Many would argue that that the SoulCalibur
series reached its peak with the release of SoulCalibur II
on Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube. Featuring gorgeous graphics and a trio of exclusive guest characters on each of its respective platforms, the game won over fans of both Soul Edge
, while also bringing in new fans to the series. With the ten year anniversary of the release upon us, Namco felt it was due time to give the game a facelift with SoulCalibur II HD Online
. Do the two major additions –the HD graphics and online play- make this classic even more legendary? Our review explores whether the soul burns brighter, or if it has grown weak and dim.
was released for the XBLA in 2008, many were ecstatic to finally own the title on a console other than the Dreamcast. Despite its solid weapon-based gameplay, many were disappointed when there was no online play, and worse yet, game modes were stripped from the XBLA port. Thankfully, Namco gives us the complete experience (and then some) with SoulCalibur II HD Online
. Besides your typical arcade modes, HD Online
contains the fleshed-out "Weapon Master" mode among others. "Weapon Master" is a decently-paced story mode where you battle foes with a variety of caveats. For example, you may have to defeat an enemy solely by ring out, or with high winds, quick sand, and more. Other times you may be tasked with taking on multiple foes in a row. Furthermore, you’ll encounter dungeons where you can choose the route from the entrance to the boss, with some paths leading to unlocking new weaponry. You also earn gold which can be spent at the shops for more weapons or costumes. The narrative in "Weapon Master" is told primarily through text; some of you may be intrigued by it while others may find themselves skipping it.
If you’re looking to complete everything "Weapon Master" has to offer, you might be in for a bit of a grind. Once you get really comfortable with a character, you may find that the battles grow a bit tedious, though the aforementioned variable fight conditions do their best to keep things fresh. You will also need to switch characters on occasion to better suit some of these conditions; a very good way of making sure you don’t get too comfortable with one character. Beating certain stages unlocks new story paths, and each stage actually has a “+” version to beat as well. "Weapon Master" only feels tedious due to the relative ease of passing stages, but suddenly a few of the final “+” stages see a major spike in difficulty. One in particular has you fighting seven fighters in a row, all with health that regenerates during the fight. This stage and a few others can have that controller-throwing feeling to them.
In relation to other comparable fighting games, SoulCalibur HD Online
has a lot to offer in the single-player department. At its core, the game is an extremely accessible fighter which allows newcomers to jump right in and gain a sense of accomplishment. These new players will likely start off with some button mashing, and will be successful at it to begin with. Later they’ll learn new valuable combos to add to their arsenal to tackle some of the tougher challenges. Veteran fighting game enthusiasts can also appreciate the title, as they have some tools at their disposal to combat some of the challenging AI.
The HD upgrade is noticeable to anyone familiar with the original console release. Character models look cleaner and crisper. There’s more to be desired when it comes to the graphics, though. Ten years is a long time, but given that the original release didn’t look that ugly to begin with, it would take something grand to really make you go, “Wow!" As it stands, the high definition detail is very good, but short of spectacular.
Then there’s the subject of guest characters. Much was made that both Spawn and Heiachi made it on the roster in the HD remake, while previously they had appeared only on the Xbox and PS2, respectively. This of course, leaves out Nintendo’s Link. Given that the game wasn’t released on Wii U, it’s completely understandable that Link wouldn’t be included. Even if the game had been released for the Wii U, it would be extremely un-Nintendo like to offer up one their flagship characters to a multiplatform release. Even without Hyrule's Hero, there are plenty of other characters that will suit your tastes if you’re truly a SoulCalibur
One of the biggest revelations that comes to the game is online play. Despite having online
right in the game’s title, the new online mode is a grave disappointment. For starters, you’re really only given two modes: "Player" and "Ranked" matches. Many fighting games have adopted an online lobby system where you can spectate matches amongst friends, or queue up multiple matches in a row. SoulCalibur II HD Online
is one and done, booting you back to the match search after each bout. Given that SoulCalibur V
had a lobby system, it seems a bit lazy that this remake does not.
The lack of lobby system could be forgiven, if the online portion was even playable. The netcode for the game is flat out terrible. Countless reports, including our own extensive play-testing, experienced a noticeable delay between button presses and on-screen action. Surely the person on the other side of the connection is experiencing the same delay. Given the fact that fighting games rely on twitch reactions, it is quite often too late to block an incoming attack given the game’s input delay. Narrowing a search to those with the best connections didn’t wield any better results either. Some people have been able to play lag-free matches, but too many others have not been so lucky. One shouldn’t have to hope the online suite works, it should just work
given the remake’s scope. It is absolutely criminal that such lag is present, and hopefully a patch can be issued to amend it, because as it stands, one of the main selling points of the game has been rendered useless. Outside of a few achievements, the online mode will disappointingly have to be ignored.
Speaking of achievements, SoulCalibur II HD Online
features a solid list which will have you unlocking achievements at a decent tick throughout your play time. Unlocking every character and purchasing all of the weapons may feel like a bit of grind, but thankfully you don’t have to do much outside of normal gameplay to earn them. Overall, the achievements help add a bit more longevity and incentive to get all the way through "Weapon Master" mode, making the slight tedium you may feel while progressing through dungeons less severe. You also have to commend the game for having creative achievement descriptions and nice-looking tiles worthy of your TA Trophy Case. You can tell a good deal of thought went into the construction of the achievement list. Expect to play somewhere between 10-15 hours in order to knock out all of the achievements.SoulCalibur II HD Online
may have a few imperfections, namely the glaring issue of the faulty online mode, but there's still enough single player fun to go around to justify revisiting this classic once more. If the multiplayer aspect had you the most excited, you’re most likely going to be annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed. It simply isn’t worth the risk of paying such a high entry fee if multiplayer were to be your main focus. If they can come through with a patch for the netcode, this could have been a perfect remake. Instead, we’re left with a very good remake, but only because the original source material was so good to begin with.
The reviewer's fighter of choice was mostly the eccentric and creepy Voldo. She played every mode necessary for the review (and then some) to complete all of the game’s achievements in about 12-15 hours. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review