Soulcalibur V is the sixth entry in the over decade long running Soul series by Project Soul of Namco. Soulcalibur V is actually the sixth entry, spiritually, since the series began way back in 1996 with Soul Edge (Soul Blade in the states) which was released in the arcades and later on the Playstation. There was also a hack-and-slash, wavy-hand Wii title that broke away from the fighting game model and was an utter disappointment, as well as a short foray on the PSP subtitled Broken Destiny. Due to it’s platform of release, Broken Destiny didn’t see much attention but should be noted as the fighting game that had Kratos as a guest character before Mortal Kombat.
The Soul series is often thought to run concurrent with the Tekken franchise (also by Namco) due to the eight way movement, timing based rock paper scissor style combat, and of course the inclusion of Yoshimitsu’s ancestor as a playable character since Soulcalibur. The Souls series, while featuring many of the same characters throughout the franchise has, game-play wise, always been more about the fighting styles and less about the characters themselves. Although there are rather well fleshed-out stories for each combatant, their backgrounds were often convoluted and impossible to decipher for anyone other than the most committed Soul acolytes. This series has always been about smooth, fast, fluid, rock solid 3D weapon based combat, and it has always delivered. Now that you have an idea what the Soul series is all about, let’s get to why you should be playing Soulcalibur V, the strongest entry in the series since Soulcalibur II.
Soulcalibur V takes place seventeen years past the events of Soulcalibur IV. The creative minds over at Project Soul used this as their excuse to add a plethora of new fighters to the roster while retaining many fan favorites. Now it should be noted, that I use the term “new” loosely here. As I stated before, the series is more about the styles and weapons than the characters themselves, so here we get new characters with old styles. For example, Xiba is the new Kilik while Patroklos fights similar to Cassandra and Natsu replaces Taki. This works out well for long running fans since most likely your favorite style is still represented in some way, unless of course you played as Zasalamel… then you’re out of luck. Some notable new comers are Z.W.E.I. and Viola. Both look like they were ripped straight out of Castlevania, so much so that Z.W.E.I. fights with a cross sword reminiscent of Gabriel’s cross whip and Z.W.E.I. controls the spirit of a werewolf in battle! Pretty rad, indeed. Viola on the other hand rocks knife fingers and a crystal ball. Both are unique even by the standards set forth by the series and are very welcome additions to the roster. Also, Lizardman goes by his name Aeon Calcos, sports some sweet angel wings, and now breathes fire. That is just something I wanted to note… since it is pretty awesome.
The roster is very strong and balanced sitting at twenty-eight playable fighters with twenty-two default and six to unlock. As with true Soul fashion, there is a guest character present in the form of Ezio of Assassin’s Creed fame. This is a great choice for the roster since Ezio is much more period accurate, human, and doesn’t stand out like a Jedi in a 16th Century fighting game… oh wait… yeah. Love it or hate it, guest characters are in every fighting game these days and, thankfully, in this case the pick was a solid one… good job Project Soul! One complaint I do have with the roster however stems from the overuse of “mimic” characters. For those unfamiliar, SC and Tekken almost always sport a mimic character; that is, a character who randomly copies the fighting style of an existing fighter with no true fighting style of their own. But Soulcalibur V beats this dead horse’s ghost by having THREE mimic characters in the roster. I’m not going to spoil who they are since you must unlock them, but know that three of the six unlockable characters lack their own style making them glorified palette swaps, which is kind of a bummer. Plus, two of the characters you will unlock are alternate versions of existing fighters on the roster with different looks and tweaked fighting styles. This leaves you with only one fighter to unlock who has their own true fighting style. If you are keeping up with the math that puts your roster at twenty-three 100% unique fighters, two “altered form” fighters, and three mimic fighters. Despite all this, the roster is balanced, and although it lacks some fan favorites, it has something to offer to all play styles. Did I mention to can unlock Devil Jin’s fighting style? Well you can… and it’s awesome!
Soulcalibur V also sports the create a character mode that has been present in the series since III. In V you have a persistent player level which levels up as you play the various modes much like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. This fighter level unlocks additional content across the board to include customization options for the create mode. When creating a new fighter you first pick which “soul” your creation will represent, fundamentally causing them to copy any of the existing fighters’ styles. You can also edit the existing roster by adding crazy hair styles and what-not to your favorites. The mode is fun and allows fifty unique fighters to be made at a time. As I stated before, you can unlock the soul of Devil Jin from Tekken fame and make your own awesome Tekken style fighter. This brought back memories of playing as Heihachi on the PS2 version of Soulcalibur II… fun times indeed. This also made me think of how awesome it would be if Namco added DLC of the souls of other fighters to be used in the create mode. This would be an easy way to reintroduce absent styles from the roster back into play as well as possibly add some more Tekken fighting styles. Come on Namco… make it happen!
