Bigger isn’t always better. It’s a simple enough statement but one still ignored by the majority of the games industry, where basic ideas are always being layered up with mechanics and elements until they buckle under their own weight. So while Star Wars characters, complex creation suites and super meters might have all had a hand in making the SoulCalibur Buckaroo donkey kick, strip all that noise back and the core fighting is still superb – the fundamentals are largely unchanged, but this HD remaster is SoulCalibur at its most pure and playable.
It’s somewhat damning of the franchise that there are precious few new faces from the decade since SCII first came out that we actually miss here. Then again, perhaps that’s simply because the team did such an awesome job with the roster on this one in the first place. All bases are covered – slow, heavy-hitting characters like Astaroth; speedy close-range brawlers like Taki; those who focus on range, such as Kilik (spit) and Ivy, plus token oddball characters like Yoshimitsu and Voldo, a blind gimp who never listened to anybody’s advice about running with scissors. As with all great fighters through the ages, it’s a near-perfect cast and better yet, the system is balanced
to the point that each has a fairly even chance at coming out on top.
After seeing Superman get beaten through the moon to lose a third of his life bar, one startling thing about SCII is that one solid hit can cause just as much pain, if not more. It’s a ludicrously high-damage game, but that only adds to the intensity – Astaroth’s deliberate axe swipes might be easy to read but the fact that he only need land three or four to fully kick your ass makes him a terrifying opponent all the same. It also adds to the ‘one more go’ factor when you’re sparring with mates. When matches are over this quick, you can find yourself passing the pad in winner-stays-on gauntlets before you’ve even finished trash-talking.
Add in the excellent single-player Weapon Master mode (something that was sadly absent in the bare-bones 360 port of the original game) and solid online options and you’ve got yourself a tight little fighting package, not to mention a reminder that behind all the bullshit, SoulCalibur is still an excellent game. Just do everyone a favour and don’t pick Kilik, okay? Thanks.
SoulCalibur II HD can be downloaded now from Xbox Live Arcade.