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Soul Calibur 2
Preview By: Siou Choy
Developer:  Namco
Publisher:  Namco
Genre:  Fighting
Est. Release:  TBA 2002
Posted:  12-27-01

I donít think thereís a single gamer or game reviewer that would dispute the fact that Namcoís Soul Calibur almost single-handedly raised the standards for 3D fighters upon its release for the Dreamcast a few years back. (In fact, even to date, its only direct competition remains Tecmoís Dead or Alive 2, also for the late lamented Dreamcast system). Beautiful graphics, several (and I do mean several) costumes, levels, characters, alternates and extras to be unlocked by successfully performing a variety of tasks and missions left fighting gamers in awe, particularly in light of its less esteemed predecessors and competition (which indubitably lacked even half the variety, style, or impact of this groundbreaking release). It goes without saying, therefore, that the pressure is on the developers at Namco to make its sequel even better Ė but no worries on that front. Although only 30 percent complete as of this writing, things definitely look promising for fighting game fans. Soul Calibur, along with House of the Dead 2 (and itís bastard son, Typing of the Dead), the aforementioned DOA2, and Crazy Taxi, provided the Dreamcast with one of the strongest launch (or early release) lineups for any system to date. Long-standing financial issues (mainly stemming from the failure of the Saturn outside of Japan) saw subsequent releases petering out in both volume and quality (despite the admitted performance and power of the system itself), until that dreaded day when Sega pulled out of gaming hardware for good. Anxious gamers have no need to worry this time around: Soul Calibur 2 will be on all three Next-Gen consoles - Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2 (actual release dates to be determined, though Namco has expressed interest in releasing the game simultaneously across platforms next year).

Insofar as recurring characters (or lack thereof), early buzz is inconclusive at best. Some reports claim half the characters of Soul Calibur will be present, (one report claims Hwang, Siegfried, Ivy, Mitsurugi, Nightmare, Taki and Astaroth), others pick different ones (another posits Xianghua, Cervantes, Voldo, Kilik and Yoshimitsu, in addition to and in place of characters named in the first report), but all agree that at least several of the characters will return, along with three new characters: Cassandra (apparently, Sophitita's younger sister); a Southeast Asian shrine maiden named Tarim, and a Korean swordsman, Phan Yung Tsung.

Despite what you may have read in any advance press releases, there really isnít much of a plot to Soul Calibur 2. Nor, to be honest, should there be one. Itís a fighting game, not an RPG. It always fascinates me how much energy and effort the character designers put into giving their creations a backstory; in some cases (like this one), the extraneous detail, none of which actually appears in or impacts the game in any way whatsoever, can be somewhat voluminous. Itís the old conundrum of the iceberg: why build a mountain of ice, far beneath the frozen waters, when the world will only ever see the tip?

Nonetheless, for the morbidly curious, hereís the Readerís Digest version (of the plot, anyway Ė just to touch on the character bios would convert this preview into an encyclopedia!): four years have passed since the original Soul Calibur. Nightmare (aka the former Siegfried, possessed by the evil Soul Edge, by which we refer to the sword, not to be confused with the playable character from Soul CaliburÖget the idea?) has returned, and itís up to our heroes to stop him. Despite all this confusing backstory foolishness, the essential "plot" behind Soul Calibur 2 is really simple. To stop the bad guy, you have to fight. By beating the bad guy, you save the world. Too bad all our problems canít be solved that easily.

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