As someone who has been a fan of Namco’s Soul series ever since SoulBlade slashed its way on to the PSone, It’s hard to ignore the fact that the series’ relevancy has been on the decline with every subsequent release. 2008’s SoulCalibur IV was extremely lacking in the content department but the fact that it was the series’ high definition debut made its shortcomings seem forgiveable. Flash forward four years and we now have SoulCalibur V which on paper seems impossible to screw up. Simply take SC IV’s great fighting mechanics, throw in a unique mode or two, spruce up the visual and call it a day. Instead, what were given is another SoulCalibur IV but with a terrible story mode, enhanced super moves and Ezio from Assassin Creed.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, SoulCalibur V is a weapon-based, 3D fighter that features an ensemble cast of warriors, swordsmen and scantily clad females. The core fighting mechanics have remained the same for the past 15 years. Players can perform horizontal slashes, vertical strikes, kicks, throws or string together basic yet effective combos. Mastering the art of blocking and side-stepping is essential if you wish to take on higher difficulty levels or climb the ranks online but for general play SC V is extremely accessible, even for casual gamers.
The biggest change made to the combat system is the inclusion of Critical Edge super moves. These function exactly like Ultra moves found in the Street Fighter series, allowing you to deliver a destructive blow/combo once you’ve filled up your Critical Gauge. It’s not an original idea but these moves do a lot to enhance gameplay and add an extra layer of excitement to each bout.
The true meat and potatoes of SoulCalbur V is its story mode which was outsourced to CyberConnect2, the developer behind Asura’s Wrath. The SoulCalibur series has a rich mythology and a great cast of characters but you wouldn’t know any of that based on this lacklustre mode. The story follows new characters Patroklos and Pyrrha, who are the teenage children of series veteran Sophitia. I could elaborate further about the “Malfested” and Patroklos’ quest to save his sister’s soul but you’d probably stop reading before I even finish. Needless to say, the story is incredibly boring and probably won’t hold your attention long enough for you to see it through. I managed to breeze my way through 90% of the story while half asleep before hitting a brick wall as the difficultly inexplicably ramped up.
On a more positive note, the character creator has been expanded immensely, allowing you to create your own fighters or make minor changes to existing ones. The robust creation tools which lets you tweak the most minuet details and the wealth of available assets opens the door to some truly elaborate (and/or copyright infringing) designs. Unfortunately your created beings will have to adopt a move set from another fighter in the game, so even though they may look unique they certainly won’t feel it.
As far as characters go, SoulCalibur V retains a majority of the usual suspects and throws eight new fighters in to the mix. New characters include the previously mentioned “Patroklos” and “Pyrrha”, Warewolf guy “Z.W.E.I.” and his friend “Viola”, “Elysium” who is the living incarnation of the Soul Calibur sword, Xianghua’s daughter “Chai Leixia”, Kilik clone “Xiba”, “Ezio” from Assassins Creed II and my personal favourite “Natsu” who is a younger, hotter Taki.
The Soulcalibur games have always done a great job including miscellaneous modes which act as a divergence from the main game. Unfortunately SC V is extremely lacking in this department and the story mode is a poor substitute. Arcade Mode, Quick Battle, Training, VS and Legendary Souls Mode are your only other options, the latter of which is a super hard mode that constantly reminds me how much I suck! Thankfully the robust online offering will keep hardcore players happy and the in-game social hub is a neat idea that will hopefully gain traction.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Namco.