Namco Bandai is playing it safe and not changing much in the overall structure of the Soul Calibur series
Besides the powerful instrumentals and the shiny visuals that stimulate my senses, there was one thing that caught me as soon as I started up the game. An all too familiar voice bellowed deep into my living room, and I knew exactly what I was playing. Soul. Calibur. Five.
With Namco Bandai’s next installment of this exciting series, SoulCalibur V gives us a handful of new characters, including Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series, and several other familiar faces. They definitely switched some things up this time around, which is alienating some hardcore SoulCalibur fighters but welcoming many newcomers. The classic battle pitting the evil Soul Edge against the just SoulCalibur continues, but the victory isn’t quite clear.
SoulCalibur V follows the young warrior Patroklos Alexandra on a heroic journey to avenge his slain mother and to find his kidnapped sister, Pyrrha. His sister was taken by a woman with a ring blade; this is the only bit of information Patroklos has, which sends him fighting throughout the land.
Throughout the story, players can only play as three different characters – Patroklos, Pyrrha, and Z.W.E.I – as it focuses on telling their part of the tale. It really is a shame because I wanted to experience all the other characters’ stories as well. Granted, the other stories can be found in the player’s guide and artbook, but that still doesn’t give us the full effect. While most other characters have at least one cameo during story mode, some characters are not even mentioned, like Mitsurugi. It left me wondering why they are even in the game, and how exactly they fit into the story.
Another disappointment in story mode is the actual telling of the tale. Between fights, a picture book story is told, supplemented with voiceovers and sound effects. Too few cutscenes are used. It was boring to watch and I wanted to rush over these picture by picture moments and get to the real meat. The dialog telling the story is laughable, so ridiculous that all seriousness of Patroklos’ quest was lost to me. But despite all the negativity surrounding story mode, fighting games aren’t exactly known for their fascinating tales.
Online play has standard ranked matches, unranked matches and the option to record your epic battles. At times the online play felt very laggy and unresponsive, and other times is seemed to run smoothly, which is expected with all online play. Let’s just hope you can find someone to play with for longer than three minutes.
Offline play offers an arcade mode, quick battle, VS battle, training and Legendary Souls (a harder difficulty). It also gives the players chances to win titles and new items for their characters. However, one thing that was sorely missed was a solid training mode. Players are put down in an arena and just left there with no direction. Sure, the moves list is helpful, but no guidance as to how or where to start could leave some feeling like they are floundering. It wasn’t until I could actually talk to SoulCalibur colleagues that I truly felt like I was training my favorite character, Xiba.
On the positive side, character creation is extremely fun. Starting with a base fighter, players can choose hair style and color, clothes, weapons, accessories, just about everything to modify their own creation as they see fit. Creations can be as fantastical or as crude as players wish and hours can easily be spent making creative new characters. It’s amusing to see everyone’s unique characters while playing online (especially the silly ones).
SoulCalibur V introduces a new, super-like system called Critical Edge attacks. The Critical gauge sits next to the health meter and fills up when the player deals or takes damage. The collected energy can be used to perform the Critical Edge, Brave Edge, and Guard Impact moves. It adds another layer to the SoulCalibur series. To some hardcore SoulCalibur players, this is very off-putting. Others are enjoying the flashy powerful attacks and are sure to persuade fans of other fighting games to give it a shot.
The music and graphics of SoulCalibur V are epic and inspires the fighter within all of us. I want to jump off my couch and prove my worth by challenging those next to me to a best out of three match. It’s just that invigorating. The sound effects enhance the battles but, the voice acting makes me cringe. Not everyone is bad, but most of them are unbearable. If you cannot stomach the English voices there is an option for the Japanese voices.
SoulCalibur V has something for everyone, it calls to the competitive, inspires the creative and plays nice with the casual. The story leaves much to be desired and the new Critical Gauge takes some getting used to, especially without an adequate guide for training, but overall it doesn’t let the SoulCalibur name down.
Tested on 360