Soul Calibur V, the latest title in the Soul Calibur series and sequel to IV. Soul Calibur IV was alleged to be the final entry in the Soul Calibur series, but in response to fans, Soul Calibur V was announced in 2011.
Shortly afterwards, fans became a little concerned as the games lead developer announced that he felt the project was being rushed, and they simply didn’t have the time to achieve what, ideally, they wanted to. So is this game all fan service or is it a worthy entry in the Soul Calibur series?
Soul Calibur vets will feel at home with the familiar interface and mechanics. The menus feature almost everything you’re used to, with slight omissions such as challenge mode. In SCIV players could battle through a tower, with different conditions to complete for each stage; this is now gone. However it’s not something that’s too likely to be missed. If anything it felt like a grind.
Soul Calibur has a new, revamped story mode. This is both bad and good. On the one hand you do have a richer, more detailed story. Although it’s difficult to say the story in itself is good, it’s better than what you can usually expect from Soul Calibur. Unfortunately this comes at a cost. No longer does each character have their own story mode. This is something that fans of the games singleplayer are really going to miss. The story basically covers solely the ‘Patroklos’ character as he tries to save his sister and ultimately destroy Soul Edge which is causing evil to spread across the land. It feels rushed and it’s full of cliches… However, at the same time it’s better than what you get from most fighting games.
There’s also an arcade mode, but this again doesn’t include any character endings. What you do get though is experience which levels you up and in turn unlocks new items for character creation. The same goes for quick battle, where you can fight various levels of AI opponent and unlock new titles and characters.
There’s also a decent amount of new characters. Around 10. Unfortunately many of these are just variants of prior characters and it’s a little confusing as to why they’ve been replaced in the first place. Why is Talim gone and Natsu in her place? It isn’t as if they share the exact same moveset, albeit, they do share some moves and very similar fighting styles. Why not just keep the original character too or instead of? One can only presume this has been done to make the game look newer than it actually is. At the same time there are a fair few characters missing which used to have their own truly unique fighting style, such as Taki and Yun-seong.
Fortunately Soul Calibur V is able to shine where it really matters. The gameplay is all intact. It’s a little faster paced than Soul Calibur IV and should be more familiar to what fans of Soul Calibur II will remember. In addition there’s a new meter system, the ‘edge’ meter, which allows you to perform both brave edge and critical edge moves. This is a system borrowed from 2D fighters. Brave edges can be seen as something similar to an EX move, and a critical edge is basically an ultra or super move. The meter management, the tactical choices of when and where to use meter, and for which type of move bring much needed depth to the game.
The game feels reasonably well balanced, better than previous SC games such as Hilde in Soul Calibur IV at least. There is still going to be the natural tiering as people find slightly greater potential in some characters than others, but it seems as if you should be able to have a good chance of winning regardless of which character you pick. The characters all have varying learning curves too, like Alpha Patrokolos has a lot of ‘Just Frame’ moves which mean you need to time your inputs exactly right in order to get the character to output the moves correctly. Some will appreciate this level of depth whilst other characters are much easier to play. Ultimately, the harder characters seem to be the more rewarding, with access to the more technical mix-ups and harder combos. Nightmare, for instance, is rated as pretty easy to play on his in-game stat card. He has a good set of low mix-ups he can use but at the same time his attacks are somewhat slow and predictable to experienced players.
Whilst the games overall content might be a little lacking, the game does a good job of making itself into a viable competitive platform. To compliment the balanced, enjoyable combat mechanics, Soul Calibur V introduces some much needed improvements to it’s online component.
SCV’s Online modes are pretty typical of most fighting games. There are player matches, ranked matches, then there are regionalised lobbies that you can simply search for and hop in. These all work remarkably well and I was always able to join matches and find games quicky. What Soul Calibur V does really well though is its online lobbies. In SCV you have a text chat, mic chat, player list on the right hand side, then gameplay window all on the same screen. This is great for keeping in touch with players during a match, commentating on each other’s performance and so forth.
Similar to the features in SSFIV, there’s also a replay mode. You can upload replays to your profile, and other people can download and view these to see you play. It’s a pretty cool feature and learning tool. As expected, you can display character inputs on the replays and you can use this to implement new techniques to your own game or maybe just refine your inputs in training mode. It’s both a great learning tool and also just plain fun to watch some good matches.
On top of that the game has really good netcode, and I mean really good. Typically 3D fighters seem a little worse, I find, Tekken 6 being an example of a game I can’t even manage to stay connected for more than 10 minutes on. However, Soul Calibur V works really, really well. Matches with people in my country almost feel like local play and, although matches with people far away do feature notable lag, it’s perfectly playable and it’s not laggy enough that you can’t execute combos or enjoy yourself within an online lobby with friends across region. If you’re playing alone though, the game filters towards best connection and you can adjust these filters yourself. As far as ranked matches go, it’s pretty easy to get near-lag free gameplay consistently.
Lastly, one of the new features in Soul Calibur V is the ‘Soul Link’ or ‘stalker mode’. This enables you to setup a link with up to 4 friends. Once set up, the game will constantly feed you with information on virtually everything these players do in the game. Every time you hover over a menu, be it arcade or ranked online, it’ll tell you the details of your Soul Linked friends progression; wins, losses, that kind of stuff. I guess this is nice, but honestly I never really felt it was useful.
One of the core features that attract people to Soul Calibur is the character creation. You can pick combat style from the 20 or so unique ones in the game, then select aspects like gender, hair style, colours, outfits, armour, and so forth. You’re really given a lot of freedom.
Unfortunately, well – kind of unfortunately, this means that online play can make for a pretty weird experience. Frequently you’ll meet large breasted, almost naked female characters, and oddly their male counterparts are just about as common. Although most serious players in ranked seem to try to make their own, unique character designs, these can be really nice to see.le from the 20 or so unique ones in the game, then select aspects like gender, hair style, colours, outfits, armour, and so forth. You’re really given a lot of freedom.
Aesthetically, the the game is stunning. You can see from the screenshots presented here that the game is absolutely gorgeous. The 3D stages and character models are really well rendered, and the effects on attack impacts / deflections and so forth look spectacular. The only thing I did notice is that the character creation models don’t look quite as detailed as the games original characters, but still they look more than acceptable.
The same, unfortunately can’t be said for the audio. Whilst the gameplay audio in regards to music and sound effects is great. Some of the female cast particularly have really quite poor voice over’s. It can get annoying, well – if one of the badly voiced characters happens to be one of the ones you like to play.
Soul Calibur V does generally feel like it’s been pushed out quickly by it’s publisher. It’s very short on singleplayer content, and most of the ‘new’ characters are tweaked versions of those already familiar to SC fans, but ultimately… this doesn’t really matter. Project Soul have taken everything that’s been core to the Soul Calibur series, fast, weapon-based gameplay, 8 way run mechanics, armour, competative play, and enhanced them. Taking the game to a new level. It’s not the most revolutionary fighting game out there, but it’s a exceedingly good one – easily the high point of the Soul Calibur series.
If you like Soul Calibur for its competitive aspects. Local play, online play whatever, you should like this game. If you’re investment in the series was for the story… then you won’t like this game. This is a game built for multiplayer, and what it tries to achieve it does especially well. Fans of 3D fighters or the series itself should definitely pick this one up.