And while on the topic of DLC… I feel I should warn buyers that you will be missing Dampierre from your character roster unless you purchase the game at a participating retailer. Bestbuy somehow procured the exclusive privilege of having included DLC codes for him in their copies of the game only; so buy it anywhere, else and you will have a glaring blank spot on your roster next to Voldo until Namco either releases Dampierre as DLC later or perhaps for good if they don’t, who knows. This type of thing is getting old to me, and this is a prime example of how it fails within a game. Whether you plan to use Dampierre or not doesn’t matter. In a roster of twenty-eight you actually only get twenty-seven if you buy it at the “wrong” store. Anyway, just be aware of this before running out to anywhere but Bestbuy to get this game. You have been warned!!!!
Alright moving on. You are probably wondering why I haven’t spent one moment talking about the actual game play yet… well it’s like this… if you ever played a game in the Soul series you know how to play this game and that certainly is not a bad thing. There have been some nice additions to the fight mechanics to include a “super” meter much like that from UMvC3, Street Fighter, or even Mortal Kombat. This meter is next to the life bar and two “bars” of meter can be stored at at time. You gain meter from giving damage and receiving it. You could opt to spend one bar of meter on a super move for your fighter called a Critical Edge attack. These flashy super combos don’t dish out the kind of damage we are used to from most fighting games. It usually depletes around a third or less of your opponents health when connected with successfully, but these are most certainly tide turning when used properly. Critical Edge moves have a universal input command across all characters (quarter circle forward x2 A+B+K) while the Brave Edge inputs vary from fighter to fighter. Brave Edge moves act similarly to Critical Edge moves but only deplete half of a bar of meter. These moves give the more casual players of the game a little nudge in the right direction when they are getting their tails handed to them by the more advanced Soul players. On that note, you could also opt to spend your meter, half a bar each time that is, on Guard Impacts. Guard Impacts are executed by pressing away from the opponent while simultaneously hitting all three attack buttons (A+B+K). This new meter spending Guard Impact repels all attacks (except unblockables) removing a lot of the thinking from previous Soul titles Guard Impacts at the expense of meter. What we know as traditional Guard Impacts from the previous titles are now replaced with the Just Guard system which are activated by pressing and releasing guard at the precise moment of an opponents attack resulting in a perfect guard. Perfect Guards have a considerably lower amount of recovery time giving opportunity for counter attack and also block unblockable attacks. Parries, on the other hand, have been removed from the game altogether. These are nice inclusions and only add further balance to the already near perfect game play the Soul series is known for. Some may claim the “simplification” is a bastardization of the defensive footsie of the series, but I feel it opens up a whole new strategy spectrum since the meter management is now involved.
There is also a story mode present but due to it’s limited scope and focus on only three or four characters, it’s almost not worth playing. I completed it in a few hours but that included sitting through the ridiculous sepia drawn still animations and occasional cut scene. Everything was goofy and hard to take seriously. Even by Soulcalibur standards this story was just silly to me. Plus, with the focus being placed on Patroklos and Pyrrha (Sophitia’s kids) I was not that intrigued since I had little to no desire to play as either of them. If you planned on using either one of those characters then the story mode is well worth your time, but otherwise it was more of a distraction and just kind of “meh” overall. I spent the majority of my time in the Quick Match mode where you can select from a pool of CPU controlled fighters which somewhat mirrors what the online landscape would look like varying in difficulty from stupid easy to freaking impossible. There is also an arcade mode present as to be expected from every fighting game on the market, but strangely enough it acts more like a time attack mode instead of a traditional arcade mode, forgoing endings for the fighters. Once you defeat the six opponents you merely receive a list showing how long it took to complete, and then you are whisked away back to the beginning… no endings… no story… no nothing. I felt this was kind of odd and further frustrated me since it goes to show the absolute focus was on Sophtita’s kids and no one else, which I though was rather lame.
I am also going to quickly warn everyone that in a strange decision by the good people at Project Soul, there are no options to alter round specifications. This means you cannot alter the number of rounds in a match or the time of a round. Each match is defaulted and permanently set to best three out of five with a set timer. This sucks to me since when playing with friends I always set the match to the max number of rounds with an infinite timer. This is a weird omission but overall doesn’t detract from the game’s quality.
Soulcalibur V is a worthy entry to the series with strong, balanced game play, a fun and diverse roster despite some weird mimic missteps, and even with the lack of round specific options I strongly recommend any fighting game fan to pick this game up immediately. In a world with so many other great fighter games like Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs Capcom, Street Fighter, and the sure to be epic upcoming Street Fighter X Tekken all competing for you money and attention, don’t let Soulcalibur V slip through the cracks. It deserves your attention as much, if not more, than all these great titles. A must play and must own as far as I am concerned. Don’t miss it!
- Kane Hubbard
In as few words as possible…
Balanced game play
Create a Fighter mode
Fluid and flawless animations, great looking game all the way around
The best damn weapon based combat on the market ever… period
Best entry in the series since Soulcalibur II
Stuff I didn’t love
No round specific options… why?
Three mimic fighters…
No arcade endings?
Dampierre exclusive DLC marketing nightmare… uh… why won’t it stop!!!
Replay: Very High
This article was written by my colleague, Kane Hubbard. It was posted here with his permission. Check out more of our content at www.everythingstentative.com. We also do a weekly podcast.