It has been four years since a proper installment in Namco’s trademark sword fighting game has been released. With a new year, we finally get a new title in the series with an updated roster, improved online and customization options but not much else. How well does Soul Calibur V compare to recent iterations of the series. Read on to find out!
Soul Calibur V does indeed pack a story mode. The story is broken down into several episodes, with a fight in each episode. Story book style cutscenes introduce and close each episode to much disappointment. The art style isn’t all that clear, and it is very difficult to tell what exactly is going on with the presentation quality. There are a few game engine cutscenes, and they look particularly stunning, but they are too far imn between. The actual story is also a bit of a disappointment. The story follows Patroklos, son of Sophitia, as he sets off to save his lost sister Pyrrha who has been transformed into a malfested (think Azure Nightmare). The story is pretty bare bones, with no events being truly remarkable. The actual writing does not make the story any better. A few cliche lines and terrible writing decisions make this for a pretty pointless adventure. While I am surely a part of the few who go to a fighting game for a story, it is always nice to see a well developed story in a fighting game. Most in the genre use a story mode to teach the basics of the gameplay, but even that doesn’t succeed in Soul Calibur V. The story can easily be run through in a day, and is easily forgetable.
Soul Calibur V does pack a few other single player options, but nothing truly remarkable. Quick Battle pits players against an AI designed after some of the developers and tournament players from across the globe to unlock a ton of different titles to be used for your online license. This mode can quickly become addictive and is rather fun seeing the wide variety of custom characters and being put into serious challenges against the harder foes. Quick Battle is definitely the stand out game mode for the single player.
The game also packs an Arcade Mode, which is a huge disappointment. Most Arcade Ladder modes will tell a portion of a story for each character, providing players with a brief bio intro and a character ending. Soul Calibur V does neither of the two, and instead leaves players fighting to merely fight. This becomes especially upsetting when you get to playing as some of the new characters whom the players would know absolutely nothing about. Even Marvel vs Capcom 3 presented players with an ending for each character in the game, albeit disappointing ones.
Next up in the single player portion of the game is the Legendary Souls mode, which is nothing more than a ridiculously hard version of the game’s arcade mode. The game pits players against AI fighters on a ridiculously cheap difficulty setting. This is clearly for the truly hardcore audience, or players who tend to spam with their arcade sticks. The reward for beating this mode isn’t anything worthwhile, but it definitely is a way of unlocking some of the other characters in the roster.
Let’s get one thing set right off the bat: Soul Calibur V looks absolutely stunning. The amount of details behind the characters is impressive, and the character movements are as fluid as ever. Sword swipes and kicks are nailed without any jarring at all. The lip sync is also something worth noting, as it manages to work spectacularly well when used. Voice acting varies, depending on the fighter. While characters like Z.W.E.I stand out in terms of voice acting quality, characters like Patroklos and Pyrrha are truly weak and come off as whiny little kids. The stages also vary, with some standing out more then others. One notable factor is that certain stages will change during the final round of the fights. Characters may break through a wall or flooring and enter a new portion of the stage, or the stage may change in itself. This is a welcome addition to the series, and helps add variety in the environments. The soundtrack is also stellar, a staple in the Soul Calibur series.
When cutscenes are used, the fantastic game engine graphics shine through. However, as noted, the storybook style cutscenes are a huge letdown. Barred behind bad art choice, lack of visualization and difficulty showcasing important events drags this style of storytelling to an ultimate low. If this graphics for the game look as spectacular as they do and true cutscenes can be used during certain moments, why not include them in each portion of the story’s episode breaks? It almost comes across as a lazy effort by the developers. The character designs, as always, are fantastic. Blending different styles of characters (samurais, swordsmen, ninjas, etc.) adds for a great variety of designs, and they all look great. The roster is superb, bringing back fan favorite classics and adding some great and not-so-great additions. While some of the new characters are welcomed into the series with open arms (Z.W.E.I. and Viola), whereas others feel more like clones for characters who were left out of the roster (Natsu). All in all, Soul Calibur V delivers with its superb graphics and character roster.
Gameplay & Features
Soul Calibur V has essentially started from the ground up with its reinvented fighting control scheme. Proving to be simpler for the more casual players, Soul Calibur V changes the fighting up in the best way possible. An attempt to make the game more accessible for newcomers, Soul Calibur V proves to have one of the best fighting mechanics yet. Combos and moves are much simpler to pull off for newcomers, but the more advanced combos still provide the hardcore players with a decent challenge.
Soul Calibur V has removed most of its staple gameplay features seen in recent iterations, and have replaced them with features seen in other fighting game series such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. The Soul Gauge and Critical Finishers were removed in place of a new gauge that charges up throughout the course of the fight, allowing for players to perform Brave Edge and Critical Edge attacks. These work similar to special moves in Street Fighter and the X-ray moves in Mortal Kombat. The Guard Impact feature was also tuned up for the better, providing a much simpler way to block attacks. Guard Impacts are also performed with the aid of the specials gauge.
Character Creation returns once again, and is better than ever. A sucker for customization, I always found myself using this feature in Soul Calibur IV. Fortunately, I can say the same for Soul Calibur V. A ton of customization options were added in this newest entry, providing players with countless options for character creation. Aside from the basics seen in the last title, players can now alter the height of the character, specific body parts and even change the design of your weapon and weapon FX. The only con I have with the character creation is the lack of a “Create-a-Fighting Style” esque mode. While the custom character options are fantastic, it would be nice to have your own fighting style as well, rather than having to choose from one of the established fighters in the game. Despite that, it is going to be fantastic to see the amount of characters players will put up.
The Multiplayer portion is definitely where Soul Calibur V shines the most. Of course you have your standard local VS matches, but the online is definitely the best piece of the multiplayer side of this title. A title system provides for some pretty neat unlocks when playing online, utilizing the leveling up system incorporated into the game. However, that isn’t what makes the online multiplayer great. The servers are great, and I found little to no lag problems when fighting online. Chat lobbies is where all the action starts, providing players with the ability to text chat in the lobby, voice chat and even watch the current fight going on. Since the game is more accessible to all players, the game definitely feels a lot more balanced for all players. Normally, I suck when it comes to playing fighting games online, but in Soul Calibur V, I can actually put up a decent fight before I am finally knocked out. There are some occassions where I win, but it is rare.
All in all, Soul Calibur V is a worthy entry into the series. Gameplay changes and an improved multiplayer give this game a fresh feel, and is easily accessible for fans of the series and newcomers alike. While the multiplayer is where the game shines, the single player modes (or lack thereof) proves to be a disappointment. A mediocre story, lazily done cutscenes and poor writing make for an all-around disappointing story mode. Arcade mode feels lacking when compared to others in the same series and in other fighting game series. Character Creation returns and has improved greatly from past iterations. The game looks beatiful with perfect lip sync and fluid character animations, backed up by intense amounts of detail. Soul Calibur V is a sure pick up for fans of the series, and newcomers looking for a fresh take on the fighting game genre.