SoulCalibur V Review
Namco Bandai and Project Soul have done it again. The newest title in the SoulCalibur fighting series has been officially released today. SoulCalibur V, deceptively, is the 8th game in the story of the sword Soul Edge. The guest character in this edition is Assassin’s Creed own Ezio Auditore – a fitting edition I’d say. With the shift to SoulCalibur IV to SoulCalibur V there were several improvements but there were also a handful of disappointing qualities that took me by surprise. This review will cover both the good and the bad from a SoulCalibur fan.
One of the stronger selling points the game has been advertising (besides the T&A from their posters) is actually having a coherent and in-depth storyline for once. Let’s be honest with ourselves, fighting games aren’t known for their compelling plot lines. There are only so many times you can perform the cliché of winning some tournament or saving / destroying the world. Sometimes those plots aren’t even mutually exclusive!
Through the steady release of trailers, I felt like SoulCalibur V was offering me this foreign concept of ‘story’ in a fighting game. SCV starts 17 years after SCIV. I am rather fond of this concept; characters have aged, some have had children, and some have even moved on. The story focuses on the children of Sophitia; Patroklos is her son and he’s looking for his sister Pyrrha who was stolen as a child by Tira. The schizophrenic, ring blade-wielding psychopath wants nothing more than to rid the world of the current Nightmare (wielder of the cursed sword Soul Edge) and replace him with a corrupter Pyrrha. Sounds good right?
Sadly this isn’t the case. This leads me to one of my first critical disappointments with the game. The story mode was both lacking and short. Instead of always using animation for their cut scenes, SCV uses still pictures with talking over it. Towards the end there was much more animation, but why use it off and on? The entire story can be completed in only a few hours. I don’t want to ruin it or give any spoilers, but it is mildly confusing and I found myself asking ‘why’ a few times. There are some interesting twists though. Also, the fight between Z.W.E.I. vs. Nightmare (don’t worry, it’s not the final fight or anything) is surprisingly difficult. To be fair, I hate Z.W.E.I. though – team Jacob?
At this point you may be thinking… ok so what, the story mode was weak, no biggie. I agree, but here is the kicker. You may want to sit for this. There are no individual endings for each character. Mind – blown. Yea, so if you beat the arcade mode with any character it logs your time and you can start over. Arcade mode is now just a time trial with a ‘boss’ battle at the end. When I found this out I was so disappointed. I upped the difficulty in hope I was just missing something. Nope. It would be one thing if the story mode made up for the lack of individual endings, but that isn’t even the case.
Story mode introduces most of the new characters and references some of the SoulCalibur veterans when it needs to. Viola is there in the background, but they never really mention her. Even the majority of the new characters are just clone characters of the ones they have replaced. For instance Natsu is a Taki clone. Setsuka and Sophitia didn’t make SCV, but there are fighting styles that are very similar to their gameplay types from past games.
What confuses me the most about the story mode / no arcade mode endings is that there is no emphasis on half of the characters in the game – the veterans. Cervantes is no longer a ghost pirate, Yoshimitsu II killed Yoshimitsu thus gaining his title, Raphael (team Edward) still talks creepily about Amy, etc. My point is this is all we know. Without individual story lines the characters feel more like fillers than anything else. I want their stories to continue as well. Is Mitsurugi still after Algol? Unknown.
Not to get too off topic, but I guess my assumptions for SCV story would be similar to Mortal Kombat (2011). That game has a story mode this is worthy of its own game in length, all the cut scenes are animated, and each character has an individual ending. Sure the endings are short and often aloof, but it’s something. In my opinion, that is how a fighting game should be set up as far as story is concerned.
Unlike SoulCalibur IV, the newest title is missing one of my favorite game modes. I spent hours and hours climbing the Tower of Lost Souls. This mode was a series of various challenges players had to combat though to try to advance to the next level and gain a new unlockable item for character creation. I felt like this added an extra push and broke up the monotony of just fighting.
The new challenging mode, although completely different, is the Legendary Souls mode. This is an offline mode that challenges players with all the ‘boss’ characters on an extremely high difficulty. Three of these boss characters use a large variety of weapons and fighting styles – starting each round with a random set. Edge Master can have any characters fighting style, Kilik uses all the male character styles, and Elysium uses all the female character styles.
All Offline Combat grants players experience (based off who is logged in). This experience levels up your account which unlocks titles, characters, and items to use for your created characters. Offline modes also include Quick Battle, VS Battle, and Training. These modes are pretty standard in what you think you would expect. VS Battle is player vs. CPU, player vs. player, and CPU vs. CPU.
Like SoulCalibur IV, SCV also has online play. You have a Player License which you fill out with you info: region, title, and a picture from one of your created characters. These elements create your online persona. In this mode you can battle other players based on your rank, as well as check leaderboards. The matchmaking system sill tries to put you up against players with similar skill levels to make the battles as even as possible.
Through reading this review, I may have given off the illusion that I am not enjoying SoulCalibur V from my anger / confusion towards the story and lack of arcade endings – but that would be incorrect. While I would want better progression and character development, the number one element I want to get out of a fighting game is well… fighting. SoulCalibur V delivers on this.
What makes the SoulCalibur series stand out from other fighting games is the smooth flow of combat. The game isn’t about learning a few down-to-forward special moves to spam at your opponent; it is about fast reactions and 3-dimensional / 8-directional awareness. Battles are fast paced and (in my opinion) discourage players from holding block.
Mastery of the game involves around the Critical Gauge; a meter that can be filled up to 200% and can be used up through various attack and defense moves. Critical Edges and Brave Edges are powerful offensive attacks, and Guard Impacts, Just Guards, and Quick Steps are timing-based defensive maneuvers.
The last feature I want to talk about is the Character Creation system. This is a huge plus in my opinion. When you start the process, you choose a premade character’s fighting style -- then you have free reign. A single piece of clothing or armor can have four different colors which all can be altered and / or have a pattern added to it. Thus, if you want your samurai to wear an argyle robe and heart pattern stockings, you absolutely can. Stickers can be added to any clothing piece for that extra oomph you may be looking for. SCV did lose the stat system that was attached to creative character gear. Now everything worn is purely for aesthetic purposes depending on how bad ass or visibly offensive you want to be.
For a final statement, I still love SoulCalibur V based on the style / gameplay. I don’t understand the muted story and lack of individual endings, but I won’t let that ruin my SoulCalibur experience. If you are planning on picking up this title, know that you are buying it for the combat gameplay and for character creation -- not for the story. If you enjoy playing fighting games over Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network, love the SoulCalibur universe and play style, and like fast paced technical fighters, I would strongly recommend this game.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]