Every year I can always depend on a new sports game coming down the pipe with some new tweaks and an updated roster but when it boils down to it you seem to be playing the same game every year. I couldn’t help but feel the same way about fighting games while playing Soul Calibur V. Fighting games tend to be very similar in many ways to annual sports franchise releases that we see each year in a way of a quick roster change and some new nifty powers but underneath the hood it’s the same old game that you played last year and the truth is that the game’s success is usually based on the quality of it’s multiplayer aspect; knowing all the long that we’re only going to trade it in for next year’s edition. If you look at it, this edition of Soul Calibur isn’t much different from Soul Caliber IV, a game I poured many hours into on my console. There are some big changes on the presentation side, but the actual combat is very much the same as it’s always been.
Even though Soul Calibur V still plays in a similar style to its predecessors, including Namco’s beat-em-up Tekken, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for die hard fans of the series. With combos based around a familiar combat system and three types of attacks: horizontal, vertical, and kick. Many characters have as many as 16 different moves for each type of attack so we’re talking about an incredible move-list, not to mention the numerous attack combos on top of that. If you want to master a character, its going to take a lot of work. Even then the move list has been simplified from the previous editions benefiting the game making things easier for newcomers. As this is a game about fighting with sharp objects, when you aren’t attacking you probably want to be blocking. Guarding is tough in Soul Calibur V, because you have to guess whether your opponent is attacking high or low and block accordingly. The reward is that many moves can be easily punished if they are blocked successfully. If you’re like myself, being used to Street Fighter, you might find it takes a while to remember that you can’t block simply by holding back on your joystick. Although Soul Calibur V doesn’t stray to far from the Street Fighter series with the addition of a super meter. You can build up to two levels of this meter which is used for various special attacks as well as counters. For series veterans, this adds an interesting new dynamic to the game while newcomers will appreciate that having a full meter means you always have a chance of getting back into a fight.
Make no mistake when you go online with a fighter you should expect the skill level of the player base to be reasonable. Some will be button mashers, some will be insanely obsessed with being the best. The few times I managed to find people to fight I got a good mix myself and had a great time, despite losing most of the time. The single player story mode in Soul Calibur V is more elaborate than past games but it’s nothing to really talk about especially if you’ve played something like Mortal Kombat’s story mode and seen how good a fighting game story can be. When I say good I don’t mean well written or even makes sense, I’m talking about basic entertainment value. I’d say Soul Caliber V was a pretty poor offering by Namco. Most of the cinematic have an awkward motion comic book story board look to them and most of the new characters don’t really stand out in any way making them a reason you would want to pick this game up over previous editions.
Even though I struggle through it, it took me roughly just a couple of hours to beat the story mode but arcade and quick battle are much more fun experiences. Arcade being the standard ranked time ladder completion all fighting games have that is fun to replay for the random encounters you get depending on which character you play. Quick battle, on the other hand, is my favorite offline mode as every fighter you encounter is uploaded by someone in the world and may be a random custom creation of theirs or simply a regular character with the cool part being their AI behavior which is based off the player who made them. Some will seemed downright stupid while others will be super aggressive or focused on things like ring outs. This is a great mode for players because it allows you to earn various titles and unlocks with each AI character you defeat.
Soul Calibur V may lack innovation, but the visual appearances and general mechanics remain stellar. For starters, everyone’s favorite characters look more realistic than ever. With reoccurring appearances from fan favorites like Nightmare, Sigfried, Ivy, Astaroth and Voldo, there are 29 selections total. However, I do miss the inclusion of three Star Wars characters from last year but you do get one bonus for Assassin Creed fans, Enzio. He’s a fun character to play with all his weapons and tools from the game but it doesn’t hold up a well as using the Force on your opponent. Character movements and animation are almost flawless and feature some of the smoothest graphics ever witnessed in a Soul Calibur title. Thankfully none of the fighters seemed brutally overpowered which is a minor flaw prominent in the first games. Soul Calibur V has a sturdy match lobby allowing for both random pairings and selectable challenges. There’s a chance you’ll get pinned up against someone greater than you in the first match but balancing seems to even out after completing more fights. Though it might sound strange, the most fun in SoulCalibur V involves the character creator. Whether you’re looking to construct the babe of your dreams or an ideal macho destroyer, you’ll probably spend most time playing with the different equipment types and accessories which can be unlocked during game play; including physical features.
Soul Calibur V isn’t trying to cater to people who want a clone of Soul Calibur II, or Soul Calibur IV, or any other game for that matter. It’s a fresh take on the entire Soul Calibur franchise. It’s more serious, more difficult, and more streamlined than previous entries. Whether or not that appeals to you depends on how open you are to change and how willing you are to put in the time in the long run to learning new techniques of Soul Calibur V’s fighting engine. If you’re like me and enjoy the occasional game when friends are over or a quick online match looking to get a quick fix, the decision is simple: don’t buy this game. But if you’re a long time fan looking back on fond memories of beautiful art, unique characters, and deep gameplay then Soul Calibur V is the game for you.