Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Soul Calibur V Review


Soul Calibur consistently proves to be the only fighting game series in which I possess any amount of skill. Since the first game’s release on Dreamcast, Mitsurugi and I have been inseparable, conquering the forces of the demon sword for our joint ronin-esque domination. Would the fifth game allow me to continue my warpath through the AI-led fields of destruction, or did the developers, Project Soul, deem fit to present me with a game in which I laid down my arms and walked away from the series I love?

First of all, let me address a pet peeve of mine with the Soul Calibur series—the addition and removal of interesting features. Since Soul Calibur III, every time a new, exciting feature is added, it is promptly ruined in the next game, and then reinstated in the following one.  In the second game, I allowed to play as one of three cameo characters and had a small additional campaign to build an army. In the third game, the cameos were gone, replaced by a very powerful creation tool, but the extra campaigns were enhanced. The fourth game saw the crippling of the creation tool and special modes, but the rise of Star Wars extra players. The fifth installment’s character creation is on par with the third, but only has one guest character—Ezio from Assassin’s Creed. Unfortunately, it also has no optional questlines or story-driven challenge modes.



This seesawing of extra features is absolutely maddening! I can guarantee that Soul Calibur VI will feature a new quest mode, but no character creation mode. Why are these two attributes seemingly mutually exclusive? Is it impossible to create a Soul Calibur game in which I have the ability to dive deep into challenges, progressing a flimsy storyline for my personal amusement, in addition to pummeling my opponents with someone I’ve created to look like Ronald McDonald, while also playing as a character from a well-known series? I know you can do it, Project Soul; I believe in you! 

The story has had a major overhaul. Instead of having a few general stories that anyone can be inserted into—or different text progressions as pretenses for fights, Project Soul did something gutsy—stuck to one story. That’s right, Soul Calibur V only has one story. Patroklus, son of Sophitia, is a holy warrior looking for the monster that took his sister Pyrrah. The two end up deeply entwined in the fate of the sacred sword Soul Calibur and its evil counterpart, Soul Edge. Along the way, a few new characters are introduced, mild plot twists happen, and you become engaged in Patroklus’s story. You cannot play as Kilik, Ivy, Cervantes, Mitsurugi, or any previous character in the story mode. At least the protagonist eases the limited cameo pain by resembling a character from another series.



This decision may be unwelcomed by some, but all in all, I think Project Soul made the right choice here. Though you cannot play through the story with any other characters, that gives the developers the opportunity to tell an engaging story, and not one based on travelling from arena to arena just to fight. I must admit I was a bit disappointed Mitsurugi’s blade would not be saving the day again, but I enjoyed the plot driven narrative with a cohesive, tight storyline more than text explanations and broad voiceovers. A bit of still image plot progression, but it’s slightly better than just a paragraph over a random background.



Another fairly major change is the addition of Critical Edge moves. Like in Street Fighter, Tekken, or really any other fighter series ever, you can build up to a Critical Edge move by either being bashed or thrashing your opponent. Once the meter is full you can unleash a devastating combo on your opponent, oftentimes dropping their health by more than 25%. This addition gives an advantage to more classic fighting gamers, as using super moves has been common for quite some time, but it is new to the Soul Calibur series. Soul Calibur IV had the option of one hit kills, but your control over when you could use them was minimal at best. Allowing players to choose when and where to use these overwhelmingly powerful moves adds a new vector of strategy to an already strategic fighting game.



The rest of Soul Calibur remains virtually unchanged. Characters movesets have been updated, as have the graphics and animation, but that’s to be expected. This series has always been one of the most beautiful fighting games around, and this one is no exception. Large arenas with high definition backgrounds and fantastic colors, lighting, and shading effects make this one of the most eye-catching fighters around. The character creation mode is very nearly identical to the one seen in Soul Calibur III, but with the addition of more costumes and movesets. And, as can be expected from Soul Calibur, the gameplay is still as fluid and fast paced as ever.

Verdict: If you enjoy fighting games, Soul Calibur V is one of the best. What it lacks in narrative variety, it makes up for in a more focused story experience, and its multiplayer, character creation, and gameplay are tough to beat. Soul Calibur V doesn’t change much, but it is certainly not a direct copy/paste from Soul Calibur IV, and it deserves your money. Play this game if you like the Soul Calibur series, or really any fighting game, and you’re looking for something gorgeous and slick with which to pass the time.
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