The original Soul Calibur was one of the most graphically impressive games of the late 90’s. If you’d asked anyone to showcase the power of the Sega Dreamcast back in 1999, Soul Calibur would have been the most likely game that they’d pop in the tray. Aside from the impressive graphics, the game was a deeply robust fighter with combos that took time and dedication to pull off correctly. It became one of the most popular fighting series of all time, spawning 4 sequels to date. Back in 2003, fans were eagerly awaiting the release of Soul Calibur 2 for the consoles that fortunately didn’t succumb to the Dreamcast’s fate. On top of that, each console would feature an exclusive character. Link from The Legend of Zelda, Spawn from the popular Image comic series, and Heihachi from Tekken were featured on the Gamecube, Xbox, and Playstation 2 respectively. It was a massive hit and is still considered one of the best titles in the series.
Fast forward to 2014 and you’d be hard pressed to find a game in the fighting genre that lacks a multiplayer feature. The idea behind Soul Calibur II HD was to update the gorgeous graphics of a deep fighter and add in an online multiplayer element. Seems the perfect combination for a game like Soul Calibur II, but does it hold up effortlessly by today’s standards? For the most part, yes it does.
Right off of the bat, the graphics hold up quite nicely for a 10 year old game. The character models are clearly less impressive than the ones in Soul Calibur IV and V, but if you didn’t look at them side by side, you’d be hard pressed to find too much difference. The solid frame rate never slows down, and the colorful backgrounds stream all around as your characters take part in their melee. The combat is unchanged and still moves fluidly. If you logged hundreds of hours in Soul Calibur II the first time around, then you’ll feel comfortable here. As I said before, this game is a deep and engrossing fighter. You can’t master it in a few days, or even weeks for that matter. This game takes months and months to truly master every move for even just one character. If you’ve already mastered them before, you’ll still be a master here as the control scheme is nearly identical on the PS2 and Xbox 360 controllers with just a few different placements. Newcomers, however, will have a challenge on their hands, especially online.
Speaking of which, the online component was one of the purposes for this rerelease, but unfortunately it’s just not very impressive. It only offers ranked and player matches. That’s it. By comparison, the features in games like MVC3 and Mortal Kombat put it to shame. I understand that updating the graphics to an HD landscape was a good selling point, but why spend so little time developing the multiplayer modes? Most gamers might not be willing to purchase a game they already own again just for the HD feature alone. The multiplayer is functional, and I never had much trouble getting into an online match. By that standard, it gets a pass at least.
Spawn and Heihachi make appearances here, but Link is sadly absent. It makes sense, given that Nintendo would never allow a licensed character to appear on a rival console. Perhaps the rumored Wii U version will include him?
Should you shell out your hard earned dollars for this update? I’d say if you never played the original, then it’s a no brainer and you should download it to your library right now. If not, even if you’re a super fan of the original and want to get it just for the HD update and online multiplayer, I’d still say wait for it to go on sale before a purchase. Don’t let that detract you from picking it up eventually either way. Soul Calibur II was stellar then, and it definitely is still stellar now.