“With its gameplay improvements, solid multiplayer and always-entertaining character creator, Soul Calibur V proves this soul may still burn for a while longer.”
My first experience with the Soul series was way back when a friend of mine had been STUPID enough to sell me his Sega Dreamcast, with two controllers, four memory units (including Visual Memory Units) and several of his games. As a young kid, this was like winning the lottery, the Kentucky Derby AND completing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, all rolled into one! Ecstatic, I rushed out of school with my gaming booty tucked away in my backpack, dumping the contents on my bedroom floor as soon as my feet could carry me home. Eyes gleaming like Gollum’s, I sifted through the precious titles that were now available to me: Project Justice, Shenmue, S-s-Soul Calibur? Tiny white console plugged in and giant controller in hand, I embarked on a journey that still amazes me. At my age it was the perfect game: the characters, the fighting, the music, all forming into a magical experience that can be described as nothing short of turn-of-the-century gaming nirvana.
It’s been nearly thirteen years since my Soul Cherry was popped, and I’m still impressed. Namco Bandai’s newest addition to the weapon-based fighting saga, Soul Calibur V has caused many gamers with similar memories to flock back to the Stage of History. With gameplay tweaks, several characters being replaced by new ones and Assassin’s Creed veteran Ezio Auditore Da Firenze bringing his neck-stabbing antics into the mix, the fifth time’s the charm for veterans and newcomers alike.
The Stage of History-
The events of Soul Calibur V’s story mode take place about 17 years after Soul Calibur IV, which serves as an excuse for why some beloved characters won’t be making a repeat appearance. The story follows the tale of our young hero Patroklos, son of series mainstay Sophitia Alexandra, and his efforts in saving his sister Pyrrha, who has become a “malfested,” some sort of cursed… zombie… demon…(?) Predictably, it just serves as a MacGuffin for us to follow our man Patroklos as he treks across the land, meeting (and stabbing) familiar and unfamiliar faces during his journey. The first couple of missions act as a light tutorial, but those are quickly left behind as the plot thickens.
The story this time is told through drawings and animations on a parchment-like background, which gives it an old timey look and adds a certain amount of charm. In-game, the details on the character models have been touched up a bit, and the backgrounds and vistas are just as breath taking as Soul Calibur players have come to expect at this point. Narrative-wise, the Japanese roots of this game can cause some hilariously cringe-worthy moments, but they’re not frequent enough to put a damper on the rest of the experience.
The Battlefield: Offline-
Fighting game fans don’t come for the story though, and with several new gameplay features adding more depth to the already stellar formula, the actual fighting in Soul Calibur V is no slouch. Anyone familiar with the “Just Frames” technique present in previous Soul Calibur titles, triggered by precisely timing attacks one after another, will be right at home with the new “Just Guard” move, where players with good enough hand-eye coordination can now block attacks otherwise deemed unblockable. There is now a Super Meter, er, “Critical Gauge” as well, which Street Fighter fans will probably enjoy. Launching into a cutscene upon connecting with foes, some of the “Critical Edge” attacks that can be performed with this gauge are quite a sight to behold.
As with any numbered update in a fighting game series, several other tweaks can be found if you really sink your teeth into the game, and some of the returning characters play a bit differently. Personally, I had a lot of fun playing as Patroklos and Natsu, as well as pole-wielding fighter Kilik’s spiritual successor, Xiba. Returning characters like the ever-sexy Ivy and the now-lively Cervantes get an extra dose of badass with even flashier moves than before.
Along with typical offline fare like Arcade and Training modes, players this time get a chance to rock out to “Legendary Souls,” allowing them to take on several of the game’s toughest characters in succession. Fans of the last game may or may not be disappointed by the lack of a “Tower of Lost Souls” Mode, but there is nothing with similar depth in the single player this time to make up for it.
Taking On the World: Online Play-
In addition to beefing up the gameplay mechanics, Soul Calibur gets online multiplayer right by making it a quick and mostly painless affair. There are more streamlined search functions, and when in lobbies players are able to spectate as their peers duke it out. As was true in the arcades of yesteryear, your spectating mileage may vary wildly. While watching players at or above your skill level beat the crap out of each other is a great way to learn the game while still being entertained, seeing two scrubs button mash can be absolutely infuriating.
Soul Calibur has had very strong character creation modes for a while now, and in V this is where I had the most fun. Using any of the main characters’ styles as a base and outfitting them with clothing and accessories unlocked throughout the game, players can build their own custom Soul fighters. The Tekken series’ Devil Jin even appears as a possible fighting style as well, ensuring that online players will be able to mix it up to their hearts’ content. In my first match I was pitted against the spitting image of the protagonist of anime series One Piece, right down to his straw hat and sandals! I’ll be interested to see what kind of copyright-infringing monstrosities the community will have in a few months.
Does the Soul Still Burn?
Overall, Soul Calibur V delivers a very satisfying experience, providing for both veteran fighters and newcomers alike. With its strong community here in the United States there will surely be no shortage of challengers for you to face, and if you’re not ready to face the world online the game offers enough to keep you playing (or at least creating crazy characters) offline as well. With its gameplay improvements, solid multiplayer and always-entertaining character creator, Soul Calibur V proves this soul may still burn for a while longer.
Bamidele Ojo plays all sorts of games domestic and imported in order to bring the best possible coverage straight to your doorstep. With a few years of freelance writing under his belt, he has seen some things other gamers can only dream of. He also enjoys long walks on the beach and romantic evenings by the fireside.
Developed by the legendary Project Soul™ team, SOULCALIBUR V picks up 17 years after the events of SOULCALIBUR IV with new heroes and returning warriors clashing in an epic showdown between good and evil. The tale of Patroklos, son of Sophitia Alexandra, unfolds as his family’s destiny intertwines with the Soul swords. With the series’ revolutionary 8-way run, allowing for true 3D movement during matches, a refined battle system, and stunning graphics, SOULCALIBUR V will be the top game of 2012 for anyone looking for a knock-down, drag-out fight.
- Description provided by Namco Bandai Games