Soul Calibur II is the highest traditional fighter that I have on my Top 52 list. This was a game I did not expect to love, but once I started playing it, I simply could not put it down.
Title: Soul Calibur II
Release Date: 08/26/03 (US)
My Ranking: #42
If you read my Top 52 segment for Super Street Fighter II Turbo, you probably remember that I don’t like fighting games very much. Soul Calibur II is another exception to that rule. Not only was the fighting in this game smooth and fluid, the attack animations were detailed and colorful. Who doesn’t like seeing Yoshimitsu using a sword as a deadly pogo stick?
I specifically picked the Gamecube version of this game since they had the best exclusive character. The PS2 version had Heihachi Mishima from Tekken, the Xbox version had Spawn, and the Gamecube version had Link. Link was an absolutely broken character in that he would most likely destroy anyone he faced. Armed with bombs, a bow and arrow, a boomerang, a devastating spin attack, crazy sword combos and a dash move, Link could easily deal as much damage as any attack from Nightmare or Astaroth and have more speed than both of them. Cool, but an unfair character.
Still, the mere appearance of Link was absolutely wonderful. I remember blazing through the Weapon Master mode clearing all the missions with him, racking up gold and buying all of the equipment and videos for every character.
I was obsessed with this game for a good month of my life. The one-player mode was surprisingly addictive, even with all of the unnecessary text regarding the missions and the story. I enjoyed going through “dungeons,” in which you would retain the health you have lost but gain some back in certain battles. You would also get special bonuses for beating certain parts of the dungeon, including hidden characters.
Not all of the missions were just "kill the opponent" either. Sometimes you had to get a ring out, or other times you would be poisoned, losing health gradually over the battle. Soul Calibur II showed me that fighting games can be more than just fighting games. Add little bits of RPG elements and the overall one-player experience becomes more dynamic.
The game truly shines in two-player versus however. Aside from Link, the characters are very balanced. Power characters will kill you pretty quickly if they get a hit while speed characters will slowly drain you with all of their combos. I’ve seen people own with Talim, Nightmare, Ivy, Raphael and even Necrid. You can tell that Namco really spent a lot of time trying to balance out everyone.
For it’s time, Soul Calibur II was also very pretty. Sure, characters like Ivy were nearly naked, but the stage designs were phenomenal and the lighting was top-notch. I never really give a crap about graphics since games don’t need to look pretty to be fun but, with Soul Calibur II you couldn’t help but notice the intricate stage and character designs rich with color and textual detail.
A lot of people have told me that the original Soul Calibur was the best in the series. I enjoyed Soul Calibur a lot, but for whatever reason, Soul Calibur II captured me. Maybe it was because of the exclusivity of Link or maybe it was because of the one-player mode. Whatever it was though, I could not put down this game. I was compelled to unlock everything and the characters are so different that you were forced to change strategy based on what character you were playing against.
I’ve never played a standard fighter that has been so diverse. Soul Calibur II is the best traditional fighter I have ever played.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II Turbo (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)