Developer: Project Soul
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
Over the past few years the fighting genre has been flooded with a number of different fighting series making their mark on the genre. However all of these games have had one thing in common… they were all 2D fighters. This includes the ever popular Street Fighter series and its numerous iterations; BlazBlue’s multiple iterations, as well as Mortal Kombat and even the upcoming Street Fighter x Tekken.
What the fighting genre is lacking is a quality 3D fighting title, and Team Soul is looking to bring one to fighting fans everywhere with Soulcalibur V. A tale of souls and swords that transcends history and the world will be retold once again. Is this tale one worth participating in or left to fade into the same history it is meant to transcend?
The world of Soulcalibur has been rather quiet over the past seventeen years however a new war is brewing between good and evil and those who are to wield Soul Calibur and Soul Edge. Over the past seventeen years many new faces have appeared in the world and familiar ones have faded away, will the new generation of fighters be able to stop evil from consuming the world?
Now it is worth noting that unlike past titles, there is no individual story mode for any of the other characters in the game. The only story mode in Soulcalibur V is a structured path that is followed without change. This means that numerous characters are unfortunately left in the dark and barely see any screen time at all in the story, with some completely left out entirely with little to no explanation for why they are included in the title.
Soulcalibur V’s story mode follows the journey of Patroklos, the son of Sophitia Aelxandra as his family becomes deeply entwined in the fate of the two Soul swords. Patroklos believes himself a holy warrior who defeats any malfested, those tainted by the evil Soul Edge, while also searching for the malfested who has kidnapped his long lost sister. However little does he know that his own sister is too a malfested… Can this young man possibly reunite his family and defeat Nightmare to put an end to Soul Edge’s evil once again?
The story for Soulcalibur advances through chapter battles, with each chapter usually consisting of a battle against one or more characters. Before each battle the story will be presented through hand drawn still-images which is highly stylized but occasionally with cutscenes as well. Each of these images are then accompanied by a voice over from the characters as the story is advanced.
While the story mode unfortunately only clocks in at a measly three to four hours depending on player skill, there is a decent story told here with multiple twists that can catch the player off guard. But it is hard to overlook the structured nature of each chapter and the lack of gameplay length.
While the visuals in Soulcalibur IV were already of a high quality, the ones found in Soulcalibur V are clearly a step above and the care given to them by the developers is evident through the amount of detail found nearly everywhere on the screen. The characters themselves are full of detail and have seen various physical makeovers and improvements.
The same level of detail carries over to the Create a Fighter mode where players have the ability to create characters nearly as detailed as the main cast with just as impressive detail and overall quality. The arenas are also very detailed and full of animation in the background that makes the player feel like they are fighting in the middle of a battlefield in some cases.
Each of the characters are given adequate voice work and the voice actor for Ezio Auditore sounds the same as the one for the Assassin’s Creed titles. The voice work is usually only exemplified during the Story Mode however as the player watches the various still art scenes and listen to the narration by the characters. One thing worth mentioning however is the great voice work provided by the Narrator who continues to excel in that field from past Soulcalibur titles.
The background music is suitable and players can select their own when they are choosing their match type. Most music provided is themed to a certain character so some themes may sound familiar to those who have played previous titles from the franchise.
Soulcalibur V offers plenty of different modes depending on what you feel like playing at any given time. These modes range from various offline modes and online modes as well. The offline modes consist of Quickplay which allows the player to battle against pre-made custom fighters that were added into the game by the developers. Defeating opponents in Quickplay unlock various titles to use on the player’s license. Players will also receive experience points for any battle they fight in any gameplay mode which will contribute to their player level and unlock various Create a Fighter bonuses.
There is also the standard Arcade mode that allows the player to fight a series of six battles though no storyline is given in this mode, a training ground, the soul crushingly difficult Legendary Souls mode that players can unlock where they will face off against harder than hard fighters and see how many throws their controller can handle before breaking, a training mode, a VS. mode to face off against friends or the CPU cast and of course the aforementioned story mode.
