SoulCalibur has always been a flashy franchise — in more ways than one. When the original came out on the Sega Dreamcast, I was completely awestruck, and wasted hundreds of hours clanging swords and flinging people out of the ring.
By the time SoulCalibur III rolled out, I was a bit disenfranchised, and became more a casual fan — that is, until I came back full circle for SoulCalibur V.
First things first — SoulCalibur V’s engine and mechanics are rock solid. The game looks great, plays great, and the netcode is superb (but more on that later). Considering how much time has passed in the series, nearly every character looks and feels fresh, and even the ones that don’t age look great in V.
Mechanics wise, SCV adds a few new moves and changes to the series. Firstly, there is no Soul Gauge — it has been replaced by a “Super Meter” of sorts, that allow you to execute a number of different special moves, up to and including a Critical Edge attack (which is reminiscent of a Hyper Combo from most Capcom VS games). There’s also a new Just Guard technique, which is executed by quickly pressing and releasing the guard button, that pretty much replaces the less useful Guard Impact.
All these new additions are very fresh, and add a new layer of depth to combat. Critical Edges help newer players gain an advantage in combat if they can learn to combo them in for high amounts of easy damage. On the flipside, Just Guarding is an incredibly hard mechanic to master, meaning Pros will have a lot of fun taking care of scrubs after some practice.
Overall the game has a good balance to it, and manages to mix a number of solid fighting game mechanics together, while retaining that unique weapon combat feel the series has always had. Additionally, Ezio, the game’s guest combatant, could easily be included in future games as a standard character. His fighting style and character design fit the SoulCalibur universe like no other guest star before — Assassin’s Creed and SoulCalibur fans alike are sure to enjoy him.
So for all you single player fans out there, how good is the content? Well, unfortunately, SCV’s story mode is short, and only occasionally sweet. Your enjoyment of the story will most likely entirely hinge on your enjoyment of Patroklos — a character that I personally found very uninteresting. Only a few times will you play as his equally uninteresting sister, Pyrrha, which is kind of like a less fun Sophitia .
As for the actual content, it’s pretty bare-bones this time around. If you’re wiling to skip the game’s cut-scenes (and most of you will due to their fan-fiction quality), you can complete the story mode in thirty minutes. It’s kind of odd, but SoulCalibur V’s story mode is handled by an utterly different developer — CyberConnect2 — which may explain the drop in quality.
Quick battle mode immediately reminded me of Virtua Fighter 4, in that you have the ability to battle over two hundred different unique CPUs, and earn titles/gear through their defeat. In this mode, you’ll be able to sort all the way from beginner to advanced CPUs — 99% of which are unique creations using the game’s creation mode. Quick Battle was fun for a while, but my interest quickly deteriorated in favor of online play.
Instead of a few half-baked single player modes, SCV would have greatly benefited from a “Challenge Tower” Mode that recent fighters have thankfully been offering. It would have given new players a chance to slowly learn all the game’s mechanics, and have fun doing it. Instead, they’re just going to have to tough out Quick Battle and Arcade until they have the guts to go online.
The character creator from Broken Destiny and SCIV is also intact — and it’s extremely expanded in V. You’re allowed to use your created fighter in every mode outside of Story. The only real complaint I have is that Project Soul could have easily added a lot more styles.
To seemingly make way for the story mode’s concise focus on Patroklos’ journey, the arcade mode is extremely bare. Sadly, each character doesn’t have a story driven arcade mode. Instead, you’ll play six rounds against various CPUs — that’s it. After completion, you can share your completion time with your friends via leaderboards. To say this is dissapointing is an understatement.
I doubt very many people will enjoy Patroklos, and as a result, there’s no real extra story to be had with most of the game’s other characters. However, we all know fighting games are mostly about multiplayer, and if Project Soul was willing to make that sacrifice in terms of single player to produce a better game, so be it.
Multiplayer wise, Soul Calibur V is pretty much all you can ask for in a fighting game. It has online lobbies, ranked play with a solid matchmaking system (that allows you to actually only play people of higher skill level if you wish), and a solid netcode that’s basically lag-free. Speaking of the lobbies, they’re easily the best part of the online experience.
Not only do you get to watch full fights in a window in the lobby, but you get to chat with other fighters as well. The ability to text and voice chat really adds to the enjoyment of the game’s all new Global Colosseo, the granddaddy of all online lobbies.
With this bad boy, you’ll be able to go in and play constantly with a gigantic amount of players, and even enter and compete in tournaments online. Unlike most other fighting games that feature smaller lobbies, you’ll never sit there without a match — you can challenge people pretty much every free second you have. With the Global Colosseo, Project Soul has sucessfully created a way to facilitate community growth in the game itself, which is always a plus for new players looking to get into the tourney scene.
Overall, Soul Calibur V is a great title that will be sure to win back fans of the series. It features a solid mixture of new and old mechanics, as well as an incredibly fun and rewarding online playground.