On July 19th, 2013, Namco
announced "Soul Calibur 2 HD Online" at San Diego Comic-Con.
This was personally a dream come true, as SC2 is still one of my
all time favorite fighting games. Soul
Calibur 2 HD Online features remastered HD visuals and online functionality
in celebration of the game's 10 year anniversary.
Soul Calibur 2 HD Online packs the multitude of modes found in the
console versions, including: Arcade, Survival, VS Battle, Time Attack, Survival,
Team Battle, Practice, Weapon Master, Museum (plus all of the "Extra" modes as
well). What the title adds is self-explanatory:
Upgraded HD visuals (up to full 1080p) and online matchmaking.
One of the best fighting
games ever made gets an HD remaster.
First, a retrospective: The pinnacle of the series, Soul Calibur II was one of the premiere
competitive fighting games in the early-mid 2000's, leading the fighting genre
with its innovation and incredibly deep gameplay engine. For the record, I was a
pretty hardcore SC2 tournament player back in the day... traveling to
other cities to compete in tournaments with upwards of 100 players. Before the "boom" of the fighting
genre in the late 2000's, these SC2 tournaments were some of the biggest
fighting game tournaments I had ever seen. There's no denying SC2 had
a lasting impact on the fighting genre, and there's good reason for that.
Before fighting games started featuring cushy comeback mechanics and
instant-combo buttons... there was a time when fighters were "difficult" by default. Soul Calibur 2 is from that
(And it was a damn good era, if you ask me). Hell, even the Soul Calibur series itself has dumbed
some things down over the years.
While this "new approach" we've seen
so commonly in the fighting genre has helped bring in many new players, something is
"lost" from the good old days... and SC2 might be the perfect
example. In SC2, character
movelists have quite the learning curve if you're a new player. If you only learn
a mere 10-20 moves with a character and think you're going to do well by
spamming, a skilled SC2 player will pick you apart in seconds. SC2
character movesets are incredibly deep and dynamic, which really allows players to cleverly trick up their
opponents... in so many different ways... and with vast amounts of style.
Soul Calibur 2's gameplay depth and clever
characters offer an unparalleled gameplay experience... an
"exclusive" experience that can't even be replicated by some of the later iterations of the
series. As you may know, later on in the series (SC3-SC5), the gameplay
speed became slower and many returning characters were toned down and changed
drastically. Arguably, their SC2 versions are much faster,
have tons more options, mix-ups & cancels, and in my opinion, are still among the most dynamic
and fun-to-play versions of
the characters. For me personally, SC2 made it difficult to return to
"simpler" fighting games after experiencing all of what SC2's
gameplay has to offer. Yes... SC2 spoiled me rotten.
Can't wait to meet new SC2
players online (and upload match vids)!
I've always loved the freedom of creativity SC2's character movesets give you. If you've never played
SC2 against a player who has truly mastered the
moveset of Mitsurugi, Ivy, Taki, Xianghua, Maxi, Raphael, Yoshimitsu, Lizard Man, Heihachi,
(insert any other character name here)... than in my opinion, you've never actually played Soul
Calibur 2... at least not "competitively". There's a huge difference between playing casually with friends
that know a few moves (or fighting the CPU), and testing your skills against a player who Guard Impacts frequently,
sidesteps properly, uses cancels to trick you, and uses a character to their
full potential. Since online gameplay wasn't standardized back
in 2003 like it is today, many players never got a chance to play SC2
competitively. That's why this online-enabled version of the game is well-deserved and should breathe new life into this classic title.
Unfortunately, SC2 HD Online has a few underlying flaws when it comes to
the "online" part. Theonline options are VERY bare bones and
the layout is shockingly clunky. When the game first launched, there wasn't even
an option to create an actual room, and there was no "rematch"
option... you had to re-invite friends after
(Thankfully, that has been fixed). Sadly, there are NO replays in online mode, and players are
also forced to sit
through character winning sequences every single round (not a huge issue).
Another small flaw is that you can't make your characters "taunt" on
the VS screen in online mode (it's funny how much I miss those one-liners now
that they're gone).
For a fighting game with
"online" in the title, some of these fundamental flaws are pretty inexcusable. Thankfully, at least, the netcode is fairly decent when playing
"somewhat local" friends, but
it's nowhere near as good as TTT2's or SC5's. It actually seems like some "other team" was responsible for
the netcode in this port, not the
Namco we've been familiar with the last couple years.
The good news is... as far as being a faithful port of the earlier console
versions, Soul Calibur II HD Online delivers. The game
actually looks much better than I expected in 1080p and retains 60 FPS at all
times. Character models retain
their awesome detail, and only show the slightest signs of "age" up close.
Lighting effects and colors "pop" like never before, and some of the
backgrounds actually look like they could be in a current gen fighting game
(thanks to the superb anti-aliasing... not a jaggy line in sight)! The revamped texture quality and weapon trails
are also particularly eye catching in 1080p. Some new or "enhanced" hit
sparks would've been a nice treat, but SC2's effects are nostalgic on their own and
actually stand the test of time. And don't you dare judge the game's graphics by
Youtube videos... that's just stupid. You'll most likely be wowed with how
crisp SC2 HD looks on your HDTV.
Namco decided to present the console port of SC2 in all its original glory... and I approve. The game starts you out
the same exact way as the original port - requiring you to unlock all the new
characters, of course!
might irk a few players, but personally, I love the nostalgia of unlocking
characters (especially in one of my favorite games). It reminds you of the glory days of
fighters, when "DLC" didn't exist and everything on the game disc was
yours from the start!
Load times are also super fast across the board, which is always a nice plus. The only major complaint I have is that there's no Japanese audio option... which is pretty
disappointing since it was something that
the original console port had.
However, I personally enjoy the English voices of SC2 (especially for the
humor they bring), so all is not
The original Soul Calibur 2 scored a
9.9, one of the highest ratings on TFG.
I was hoping for a robust online mode and maybe even some "new"
features, but HD Online sticks to basics. Nonetheless, Soul Calibur 2
is still amazing game and remains in a class of its own.
If I had to choose only ONE fighting game to play for the rest of my life... I
might choose SC2. I could give 100 reasons why. That said, most of the points taken off
of HD Online's rating are due to the bare bones online mode, which happens to be particularly important in this
title.Thankfully, Namco fixed a few of the previous issues with online mode. I'd still like to
see "VS Screen Taunts" and "Extra Stages" in online. And Ranked
online should be 3 rounds (tournament standard).
SC2 HD Online doesn't offer anything innovative over the original ports
(besides Heihachi & Spawn meeting for the first time ever), but if new
bells & whistles aren't important to you in an "HD edition," than you'll be happy
with this port. My dream SC2 port would have some basic character
customization (at least color edit), some fun graphical filters, and a robust
online mode. It will remain a dream for now.
After years of asking Namco for an "Online HD" edition of SC2
(over on TFG's original SC2 profile), the magical genie
that is Namco at least attempted to grant one of my biggest wishes. While I haven't been able to run
into too many new players online,
playing local friends on my PSN friends list has been a mostly pleasant experience.
Since I have some old friends that still play SC2, simply being able to
play against them online is worth the price of admission for me. In any
case, no doubt
I'll be playing SC2 for many years to come. ~TFG