Taking Soul Calibur III for a spin.
I managed to get my hands on a demo for the upcoming uber-fighting game Soul Calibur III for the PS2. It cost a pretty penny (the dvd comes with a copy of Official Playstation Magazine, which is pretty pricey) but it was worth it to play a bit of the game and get a taste of the sword-swinging goodness that's sure to come.
The Demo itself is kinda minimal- there's a mini-intro movie/trailer that has a bit of CG (though none of the awesome footage seen in the latest online videos) and ingame fighting. Pass that and you'll have options for Single Player play and VS Combat. For VS, there are only two characters playable- old foagie samurai Mitsurugi and newcomer psycho-cutie Tira. You'll have access to both of the characters' alternate costumes. There aren't any move lists, so playing with Tira will be kinda touchy-feely, though she looks quite cool as she moves- sexy and impish, and that razor hula-hoop looks scary. However, I've heard that it's going to take a bit of skill to make her an effective player.
The meat of the Demo is in the Single Player modes, of which there are two usable in the demo. There's the Story Mode which gives you control of Kilik, the staff-swinging hero. The Story Mode is pretty cool, with text telling you actually what happens and there are points where you are prompted to choose from one of two directions to go. Unfortunately, the Demo only gives a tantalizing taste of what's to come. Namco are such teases...
The best fun to be had on the Demo is the Character Creation Mode, of course. As expected though, the stuff you can do is pretty limited. While you can make either male or female characters, you have only two occupations to choose from- Ninja (basically like Taki) and Dancer armed with tambourines. There are quite a few items of clothing to put on and layer on your created fighter, or of course you can just strip them down to their cloth-wrap skivvies (heh). The character models aren't as detailed as I would like (they seem even less detailed than those in SC2), but they animate quite well and are quite hi-res so that's no big. Once all the options are unlocked in the final game, you should be able to come up with quite a few interesting created fighters, including some familiar faces from other games (Dante from Devil May Cry and even Cloud from FFVII are favorites among Create-a-Fighter enthusiasts).
The fighting is slightly different and faster from previous installments, but old hands at Soul Calibur should be able to jump right in with no problem. Tira seems very interesting, though I have to say I'm most interested in trying out killer geisha Setsuka. I can't wait to have the whole game- there's bound to be a mind-boggling amount of extras, playability and fun to be had with this, the latest and greatest chapter in the popular series. The finished game should be arriving in the next several weeks.