STAFF REVIEW of Soul Calibur 2 HD Online (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Monday, December 16, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Soul Calibur 2 HD Online Box art Have you ever had a game where you and your friends became so immersed that the minutes turned to hours which turned into days, then months, and even years? Transcending history, and the world, a tale of souls and swords, eternally retold. Welcome to Soul Calibur II HD Online. About a decade since its initial release, Namco has decided that a good celebration of such an iconic fighting game would be to re-release this classic with a HD graphics overhaul and include online play as well. Back when Soul Calibur II was released on the Xbox 360, there was an online war of words as each console obtained an exclusive (and different) character. The Sony platform received Heihachi Mishima from Tekken, Nintendo unlocked the iconic Link character, and The Xbox 360 got Spawn. To this day I don't know why. Link is a staple in gaming history with Nintendo, and Tekken appeared to be solidified with Sony. Dead or Alive brought out Master Chief, yet Soul Calibur II unleashed Spawn. Soul Calibur II was already a stunning game when it first came out and has a lot of things going for it right out of the gate. So does SC II fall short or is this truly one game that will transcend history and time together. Let's find out.

SC II was one of those games that caused many groups of people to gather around the console, passing the controller to whoever had to take the walk of shame. There were no fatalities, no Ultra Combos, just stunning fighting displays with varied weaponry. This time, Namco has gone to great lengths to celebrate the 10 year anniversary, but not all is as golden as it sounds. There are multiple modes to select from within the single player realm. Your time attack mode, survival, arcade, and more all make their triumphant return; however the bulk of your time will be spent in Soul Calibur II's Weapon Master mode. It is here that you will select a character to start your journey looking for the legendary weapon itself.

Along this path there is a loose fitting text story that you can read if you wish, but then you are tasked to fight in various arenas under various circumstances. For instance, on one stage you could have a strong gust of wind will keep blowing through the stage, forcing your character towards the edge, and you have to win by a ring out victory. Other examples would be your opponent has poisoned weaponry that when you get hit, will slowly start to drain away your life and make your character move more sluggishly, yet you have to win. By navigating your way through Weapon Master mode you will also unlock more content to use in SC II. Certain fights will net you new weapons for some characters, different stages, or even new characters themselves. Speaking of characters, earlier you read that there were exclusives when the game first released. That isn't quite the case this time. Spawn is back, but this time so is Heihachi Mishima from Tekken. Sorry but it looks as though Link will be staying put with Nintendo, but at least both platforms are now on a level playing field.

For the Soul Calibur fans, you will be happy to know that the control scheme for this arcade game is just as you remembered it with some minor improvements in terms of input timing; however that isn't the case for the online aspect of this game. Fighting online is something that has become essential to making a successful fighting game. Once you decide to fight online though, you fall victim to very sluggish button inputs that completely detract from the precise movements that are necessary to win. Once frustration takes over you will find yourself resorting to button mashing as you try to figure out how to properly time your attacks and adapt to balance out the lag input, but by that time round 1 has already ended and now round 2 is starting. Now you start to get a feel for how to compensate and you start to fight, however, attacking isn't the only thing lagging behind, blocking is affected as well.

There are other issues as well for online play such as no lobbies.... at all. Instead you get whisked away back to the multiplayer menu where you have to go through searching all over again, unless you host (but prepare yourself for sending out a lot of invites, over and over again). Namco didn't even include a way to rematch the player you are going against now, and to me that is just sloppy. Top quality online lobbies are the icing on the cake that makes a good fighting game, a great one, however the ability to rematch your opponent is almost essential, and to not include that is a mystery we may never solve.

While the online aspect does suffer somewhat, the entire HD overhaul of Soul Calibur II makes everything look better than ever. When it was originally released, Soul Calibur II was a beautiful game, but now Namco has put an HD touch on it and wow will you notice a difference. Each stage now looks breathtakingly good and the character models have all received visual upgrades that make them appear more realistic, natural, and in some cases very menacing. Thankfully the different stages also come with various soundtracks that accompany each fight. Known for some very dynamic music, Soul Calibur II HD Online delivers again. The voices of the characters can though wear thin over time, but having the original announcer's voice brings the audio quality right back up.

At $19.99, Soul Calibur II HD Online is priced at the top end of the Xbox Live Arcade scale, however when you factor in that this was originally a full retail title, the scope of the content included more than warrants the price. You also have to take into account that this game includes more with the online play and HD makeover and then you'll see that what Namco has done was given you another opportunity to lose months out of your life as you fight your way to become a Soul Calibur II legend, and like they say, the legend will never die.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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