At its core Soulcalibur has always been a title that allows for players to be able to jump in and have a good time even if they weren’t the most experienced player in the world. Of course an easy barrier of entry doesn’t meant that the title doesn’t contain plenty of complicated combos and extravagant fighting techniques to be learned by the more skilled players looking for a challenge.
Soulcalibur V’s fighting styles have always been a pleasure to try out and each fighter contains a unique set of moves that allow for players to quickly pick their favorite. There are different weapon types with various attack ranges and move sets that each character is a whole new experience that breaths fresh air into a fighting genre oft plagued with blatant copies with a minor re-skin (though there are more sword and shield characters than some may like.) In the character select screen each character is given a grid system showing how fast they can attack, their strength of attack as well as their ease of use so the more complicated fighters are already marked out for the inexperienced.
The new cast of characters is interesting at best and nearly all of the characters’ move sets have been adjusted in some way or another. This includes the removal of some techniques and additions of others for returning characters or characters mimicking past styles. There are a few worth mentioning however that bring unique abilities to the table, such as ZWEI a man capable of summoning a werewolf to assist in his combos and Viola who fights with a crystal ball that can be controlled all the way from the other side of the arena through various combo attacks. Also joining the fray is Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed series. He brings with him all of his various tricks and weapons and compared to past guest characters he actually fits the style of the game nearly perfectly.
As a whole the battles still feel slow compared to what other fighting series bring to the table. While this can be attributed to the fact that all the fighters use weaponry rather than their fists, the series does contain numerous combos that result in a very brief pause that can leave your fighter open for counterattack. The juggling system has also seen some adjustment as players will receive less damage from normal attacks the longer they are kept in the air and will fall to the ground after only a few hits thanks to Soulcalibur V’s acknowledgment of gravity.
Given that most characters will leave themselves open for a brief moment between attacks, the block button is likely to be the friend of most gamers in Soulcalibur V. While blocking will help you survive longer, the block break mechanic has been adjusted where players will have their blocks broken through and be left vulnerable if they have received too many blocked blows. This is indicated by their Health bar flashing yellow and then red as their block is about to be broken. Players can still break opponents clothing off as well, but this is not tied to the blocking mechanic anymore.
As the player battles against their opponent they will fill up a Critical Gauge in the corner of their Health Bar. When full the number will display a one, and be completely full at two. This gauge allows the player to perform a powerful combo attack called a Critical Edge that will deal a large amount of damage to your opponent and is unblockable if the first attack hits. Also making use of the Critical Gauge are Brave Edge attacks which help extend the length of certain combos and deal extra damage, though these only use half the amount of a Critical Edge attack.
Once you feel like you are ready to take on other fighters around the world you can face off against them in a few different ways. This includes your standard Ranked Battle where you will be given an opponent at random depending on your search parameters as well as Player Battles that let you create and search rooms to battle against your friends. In these Player Battles those waiting will be able to watch the fight happen as a spectator which alleviates the waiting time and provides hints at your opponent’s fighting style.
Closing out the online modes is the Global Colosseo mode that allows players to search for a large room that can fill with a large amount of players and they can join battles and tournaments there with much greater ease than in the Player Battle mode. Another new feature added is the Rival system that lets players register up to three Rivals. Rivals fighting stats are then tracked and compared to the player’s and help provide an easy comparing system.
As mentioned before, the Create a Fighter system has seen a major improvement as far as the level of quality goes. Players will be able to create nearly any type of character they see fit with a large amount of clothing and equipment provided at the start of the game with more to unlock by leveling up. Players can adjust everything about their character including their proportions, color their armor or even add patterns and tattoos and even the weapons themselves. As a whole the Create A Fighter system is the best we’ve seen so far and being able to take your created fighter online to fight against others is one of the biggest thrills the title can present.
While Soulcalibur V may have taken a step back as far as a storyline goes, in fact it contains what some may find as a lesser story than ever before. However the amount of character creation abilities and the simple joy of the various fighting styles and mechanics outweigh the negativity of the lacking story. Boasting a lag free and easy to access multiplayer mode players will find countless hours of enjoyment as they create numerous fighters and battle against the AI, their friends and those online Soulcalibur V can stand proud as being one of the most enjoyable fighting games in recent memory.