovely 42" legs? Did you ever pick up that game a couple of months ago and realize that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, or perhaps you thought "wow, this game is just as good as when I bought it a couple of months ago!" It's happened to many people, be it because of the hype surrounding the game or because of some newly discovered glitch. You buy into a game for whatever reason, but reflecting on it afterwards may yield a totally different opinion than what you initially had. Replay! seeks to find out just that.

Returning to the stage of history...

Today we take a look back on one of the most anticipated games of the year, Soul Calibur 2. Released in the arcades in 2002, Namco's secondary fighting franchise (Tekken obviously being their main series for now) made its way to console in March 2003 over in Japan, with the North American release on August 27. Although the home versions did not feature the addicting Conquest Mode found in the arcades, it did feature all of the characters, along with nine new characters, a bevy of gameplay modes and balance solutions.

The home versions of the game introduced Soul Calibur regulars Seung Mina and Sophitia, as well as Beserker, Assassin and Lizardman. Of course, who could forget the four console characters, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Heihachi from Tekken, Spawn from the comic book, and Necrid, an original design by Spawn creator Todd MacFarlane? In addition to the new characters, Weapon Master Mode, something that should be familiar to fans of the Soul series, replaced Conquest Mode. Here you could purchase new costumes, weapons and other goodies by completing a variety of missions. Of course, there were many changes to the gameplay itself. Modifications to damage, speed as well as adding in new attacks are all Namco standards for their home conversions, so it should come as no surprise that these were present when the game hit all consoles earlier this year.

Changing the competitive landscape

What was not fixed were the numerous gameplay glitches that popped up into the game. The most glaring glitches are two techniques called Slide Step and Instant Guard. Although Slide Step has been around since Soul Calibur 1, it wasn't a major problem until it showed up again in Soul Calibur 2. With SC2's enhanced sidestepping system, Slide Stepping allowed a player to get completely behind an opponent by repeatedly tapping any diagonal in any situation. What made this completely dangerous is that the system of "Sidestepping beats Verticals which beats Horizontals which beats Sidestepping" was rendered irrelevant in several situations, as Slidestepping allowed the player to avoid horizontal attacks as well. Instant Guard is a new glitch that was found in Soul Calibur 2, and allowed the user to instantly block an attack when the circumstances would normally not allow it. For instance, if the user of Instant Guard had their attack repelled with a Guard Impact, they could use Instant Guard to instantly block any attack thrown at them, with the exception of throws and low attacks. This greatly affected the landscape of Soul Calibur 2 competition-wise, as the character balance of the game was significantly altered. It's an oddity that these two glitches were not removed from the game, despite their early discoveries. Both techniques were known to have existed during the early part of 2003, and could have been taken care of with the North American and Europe releases of the game, but they weren't while other glitches were.

But it wasn't all about glitches, no sir. Aside from the inclusion of more characters and dual voiceovers, the home conversion of Soul Calibur 2 did seem like a ho-hum effort. Perhaps it was because of the fact that Namco had to port the game to three systems, but the end product felt a little bit rushed. If you need any evidence of this, look no further than Practice mode. Anyone who wishes to put a serious effort into learning a game such as Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution would have been advised to go to Practice mode and start the excellent tutorial that's included in the game. Unfortunately, anyone interested in learning how to play Soul Calibur 2 would have no such fortune. Not only does Practice mode not tell you how to play the game, but also simple functions such as Record (which has been around since Tekken 3) are nowhere to be seen. Something much more grand than Weapon Master Mode could've been done for the home conversion, considering we've done this type of run with Soul Edge and Soul Calibur in the past. In fact, you could say that everything Namco did include in their home conversion was purely flash, with little substance.

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