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     " The jubble is in, men, the jubble is in... "

      Title: Soul Caliber II by Namco

      Format: X-Box Fighting Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: How many years have we been hearing about Soul Caliber II? I mean seriously, I think I started hearing the rumors about a month after SC I hit the Dreamcast… Well, all these years later they've finally gotten around to delivering. And how! The original killer app for the Dreamcast finally has a sequel to call its own. Moreover, there's no system hatin' here! All three systems get their own version with their own special character. This game's special guest reviewer? Spawn!

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Supoib! These are sweet ass graphics we are talking about here. The edges are crisp, the characters move with grace and fluidity. After watching Maxi for a half hour, you'll start to believe you actually can wield nunchaku; the motion capture is that good (I don't want to say what you'll start believing after a half hour of watching Ivy… Let's just say it gets you arrested in four states…). The character designs are all interesting, although (and you're going to hear this a lot throughout the review, so be prepared), a lot of the character's look similar to their incarnations in the last game. Many of the characters from Soul Caliber reprise their roles, and really aren't too much different from the last time they showed up- looks wise. Don't get me wrong, with the massive graphical upgrades to the game over the first one, they look better (although I contend that several of the women are actually uglier than in the last game), though the models are still fundamentally the same. The one thing about the graphics that amuses me above all else is the nod to current fighting game trend… The jubble is in, men, the jubble is in...and in with a vengeance. A lot of times, evidently programmed, for no reason other than to watch a woman's breasts jiggle in the few idle moments the game offers. I'm not complaining, per se, but it does amuse me nonetheless. 4 out of 5

      Playability: If you ever owned a Dreamcast, then you almost definitely played the original Soul Caliber (and if you didn't stop reading this review. I banish you from monkeydom. Oh, I have that power, believe it). If that is the case, then you will be right at home here. So little has changed from the original that at times it feels like the original never left. Of course, the original was a fun ass game that needed very little fixing, so I can't complain too much. Move sets for certain characters have changed, so you may have to visit the command list before you can properly execute killer combos you remember, though the functionality remains the same.
          The beauty of Soul Caliber is the ease with which anybody can pick it up and start playing with some reasonable amount of skill. Even those monkeys who couldn't find their ass with a roadmap and tracking signal can pick up a controller and start wailing on the competition. Some people consider this a bad thing. I consider it accessible. They have made one major gameplay upgrade in the Guard Impact. This reversal system was a long time coming to the Soul Caliber fighting arena and works quite nicely. Anyway, for those of you who were hiding in a cave, fearing the great sky ball during the Dreamcast's' heyday, you essentially pick from a motley crew of warriors and general ass kickers and proceed to … well… beat some ass. For those familiar with the franchise the roster is essentially the same, though there are a few new characters added, including Todd McFarlane's Necrid (Also known as the Merchandisinator), who appears in all three versions (And believe me, Todd is right quick to make sure that everyone knows that he made Necrid).
          There are a butt load of modes to play through, the most exciting being Weapon Master mode. In this mode you fight through various missions (missions like: Beat three opponents without falling, or make Taki jump up and down fifty times… Okay maybe that was a personal mission) in order to earn points to unlock special items. The best part? The majority of your unlocks are new weapons for your fighters! The coolest part of Soul Edge has come back with a vengeance. The weapons, while powerful in some rights, are seldom enough to completely unbalance a fight. Though they can definitely tip the scales, or even be the difference between life and death…of course, that's what makes them so damn cool to get.
          As far as music goes, there is little change in the music from the last one…which is not bad, as the music is excellent. Just the right epic feeling for this medieval combat romp. The voices are all well done, and quality even for the dub (honestly I'm just happy they have a dub). There are a few weird lines (Xianghua's line, and I quote: "Justice will prevail! Just kidding!"… What the hell?), but overall the voice actors did a fine job with the material at hand. After all, it's a fighting game… I'm just surprised nobody's feet hurt with destiny…
          All in all, the game is just as fun, just as addictive as its predecessor was. The fighting is a blast, and the Weapon Master missions give a life to the game that most fighting games are sorely missing. I could complain that it's too similar to the previous game, but I loved the first Soul Caliber and this sequel lives up to the gameplay I had come to expect. 4.5 out of 5

      Story and Drama: As I've said many times already: It's a fighting game. The stories are as convoluted and nonsensical as they get. Although I'm sure I could explain them to you (because I'm just that nerdy), most of you will neither care about nor bother to explore the storylines for these characters. Let me lay out the basics just so you don't walk away thinking there's no story. There's an evil blade called Soul Edge. There's another blade that fights against Soul Edge, called Soul Caliber (I like how it took them until the second game to get to the reason why the first one was called Soul Caliber instead of 'Edge 2). For various reasons the characters of this game want one or both of those swords. Okay… I lied, there isn't really a story. I just reread that, and that's just awful. So, yeah, typical fighting game storyline: People fight for stuff. If you're really concerned about the story go read a book already. 1 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: If you are not playing this game with your friends, then I'm guessing that you simply have no friends. And if that's the case just get some hookers. They're almost as fun and they're easier to beat. The game really comes into its own once you've unlocked all of the weapons for use against others. At that point you've got such a wide variety of costumes, weapons, and stages to choose from that it simply never gets boring. At one point me and my in house monkey sat down and played nearly 80 matches in a row. No breaks, no qualms, just played 80 matches. And when it was over, we both agreed that we could easily have gone for more if not for these pesky biological imperatives to eat, sleep, or fling poo. Replyability takes a bit of a hit though. You can only have one profile for Weapon Master mode, so there's no way for two people on the same box to play through all the missions (or at least not be the first one, and all the thrill is in being the first one to do it). Also, once you've unlocked everything, you tend to simply let the game wait for multiplayer occasions. There's really only so much thrill playing with yourself can give you (And Ivy's such a cold bitch… okay, last joke like that I swear). The game remains fun, no matter how much you play it with friends, and once you unlocked every last mode there's plenty of variety. This should remain a party favorite for a good long while, but if you haven't got many party people to entertain it's not going to last nearly as long. 3.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       In all ways, I consider this a worthy successor to the Dreamcast legend. They've added in just enough new material to keep it fresh and kept enough of the old stuff to make sure we all feel right at home. They could have changed a few more things, maybe freshened it up a little more, but all things considered if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And this game most definitely is not broke. Break it out at parties and I will guarantee fun for all.

      The Good: Ivy + jubble = Gooooood… Oh, and a bunch of other crap too numerous and non-jiggly to mention…

      The Bad: Not a lot here has changed and for some there may be too much stagnation.

      The Overall Ugly: If you have ever liked a fighter, ever, get this game. It's got all the things that make the genre great.

      What it's Worth: Pay full price. You'll thank the man when you're done.

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