Fighting games are a hard genre to break into, not from a player’s perspective of course, as although you’ll find tournaments around the world with players harder than your average coffin nail ready to destroy you, utilising thumbs that have to be more arthritic than that of your grandad down the road, anyone can jump on board and win a few rounds with some button mashing or a rinse and repeat of the jump-kick-jump-punch routine.
What I’m talking about is brand new IPs breaking into he scene. We all know the classics: Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel VS Capcom, Virtua Fighter and Mortal Kombat. These are the staple diet of any good fighter lover, and what ever else comes and goes, often this list doesn’t vary, until some years back of course with the Soul Calibur series.
From its humble beginnings as Soul Edge, which then lead to Soul Calibur, until finally we saw Soul Calibur II – the perfect iteration of the series, a sequel which I feel was never bettered by any of its successors. Released on multiple platforms, each offering a unique fighter.
Nintendo’s Gamecube had Link from the Zelda series, Sony’s PS2 version had Heihachi from Tekken and Xbox fans were treated to the rather unique and pretty bad ass, Spawn. If you don’t know who Spawn is, you should take a moment to Google him. Go on, I’ll wait here..
I know, he looks awesome right? we’ll he plays awesome too!, but more of that later…
Due to it’s still cult status, PROJECT SOUL, one of Namco Bandai’s studios more elite dev teams, decided it was time to give the old girl a lick of HD paint and add some much-needed online play, so we could all finally get our heads and fists together on a worldwide scale, but after so many years has the beast still got life in it?
Of course it does! quite simply, Soul Calibur II HD Online is amazing. Not only is it still as fun as you’ll remember, it looks fantastic and still plays like a current-gen fighter, nothing here feels clunky at all and there’s a huge challenge ahead if you want to unlock everything and complete all there is on offer.
All the original characters are back, including Ivy, Taki, Mitsurugi, Maxi and everyone’s favourite Nightmare and with the addition of both Spawn and Heihachi now unlocked from the get go (no word on Link but we can all imagine the kind of licensing hell Nintendo put Namco through) you’ve got a pretty solid list of fighters, with another eight still to unlock.
Theres quite a robust list of modes on offer also from the Original Mode selection you can choose everything you’d expect from Arcade, VS Battle, Time Attack, Survival and more. But if you’re looking to flesh out your list of fighters and their weapons then Weapon Master is where you’ll be sinking a lot of your time into. Playing much like a campaign mode of sorts, Weapon Master sees you moving around the map fighting pretty much everyone you encounter, but it’s not as simple as beating them, each one will have a different task you have to complete to actually win. From simple one round fights, to tougher than they sound challenges like “land twenty hits within ten seconds”, this mode pushes you to your limits and really tests your skills in surprising ways.
Control wise Soul Calibur II HD handles extremely well, showing no signs of age. Within seconds I was ripping off combos and using guard impact with the best of them and with the command list still only a press of the start button away – if you’re new to the series you can pick it up pretty quickly. My only real gripe is the languages used to explain your moves, both in the command list and any other tutorials you’ll encounter. Nothing is written console specifically so rather than seeing an X,Y,A,B commands you’ll instead have to use some trial and error to work out what is meant by A, K, B and G. Sure it may seem like a minor niggle, and to be honest it probably is, but if your running through complicated combos in practice, it pulls your focus away for a bit to work out where the hell is the G button!
Online is obviously the most exciting new addition, offering us the promise that we can finally fight anyone from around the globe, unfortunately however, at the time of writing, the online service is not available for any testing so that’s something you lovely people will have to tell me about. With the promise of both ranked and player matches and the option to custom create lobbies with play styles ranging from “everyone welcome” to “serious business”, I can only see this community thriving over a unified love for a decent rumble.
Overall, Soul Calibur II HD is a great little package, full of nostalgia. If you loved this instalment originally or the series, or even if you just love a really good brawler with some friends (who doesn’t enjoy opening a huge can of whoop ass on their closest mates) then you’ll love this and with the extra addition of online play, that pretty much seals the deal. A must have!