"The Soul Still Burns… Differently"
SoulCalibur V is the latest title in Namco Bandai's long running series. Being the sixth title in the series (the first title was called Soul Edge), SoulCalibur V switches up a lot of the familiar characters and gameplay, which almost makes the title feel like a completely new series. While this may sound good at first, the truth is it does lack a lot of the features from previous entries. Luckily, it's still a very enjoyable experience.
SoulCalibur is the only weapons-based fighting game on the market, and the series success comes from its simple yet deep gameplay. Players are able to move in eight directions at any moment, and there are four action inputs: guard, vertical strike, horizontal strike, and kick. New to this entry is the addition of a meter that allows enhanced attacks, super moves and parries. The system is easy enough to get into, and its depth is apparent as you spend more time with it. The major difference is that the command and availability for parries has changed. It previously was similar to Street Fighter 3 - press forward and guard at any time; now players have to have meter and press the horizontal and vertical attack and kick buttons simultaneously. In its place is a technique activated by pressing guard at the exact moment an attack hits the player's character, called a Just Defend. There's a shorter timeframe to do this than a Guard Impact, so it really affects defense options in the game compared to previous entries.
The single-player centerpiece of the game is a story mode that introduces players to the two new main characters, Patroklos and Pyrrha, the children of the Sophitia from the previous entries. Set in the 1500s, the story deals with the two long lost siblings as they meet up and eventually become enemies again. This story mode is pretty long (3 hours) and really feels like an attempt to match the story mode from Mortal Kombat, but it fails to match the consistent production values and variety of that game's story mode. There are plenty of cutscenes, but only a few are CG video, while others are told in the style of a storybook, using still pictures.
Also, over the course of the entire mode, only five characters are made playable, two of which are the same character model but with a new fighting style. Other new characters aren't properly introduced and just pop up randomly in the story. Sure, the mode may be about Patroklos and Pyrra, but leading up to the game's release, was media saying "This character is the daughter of *blank* from the past entries"? The effort made to create a clean slate of new characters seems to all be in vain, considering how many of them are introduced. A whole section of the story is presented as if it is in a eastern Asian country, but when actually playing, it's set in one of the European stages but against the Asian characters. Even the Profile and Museum modes are gone, which gave a lot of the backstory to the game's world in previous titles. The series has always had a deep mythology, spanning the entire world or era and even using the characters to explain certain historical events, so seeing very little effort to keep that up is strange. Ezio from Assassins Creed 2 and its sequels is in the game, and there is no explanation telling why he is in it!
SoulCalibur V's online mode offers the usual player and ranked matches. There is also a unique lobby available called a Global Coliseum, which can hold up to 50 players sorted by region. Periodically, ranked matches are available and players are able to choose whom they face through a layout that resembles a card table. Player matches are available for rooms of up to six people, and players not playing can watch the current match. The game plays fine over the net, although there were a few noticeable bouts of slowdown. This was all seen pre-release and is sure to go away as more people hop online.
SoulCalibur V features a very extensive character creation mode, starting with the option to modify the existing cast, or start over from scratch with any existing fighting style (Ezio is excluded from either option). The mode is very well thought out, and while it doesn't have as many items as featured in the previous game, the items have more ways in which they can be placed on a character. For instance, tattoos can be placed on clothes or characters.
While SoulCalibur V is a very well made game, it does have quite a few missteps that make it feel a bit rushed. There are three characters that mimic other characters styles in the game, and two others are reskins of characters not in the game. There is also the omission of a few other characters from SoulCalibur IV in the game, and the fact that one character in the default roster must be purchased in order to fill the character select screen hints that these characters might be extensive DLC later down the road. There also aren't a lot of single-player options available compared to previous titles, Survival and Team Battle being the most noticeable. Also, if beating Legendary Souls (Boss Rush) is required to unlock a character, it wouldn't hurt to tone the difficulty down a bit seeing how the story mode allows it too.
Still, SoulCalibur V is still a very fun and well-made game by itself, but when thinking of the pedigree of the series it hails from, you can't help but feel that certain traits it possess feel like a step back. The changes made to the gameplay and the characters seem as if Namco was scared to make the same steps made when the sequel to Soul Edge was called SoulCalibur: making a new IP that is a spiritual successor.
GameDynamo's Score for SoulCalibur V (PS3)
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