[Review] Soul Calibur V
For the first time in series history the fifth installment to Namco’s Soul Calibur franchise moves the story forward significantly. Set seventeen years after the events of the fourth game, Soul Calibur V introduces long time fans of the series to a fresh new, younger cast of characters while keeping the right mix of familiar faces around. With this edition of Soul Calibur Project Soul ( the developers behind the series ) took several bold steps with the fighter as an attempt to attract new players but was it enough to keep the soul burning?
Welcome back to the stage of history.
The story in Soul Calibur V is told differently than previous installments. No longer do each of the game’s 24 main playable characters ( not including guest character Ezio Auditore da Firenze or Patroklos’ and Pyrrha’s alternate forms) have individual story paths. In the new story mode -which is actually called Story 1607 A.D.- you’re mostly in control of nineteen year old protagonist, Patroklos Alexander, the new wielder of the Soul Calibur sword. Patroklos is in search of his long lost misguided sister Pyrrha, who wields the evil blade Soul Edge and serves as the story’s deuteragonist. Patroklos and Pyrrha are the children of series veteran Sophitia. In story mode most of the returning cast now play a supporting role while others are no where to be found. The engaging tale of brother versus sister unfolds not only through battles against numerous AI opponents but with an anime style narrative combined with instances of CG as well. The compelling story was told rather well throughout the 20 Episodes.
While the new story mode did a good job of introducing us to Patroklos and his family struggles at the same time it left too many unanswered questions for other fighters. As someone who enjoys following the plot of the series I personally found it disappointing that new characters such as Xiba and Viola weren’t fleshed out. Xiba obviously has some form of relation to franchise veterans Kilik and Seong Mi-na but exactly how wasn’t explained. Viola could be Amy, Raphael’s missing adoptive daughter, however since this wasn’t explained we’re left up to our imagination until the next installment, hopefully.
Soul Calibur V features five offline modes, Arcade, Quick Mode, VS Battle,Training and Legendary Souls. When you’re not playing online, Quick Mode and Legendary Souls Mode will keep you busy. In Quick Mode you battle against different AI controlled characters who you must defeat in order to gain new titles. You’re given the option to select which character you want to fight against however depending on your choice the AI can either be a push over or extremely challenging. Quick Mode is also where you’ll find special non playable character, Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada. Harada uses Devil Jin’s fighting style, and as a high ranked character, is pretty hard to beat. When you do conquer Harada you’ll be rewarded with his title and a trophy for your collection.
InLegendary Souls mode you face off against seven AI controlled bosses across as many stages. Your Soul Calibur skills will be put to the test as the difficulty level of the enemy’s AI increases with each boss. After nearly an hour of trying I only made it to the fourth boss, the pirate Cervantes. I can attest that a lot of skill, luck and well placed ring outs will be needed in this mode. And if you give up at any point during Legendary Souls you’ll have to start over from the first boss, Kilik. In both Quick Mode and Legendary Souls you’ll be rewarded with points needed to level up in the game. As you increase your level you’ll unlock new weapons, items and stickers to be used in Character creation mode.
First featured in the third installment of the series Character Creation mode has a lot more to offer in Soul Calibur V. Players can change every characters’ outfit in the game ( with the exception of Assassin’s Creed II star Eizo ) and edit their appearance from their hair down to their underwear with numerous unlockable goodies. You can also create a character from scratch and dress him or her with many of the same items. While you can choose from any of the game’s default characters’ fighting styles to base your created character off of ( again, with the exception of Eizo ), it would have been a nice touch if styles from characters not found in SCV ( i.e Zasalamel, Talim or Yun Seong ) were selectable. You can also create a weaponless character that uses the moves of Tekken’s Devil Jin. Once you’re done editing you can save your character on any of the 50 customizable cards and show them both off online.
Soul Calibur V has three online modes; Ranked Match, Player Match and Global Colosseo. The first two modes are self explanatory if you’re familiar with online fighting games. Global Colosseo is Project Soul’s attempt at creating an in game social experience with Soul Calibur V. In this particular mode players-represented by their custom cards located onscreen-can take part in tournaments, talk to each other ( via voice chat or text ), spectate or challenge one another to random battles all without waiting in rooms.
If I could rate Soul Calibur V based on its online netcode I’d give it a 9.9. After the online mess that plagued Tekken 6 right out of the gate it was refreshing to see how Project Soul managed to create a near perfect online experience in Soul Calibur V. Of the 30+ online sessions that I’ve played I didn’t experience an ounce of lag. However there were several instances when I’d loose connection with the other player. Thankfully when this happened I was sent back to the same room I had been in and not the online lobby. When you join an online room you can watch others duke it out and chat away with whoever else may be waiting for their chance to pumble the winner of the current match.
The online search method in Soul Calibur V is also well thought out. Not only can you search for matches or rooms by region but you can also search by pre-selected cities. This will help players locate people closer to them which will result in a lot less lag. In the US New York is the city where you’ll find the most people to fight against online. Another new online feature in this game is Soul Link. Players can use this to monitor the status and activities of up to 3 different players. And in Replay Mode you can save replays of matches via a separate file on PSN then upload it to YouTube for the world to see.
To keep the series fresh Project Soul made some major tweeks to the gameplay in Soul Calibur V. Sidestepping your opponent by double tapping up or down on the direction arrows allows your character to avoid certain attacks leaving the other guy exposed. This form of maneuvering has become extremely important in Soul Calibur V. For defensive play a new feature called Just Guard has been implemented. If timed correctly with your opponent’s attack players using Just Guard will obtain a brief yet strategical advantage over the match as it can also be used against unblockable attacks.
The newly implemented cinematic attack called Critical Edge will unleash crucial damage on an unsuspecting rival.These attacks are cool to watch even if you’re on the receiving end of one. Some Critical Edges can be blocked if you catch them in time.Combos are also important in Soul Calibur V. Launch an opponent into the air or unleash an attack that temporary stuns them to kick off your combo.
While Soul Calibur V features 27 stages only four of them are multi-tiered.The second portions of these stages can be accessed by ringing a player out or by other requirements. The multi-tiered stages are a nice addition however they aren’t as well executed or as flashy as those found in Tecmo’s Dead or Alive series. The stages themselves are well detailed but they aren’t much different than the ones found in previous games despite the activity taking place in the backgrounds of certain stages.
2012 will likely be one of the biggest years for fighting games and Soul Calibur V gets thing started with a medium sized bang. While Project Soul went the extra mile with certain aspects of the game there’s still much that needs to be done with the series to help it stand out from the crowded pack of fighters. With that said, Soul Calibur V is an excellent edition to the series that no fan of the genre should miss.
[review pros=”Stellar graphics
Impressive online play
Very deep character customization
Fun, fast gameplay” cons=”Too few fighters
Forgettable soundtrack -only Eizo’s Assassin’s Creed Remix is worth mentioning
Lack of new moves for returning characters” score=85]
This review is based on a PS3 edition of Soul Calibur V provided by NAMCO Bandai Games.