Your resident weapons-based fighting game series is back. Though SoulCalibur 5 was originally released in February 2012; it took a recent Xbox Live sale for me to pick this up. The recurring theme in SoulCalibur 5 is change. About only half the previous roster return and some Street Fighter 2D Fighter features have been thrown into the mix. The SoulCalibur devs’ have never been afraid to introduce or alter core game elements in the past and that’s evident here.
A New Tale of Souls and Swords…
Soul Calibur 5 is set 17 years after Soul Calibur 4. So SC5 hosts a “new generation” of fighters; meaning many fan favourites have either been replaced or removed completely. Poor Yun-Seng. Whether it’s successors such as Natsu, Xiba and Leixia or completely new fighters such as Z.W.E.I and Viola . These newbies come with distinctive styles of play. One might even say gimmicky.
For example, Pyrrha is the most apologetic fighter you will ever see. She’s always scared, she doesn’t even want to fight and her moves are done in a an reluctant, accidental fashion. Her guard animation has a cowering behind her shield. Credit to Namco. It’s brilliant.
Newcomer Viola uses a magical orb as her weapon Z.W.E.I on the other hand fights with a more traditional long-sword but can summon a ghostly werewolf during combos. The likes of Taki and Kilik have been replaced with youngers characters to joi veterans such as Mitsurugi and Ivy and to round things off; SC5’s guest character is Ezio of Assassin’s Creed fame. A better choice than Star Wars characters.
Capcom Calibur 5?
Soul Calibur 5 introduces a host of new gameplay features seen in a lot of 2D fighters. Each player now has a meter bar which you can use to pull of certain kinds of attacks. “Brave Edge” attacks are amped-up versions of an already existing move.
Every character has around 3 or 4 of these to extend or make combos more powerful. “Critical Edge” attacks are Soul Calibur’s “Super Moves”; huge cinematic moves with the same invincibility on start-up. However these moves do not feel natural in a Soul Calibur game. I barely see them used in combos; they normally just serve has over powered punishers.
Underneath this newly added layer; SC5 is still the Soul Calibur of old. Horizontal, Vertical attacks and 8-Way Runs are still the name of the game here. 3D movement here is more fluid and more necessary than any other fighting series in existence. Character’s command lists have been trimmed in order to make things more accessible.
Meter isn’t just use for flashy attacks. Series staple “Guard Impact”, a more powerful guard that knocks the opponent back, can now only be done using meter however every character has gained certain moves with Guard Impact properties already in them. And these are for free.
The old Guard Impact is replaced with the Just Guard technique. This is a advanced technique where, as the name suggests, if you guard at the exact point of impact you get the same benefits as Guard Impacting and costs no meter. Timing is crucial.
The Single-Player Experience
While past Soul Caliburs offered excellent single-player experiences such as SC3’s Chronicles of the Sword or SC2’s Weapons Master Mode; Soul Calibur V’s single player experience fall somewhat short. The main 1-player mode is Story Mode which follows the games protagonists Patrokolos and Prryha; the children of series veteran Sophitia.
Firstly, its hard to follow a story when the protagonist is quite the douche. The story itself is decent but the dialogue is so lackluster and anti-climactic; its like it wants to suck out any importance to whats actually going on in the story. Story Mode is only 20-fights long and only lets you play as a handful of characters; mainly Patrokolos so it would be good to learn him. Your standard Arcade Mode returns but there are no character openings or endings which is a first for Soul Calibur and that’s not a good thing.
Glitz and Glamour
Character Creation also returns and it’s better than ever before. Players can customize existing character costumes or new create characters entirely. You can unlock more item as your progress; giving you an excuse to play otherwise-forgettable mode of Quick Battle. Though no matter how hard you try custom characters will never going to look as goods as the existing cast.
Custom characters still borrow a fighting style from the SC5 roster and Devil Jin from Tekken’s moveset is an option as well. This game is absolutely beautiful on a HD screen: from characters’ individually textured clothing, the vibrant stages which are full of life. You will rarely see a better looking game on the 360 or PS3.
Game stages are a more dynamic as well. At one stage you’re start of confined in a small cage. But if you manage to knock your opponent against a wall it will fall and lead to an open ended platform where a Ring Out is possible. That’s one example.
Arguably the real meat in any serious modern fighting game are it’s Offline/Online Multiplayer. SC5 does this right. I can’t say what the netcode was like at the time of release but I’ve had zero problems with SC5 online as it is now.
Proper Matchmaking, a solid netcode, saving and uploading replays on online matches are all things you desire for online play and things that this game offers. And yes, you can bring your Custom Characters online as well!
With tweaked moveset commands, a heavily changed roster and 2D-fighter gameplay mechanics; I know the sheer amount of change has put off several long-time fans of the series. But while SCV is a little short on content compared to past games; Soul Calibur 5 is since Soul Calibur at heart and remains to be a solid fighting game experience.