As the fighting game genre is going through its revival period right now, another big franchise is back to contend for best fighting game. The Soul Calibur series has had its ups and downs: it arguably was one of the best of the early fighting games with Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast, to some very lauded sequels that were more about the special characters rather than in improving on the gameplay. Officially announced in 2011, but having been teased since 2010, Soul Calibur V is here and most importantly, it’s evolved.
Time to Really Move - Soul Calibur veterans will notice that the game has a slight increase in speed with more emphasis on movement. A quick step movement has been added to let players move around even faster than before. To help push that focus on movement and speed, the ability to smash players up against the walls (called a “wall splat”) has been removed so a bit of cheapness has been taken out of the game. Another change done to promote more movement, and something I’m a real fan of, is the change of how ring outs work. In Soul Calibur V, ring outs are not as easy as they have been. Characters have certain moves that can cause a ring out if you’re in proximity, but if you don’t use these moves, then your opponent will fall back into the ring as if the invisible wall is keeping them in. Coming from a guy who has always hated the “ring out” element of certain fighting games, I found that if I lost due to a ring out, I was either clearly beaten or I made a huge mistake resulting in me doing a ring out. Project Soul wants you to get in there and fight, and they made changes to the gameplay to emphasize that.
Some New and Old Faces - With 28 characters available (including 1 DLC character) and 1 character available in Create-a-Soul mode (Devil Jin), fans of the series will see both old and new faces in Soul Calbur V. Characters from previous games have been rebalanced with moves and combos being slightly altered here and there. Some of the new characters share moves from existing characters, while others are completely brand new to the series. One thing very noticeable is the LACK of guest characters. Since Soul Calibur II and IV featured multiple guest characters, but in Soul Calibur V, we only have Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed making a special appearance. This mostly takes the series back to its roots rather than trying to gain extra sales by featuring special guests. As of now, the game is fairly balanced with the exception of Devil Jin, making for a well-rounded fighting game.
Presentation That’s a Return to Form - Out of all the major fighting game franchises, the Soul Calibur series has always excelled in production and presentation. From the impressive character models, the great stages filled with detail and background activity, to the particle effects, this is a beautiful looking game. There so much detail in the game that I was reminded of my first time seeing Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast, and how taken aback I was with that game. I especially enjoyed watching the weapons’ flashes and sparks that flew during a match. The soundtrack is also up to snuff for a Soul Calibur game with the music being not only an absolute delight, but an improvement over Soul Calibur IV.
Build Your Own Warrior - Soul Calibur has been one of the few series to have a create-a-character option within the game called Create-a-Soul, which has really been ramped up here. Players have already made a range of characters such as other video game characters, comic book character, and movie characters. If you enjoy making characters in a game, you will absolutely love Create-a-Soul.
Not for the Forever Alone - In most cases, a story mode is a fairly minor element in a fighting game. I’ve always said that a good story mode in a fighting game is a nice bonus, but it is not a requirement like it is in other genres. The difference here is that the Soul Calibur series has been one of the few series that has prided itself on delivering a quality story mode. Unfortunately in Soul Calibur V, that tradition ends as there is a fairly trite story involving two new characters, Patroklos and Pyrrha, that are essentially replacing Cassandra and Sophita from the previous games. The whole plot involves the siblings Patroklos and Pyrrha finding themselves to be tools of the good and evil swords, Soul Edge and Soul Calibur, 17 years after the events of Soul Calibur IV. The story mode takes about 2-4 hours to beat with hardly anything compelling to it. There are other single-player modes available, but don’t expect much of a reason to play through them unless you want to unlock everything or get all the achievements.
Can They Please Shut Up?! - Hearing characters yell out their moves in a fighting game is nothing new. We’re all used to hearing “Hadouken!” or “GET OVER HERE!” while playing, but in Soul Calibur V, some of the characters are unbearable. In particular, Pryyha is so incredibly whiny that I lose focus of the game due to how completely aggravating her yelps can be. As a whole, none of the characters have any quotable catchphrases, just annoying grunts.
Soul Calibur V is a true return to form for the series. Instead of focusing on gimmicks, Project Soul made needed changes to the gameplay to create a deeper fighting system than ever before. Casual Soul Calibur fans may feel that they’ve been left in the dust, but for the rest of us, Soul Calibur V has what it takes to put the series right back into the tournament scene.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*