I vividly remember when SoulCalibur II released in 2003, across all then-current platforms: PlayStation 2, Gamecube, and Xbox. The game was notable as a cross-platform title in that each console got an exclusive character. Nintendo Gamecube got Link from the Zelda series (awesome). Xbox got Spawn (badass). PlayStation 2 got… Heihachi Mishima from Tekken (deflated sigh). As a PS2 owner, I was hoping we’d get Solid Snake (or at least Jin or Hwoarang), and felt a wave of envy wash over me while playing a demo for the Gamecube version on a kiosk at a store. Over the years, the game has become one of my favorite fighting games, and Heihachi’s even grown on me a bit. But man was I hyped when I found out that SoulCalibur II HD Online would include both Heihachi and Spawn on both platforms. Of course, Link is on the bench this time around, but I’ll take what I can get.
For being ten years old, SoulCalibur II HD Online looks great. The upped resolution makes everything look a bit better, though I would’ve liked to see some redone texture work at least. Still, the character models are solid, and the art direction of the environments is stellar – and now you can bask in all their glory with the updated widescreen format. The gameplay feels completely unchanged, which is definitely a good thing as the original is one of the most well-rounded 3D fighters ever created. And I’d forgotten just how much content the game packs – there’s Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle and Practice, not to mention the kickass Weapon Master mode. Weapon Master tells a text-based story over the course of 16 chapters, which set up fights between your chosen warrior and opponents with objective-based tasks to unlock new fighters and weapons. It’s a simple mode that adds a lot to the experience.
The online mode is an appreciated addition, and while there are Ranked and Player matches available here, it’s not as good as it could be, or should be for something with Online in its title. The netcode can be a bit iffy, creating lag that can at times be a bit frustrating. But the most noticeable and irritating frustration to me was the fact that you can’t choose to fight again with an online opponent. I met up with my brother for a series of matches on PSN, and after every match I had to create a new private match and invite him all over again. This seems like a pretty big oversight and definitely degraded my overall enjoyment of the online portion.
Overall, SoulCalibur II HD Online is a solid remastering of a classic 3D fighter. While the online functionality could be, and hopefully will be improved, everything else is just as great as I remember it. The updated graphics make the experience a bit more palatable than dusting off your old standard-def systems, and the inclusion of the Weapon Master mode and a wide range of trophies/ achievements lends a bit more replay value. Whether you’re a longtime fan or newcomer to the series, I highly recommend checking out SoulCalibur II HD Online.