Soulcalibur V has landed, and judging from what I've been hearing, it's a pretty good game. Heck, GameZone's Andrew Clouther awarded it a great 8 / 10 score in his review, which means it's definitely worthy of your attention if you're a fan of the series or fighting games in general. Unfortunately for me, I have yet to play Soulcalibur V because I have to manage my money wisely, which means I can't always buy every game I want at launch. So what did I do? I decided to bust out my copy of Soulcalibur II for the GameCube.
When I first played Soulcalibur II seemingly countless years ago, I was instantly hooked due to its tight fighting game mechanics. As far as 3D fighters were concerned during the Xbox / PlayStation 2 / GameCube era, no game topped Soulcalibur II for me. I played the game's Weapon Master mode for hours until I got to the end and loved every minute of it despite the fact that it was so heavy on text. And I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I sunk into the competitive multiplayer.
So on January 31, Soulcalibur V launch day, I dug out my copy of Soulcalibur II and played that for a while. Not surprisingly, the game is still pretty fun. The gameplay isn't flawless, and it certainly isn't as tight and refined as the mechanics you'll find in modern fighters. Even then, Soulcalibur II is still loads of fun. Well, actually, let me rephrase that: It's loads of fun when you're playing against someone else.
While there's certainly plenty of fun to be had in the Arcade and Time Attack modes in Soulcalibur II, it's hard to argue the same for Weapon Master mode. When I first played Soulcalibur II, I absolutely loved this mode. I liked reading the game's story as it unfolded, and I didn't mind reading through the walls of text it presented. But this feature is called Does it hold up?, not Was it awesome back then?, and I have to be completely honest and say that Weapon Master mode doesn't hold up one bit.
Sure, navigating through a map, leveling up, and purchasing weapons are all fine things to do, but it's really difficult to stay interested in the main solo campaign for very long. Really the only thing Weapon Master mode has going for it is its impressive theme music, which still sounds grand to this very day.
Seriously, though, if I had to recommend going back and playing Soulcalibur II, it would be for the multiplayer. Even today, after having played other stellar fighters including Mortal Kombat, I can definitely vouch for the competitive multiplayer in Soulcalibur II. It's fun taking on a buddy, and you can easily sink a lot of time as you duke it out over and over again. That said, even though the multiplayer in Soulcalibur II is so enjoyable these days, it is easily overshadowed by its multiple successors, which have refined things since.
Visually, Soulcalibur II is still pretty good. When it first launched, it was an excellent-looking title. Seriously, I fell in love with the graphics in the game. Now, while still nice to look at, it's obvious that this is a last-gen game. The music, on the other hand, is still superb. I really like most of the themes in Soulcalibur II, and they do a great job of adding an epic feel to the battles. And hearing the fighters' banter (in Japanese, of course) is always a treat.
For the first time since I started my Does it hold up? series here on GameZone, I find myself a bit perplexed. As far as the question posed here is concerned, yes, Soulcalibur II does indeed hold up in almost every aspect, especially in terms of its gameplay. That said, with three main console entries in the series now available, I find it really hard to recommend this title. Yes, Soulcalibur II is still a good game, but the only reason I see anyone playing it again would be if they wanted to take down some fighters with Link in the GameCube version.
The verdict: Soulcalibur II holds up in terms of gameplay, but I find it damn near impossible to recommend with so many, much more awesome successors, and with a fresh new entry currently available.