Backlog Battle: Week 4

Jacob Nash

Week Four- Fighting 2 the Top

Soul Calibur 2 and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2

Ever since their humble beginnings in the late 80s and early 90s with titles like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, fighting games have grown immensely popular. Esports and professional video game tournaments have proven that large crowds will form for people to play and watch fighting games. Typically easy to learn but hard to master, fighting games require more dedication and practice than other video game genres. This is a turn-off for casual gamers, but the audiences for fighting games are nothing if not loyal.

While the bulk of fighting games are 2D fighters, the games I am looking at today are 3D fighters. These games allow three-dimensional movement, and the arenas that fights take place in tend to be more interactive than the ones in 2D fighters. Buckle in, because my explanations are going to be more complex than usual.

Soul Calibur 2

Why I Bought It: I grew up with Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag Tournament on the Playstation 2. These 3D fighters, made by the same developers as Soul Calibur, were immensely fun, even if I was just mashing buttons. As I got older and slightly better at fighting games, I learned about Soul Calibur 2 and its three versions. The game was released on Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube, and each version has a unique guest character. The PS2 version has the exclusive character Heihachi Mishima, a prominent character in the Tekken games. The Xbox version features the comic book character Spawn. These two characters sound cool, but they pale in comparison to the guest character in the Gamecube version. Link, the protagonist of Nintendo series The Legend of Zelda, debuts for the first and currently only time in a 3D fighting game. As soon as I got a Gamecube, I ordered Soul Calibur 2 online.

What Took Me So Long: Remember what I said earlier about fighting games requiring dedication and practice? I am notorious for dropping fighting games shortly after trying them. For a while, Soul Calibur 2 was no different.

My Experience: Soul Calibur’s main feature is that every character uses a different weapon and has a unique fighting style. At the beginning of a match, players are positioned as if they were on a 2D plane. In addition to moving towards or away from your opponent, however, holding up or down on the left control stick moves your character along the third dimension. This can be used to dodge your opponent’s attacks and reposition for your own. You can also quickly flick up on the control stick to jump. You have three attack buttons (A, X, and Y) and a block button (B). Pressing an attack button and the block button near an opponent will execute a grab. You can’t block grabs, but you can press a button to break the grab if you’re fast enough. 

To win battles, you’ll need to position yourself to get in hits and avoid or block your opponent’s attacks . Weapons have varying ranges, from short-range nunchaku and tonfa to mid-range katanas and rapiers to long range poles and greatswords. I particularly enjoyed using short-range characters like Maxi and Raphael; they need to get in close, but their combos are fun and satisfying to pull off. Another important part of Soul Calibur is the Ring Out system. Normally you’d need to fully deplete your opponent’s health bar to win a fight, but some arenas let you knock your opponent off of the edge to get an instant win. It can be a game changer on the right stage, but it isn’t the be-all end-all. If you’re near the edge, you can potentially maneuver yourself around your opponent and ring them out. And those who detest the concept of ring outs can pick arenas without them.

I was able to get in a ton of battles against a friend of mine. He’s pretty good at Soul Calibur 6, the newest entry in the series, and he was able to transfer some skills and combos over into this game. Battles were tough, save for the few times he instantly knocked me off of the arena. I felt like I was getting better after each fight, and I eventually got some good wins of my own. Afterwards, I tried the game’s Arcade mode. In this mode, you choose a character and fight some computer-controlled opponents. You’ll eventually reach the final boss, Inferno. The story of Soul Calibur 2 is fairly simple; each character wants to either find or destroy a powerful weapon called Soul Edge. I beat Arcade mode with Mitsurugi, an honorable ronin with a katana. When he defeats Inferno, he destroys Soul Edge after realizing the weapon is pure evil. Aside from unlocking characters’ ending movies and a photo mode, beating Arcade mode gives you the chance to unlock new weapons, arenas, and even characters. Soul Calibur 2 has a lot to offer as long as you’re willing to try out different fighting styles and win tons of battles.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2

Why I Bought It: A few years ago, there was a summer sale where plenty of digital Nintendo Switch games were marked down. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to grab some games I wouldn’t have paid full price for. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 would be a starting foray into  another subgenre of fighting game, but I was curious to see what it had to offer.

What Took Me So Long: I watched a few episodes of Dragon Ball Z as a kid, but it was never a show I had a real connection with. This is important since huge fans of the manga and anime would get the most out of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2.

My Experience: Arena fighters are a type of 3D fighter that tend to give the player more freedom in exploring and moving about the fighting stage. While 3D fighters like Soul Calibur have the characters face each other for most of the match, arena fighters allow you to freely move in three-dimensions, even letting you turn your back to your opponent. Fighting games based on popular anime tend to fall into the arena fighter subgenre, Xenoverse 2 included. If that much freedom isn’t enough for you, most characters in Dragon Ball also know how to fly. Battles can quickly shift from ground to air combat as characters bombard each other with energy blasts and send each other hurtling across the arena.

Due to a heavy focus on movement and positioning, arena fighters like Xenoverse 2 often keep the controls simple. Xenoverse 2 has a combo system, but it is nowhere near as complex as combos in 2D fighters and even some 3D fighters like Soul Calibur. In those games, combos can only be pulled off by executing a string of button combinations and directional inputs with good timing. In Xenoverse 2, attacks and combos are executed with certain button combinations. There are light attacks and heavy attacks that can be easily chained together, as well as a projectile that you can use to hit your opponent from afar. In addition to these attacks, there is a block, a throw, and a knockback attack for when you need to put some distance between you and the opponent. Your regular attacks can be replaced by super attacks, which are stronger but cost sections of your ki meter, denoted by an orange bar at the top of the screen. Below the ki meter is the blue stamina meter, which you can spend sections of to vanish out of the way of attacks. While the attacks and combos themselves are simple, the bevy of extra maneuvers and spacing options add complexity.

A selling point of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is its additional content. Dragon Ball has decades worth of characters and stories that fans look forward to playing through. You can even create your own characters with the game’s in-depth customization system. When you create your first avatar character, they are brought into the Time Patrol, an organization dedicated to making sure there are no alterations to the space-time continuum. This means that you get to team up with and fight against characters from every corner of the anime’s long and tenured history. You can fight one-on-one matches, fight multiple opponents at once, or team up with friends to fight one very strong enemy. Fighting games often live and die by how much side content they have, and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’s content has kept the game going strong for years now.

Summary: I wanted to evaluate these fighting game sequels on their own merits. I have not played the first game of either series, but I don’t think you need to in order to enjoy these games. The Soul Calibur games are able to stand on their own from what I’ve seen. Even if some events are built upon from game to game, the main story is the same; find or destroy Soul Edge. With Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, it is obvious that Dragon Ball fans will get the most out of the series. The first Xenoverse had the same premise and gameplay concept, and the sequel just added more. I was tempted by both of these games and although my fighting game skills leave a lot to be desired, I was happy to have tried them out. I would love to sit down and put more practice into these games, but more games in my backlog await.

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