A sword waits for its inherited wielder — demanding bloodshed and souls to feed its growing hunger. Three years later, the weapon’s quiet whispers are heard again in the latest installment of the Soul series: SoulCalibur V.
Seventeen years have passed since the last game’s plot. A curse has befallen Europe known as the “malfestation” that infects all who come into contact with the evil sword, Soul Edge. Sophitia is dead and her son, Patroklos, is out to avenge her while also searching for his estranged sister, Pyrrha. Kidnapped at a young age, Pyrrha has been traveling the countryside as she continues to fall victim to her own “malfestation” while wielding Soul Edge itself. The siblings eventually clash with one another leading to Patroklos taking up the rival sword, Soul Calibur, as he fights for love and justice like every other white knight in games.
You cannot expect much from a fighting game’s story and SoulCalibur V is no exception.
The writing is dreadfully painful with the voice acting being even worse. While I have no issues with the voice casting, their performances are overly dramatic which makes it difficult to even pretend to take Patroklos’ infected genocide seriously. Oh, and in case you have not noticed, the story is a set cannon tale told through twenty chapters of a handful of cinematics and still arts. Also, by set cannon I mean that Project Soul has a solid story that has been limited to the usage of three characters but five play styles. Both Patroklos and Prryha change styles once they both rightfully inherit their proper weapons. The other 25+ characters are present in the story line but are not playable. I give them credit for attempting to make something slightly more solid for the plot’s foundation but the limitations cause more harm than good. You are essentially forced to learn to play Patroklos in order to progress through it; I do not understand why they could not have at least incorporated side plots to at least allow players the chance to play their styles.
A few familiar faces return along with a new generation of characters. All the styles that Soul fans have grown to love like Ivy, Mitsurugi, Nightmare, and Yoshimitsu return with the addition of a some new styles. (Successors of removed characters step in their place in order to keep well-known fighting styles in the game but manage to add a fresh appearance to old tricks.) Viola and Z.W.E.I add a bit of magic to the mix. The gypsy uses a magical orb to juggle enemies while the manly werewolf summons a wolf spirit to help aid him on the battlefield. Ezio Auditore jumps in as the game’s guest character, featuring his full arsenal at his disposal. On top of the newcomers, the favorited create a character mode has returned as well, giving you the opportunity to make your own characters in any fighting style you choose. Tekken’s Devil Jin appears as a guest style for the custom characters, adding a new style for muliplayer matches.
Even with the shallow story, there is still plenty to do in the game. Both the ranked and player matches are as smooth as butter with one of the neatest lobbies I have seen so far. Not only can you observe the match, but a chat feature has also been added to allow you to speak to players outside of your party or Friend’s List. A handful of single player modes will help you kill a few hours. The classic arcade mode remains to give you a nice way to improve your skills on our own without pressure from your friends or online strangers. A harder mode is also available known as Legendary Souls that puts you against some bullshit hard opponents but unlocks secret characters. Quick Battle mode will match you against ghost data of professional competitive fighters like Daigo Umehara and Tekken creator Katsuhiro Harada.
The combat remains fast paced with smooth, swift movements. Stylized attacks help keep an attractive appeal as you fight against the detailed backdrops. If it is one thing SoulCalibur V does well, it keeps you interest and provides an enjoyable experience for both casual and competitive players alike. It does not take long for you to learn what you are doing at a basic level, making it rather accessible for all skill levels. However, the game certainly does provide the necessary tools to help anyone properly learn their selected characters with one of the most useful training modes I have seen in a fighting game. Not only does it help you learn combos but it also has a mode that helps you learn what type of attacks are appropriate for certain situations and that is the key to the game.
With a three dimensional fighter like SoulCalibur V, half of the challenge you face is knowing proper stances and positions to counter what your opponent is doing. The arenas give you enough space to work with though ring outs are still an effective way to win a match. Stages vary in environments and difficult. Some have full four walls that prevent ring outs while others have no walls giving you a chance to lure your opponent to the edge and kick them off.
“Critical Finishes” have been removed and replaced with a new gauge that builds up over time as you attack. This allows you to pull of stronger moves: “Brave Edge” and “Critical Edge” which act as supers when compared to other fighting games. The “Critical Edge’ attacks are far easier to pull off than the past “Critical Finishes”, allowing them to be more effective as you can chain them into combos over needing to pull off a outlandish button combination in hopes it works. “Guard Impact” returns but now repels attacks and harming the opponent for rushing you. (Though it cannot stop unblockable moves.) A new “Just Guard” maneuver has been added. “Just Guard” allows you to pull off an retaliation quicker.
All and all, SoulCalibur V is a polished version of its predecessor. Still looking beautiful, it fixes some of the balancing issues with characters that existed in the last installment, while also making the game more accessible. It truly is a solid fighter that offers a little bit of everything to multiple skill levels. Fans of the series will fall in love with the return of the classic SoulCalibur charm while newcomers will find it easy to get into. Its flashy look makes it as fun to watch as it is to play. Regardless if you are playing by yourself, online, or with a group of friends…Everyone will walk away satisfied.
Platform: PS3 and Xbox360 | Publisher: Namco | Developer: Project Soul | Genre: 3D Fighter | Release Date: Jan. 31, 2012