Soul Calibur V
STORY: Soul Calibur V is set 17 years after Soul Calibur IV, and expands upon Siegfried's ending from the prequel. Siegfried, now 39 years old, no longer wields the Soul Calibur sword. The main character of SC5's storyline is Patroklos Alexander, the son of Sophitia. Patroklos's sister Pyrrha was abducted at a young age and remembers nothing of her childhood, including her family ties. Patroklos was raised by his father and has been searching for his older sister. After years of training under several masters of the fighting arts, he learned of Graf Dumas' recruitment for warriors to hunt down the malfested. Patroklos chose to work under Dumas in hopes of destroying the malfested.
REVIEW: In the history of fighting games, no other title is known as much for its "changes" from sequel to sequel as Soul Calibur. The changes may not be so clear from a casual player's perspective, but any dedicated SC player could go lengths in describing how much the gameplay, and the characters, have fluctuated over the years. Furthermore, the latest installment presents some of the biggest and boldest changes the series has ever seen. As a dedicated player since the beginning, I would have to ask Namco: Why drastically change a game that has achieved such prestige and success, ultimately by presenting an unparalleled and generally well-received gameplay experience? "Why change what isn't broken?" That principle works for Tekken... what's so different about Soul Calibur?
Soul Calibur made a name for itself for being Soul Calibur. . . unlike many other titles over the years, which heavily took inspiration from the top games of the genre. Even though SC5 mostly stays true to its roots, it does take some easily recognizable cues from other successful fighters of this era... notably, Street Fighter 4. For starters, SC5's new Critical Edge system enables each character to perform a camera angle jolting super move. It's true that "Critical Edges" appeared in the very first game of the series (Soul Edge), but were entirely different. This new mechanic alone is a gutsy and controversial angle on SC's trademark gameplay experience, and that's only the tip of the iceberg.
A "generational shift," Soul Calibur 5 introduces newcomers like Z.W.E.I, Natsu, Leixia, and Xiba. A few of these new characters aim to take the place of several Soul Calibur veterans, all while offering unique play styles and personalities of their own. While the newcomers offer interestingly different appearances and movesets, a few of them are definitely missing something. SC5's Arcade Mode certainly doesn't help the case, because it lacks individual character endings... a big let-down for anyone even halfway interested in the vibrant new designs. Of course, an "arcade fighting game" doesn't need a strong story element... but hey, even Street Fighter 2 had character endings.
Of course, many fan favorites have also returned. Since the story is set 17 years after SC4, you'd probably expect these veterans to look noticeably older... but the majority of them hardly look the part. While it's smart not to alter the appearance of the characters "too much" in a series, I expected to see more noteworthy changes considering the story's time period. For example, Maxi hardly looks a year older than his SC4 incarnation... Did he discover the fountain of youth? I'll also go on to say, for the first time in the series, I think a few of the costume designs are kinda uninspired. For example, Siegfried's 1P costume is pretty generic compared to his most recent previous versions. Furthermore, some of the 2P costumes are very random and really don't capture the "essence" of the characters. A few of them almost resemble typical customizations from SC3's or SC4's Creation Mode. lol. On the same token, SC5's new and improved customization options allow you to modify the outfits to your liking (but I'll get to that later).
With the storyline apparently taking a more prominent role in this installment, SC5's 20-chapter long Story Mode revolves around the new protagonists: Patroklos, Pyrrha, and Z.W.E.I. The story is primarily told in a storybook style fashion, featuring sketchy, stagnant black & white 2D artworks with voiceovers. Thankfully, there are a few cut scenes featuring the game's amazing graphics engine, but perhaps not enough. Considering Story Mode takes under an hour to complete, and several of the events that occur are somewhat interesting, I really wish I was watching the crispy in-game graphics more often instead of blankly staring at "concept sketches". That said, SC5's Story Mode leaves a lot to be desired. Fans expecting a new Chronicles of the Sword Mode or Weapon Master Mode will be left disappointed. Finally, the story itself isn't as epic as it makes itself out to be, but considering other video game storylines, it's not terrible.
For many years, the name "Soul Calibur" went hand in hand with the word "quality". In earlier installments, the series seemed to take pride in the responsive, speedy controls and the incredibly dynamic character movesets. The polished visuals, elaborate character designs, epic soundtrack, and unparalleled gameplay experience quickly took the series to the top of the charts. As expected, SC5 presents one of the most gorgeous fighting games in recent times. The attention to detail in the backgrounds, the vivid & realistic lighting effects, and elegant character models are all very eye-catching. The silky smooth animation quality also remains one of Soul Calibur's most pleasing visual aspects. Thanks to some tweaked animations and an awesome slow motion effects during K.O.'s, many attacks in SC5 are downright flashy and hard-hitting. There are also some really sexy combos that must been seen.
Of course, real gamers don't play a fighting game based on graphics... so how does SC5's renovated gameplay system stack up? The Soul Gauge introduces an audacious new gameplay element to the series, allowing players to store up to two meters that can be used in a variety of ways. Filling up the Soul Gauge activates the use of special techniques such as: Brave Edge (a powered up version of a standard attack), Critical Edge (super move), and Guard Impacts (previously free of charge ). The Soul Gauge was designed to decrease the benefits from constant guarding, and to promote more "offensive" battles. Meter management definitely brings something unique to SC's gameplay... so far it seems well-balanced (aside from the GI costs) and adds another layer to the combo system.
In addition to the new offensive mechanics, there are 3 defensive systems in SC5: Quick Move (a faster version of the 8-Way Run), Guard Impact (a staple of the series since the first SC) and Just Guard (a parry system requiring very precise timing). As you may have heard, Guard Impacts now cost 1/4 of a meter from the Soul Gauge, rendering them more risky and usually less effective. To make matters worse, now only "high" Guard Impacts can be performed (which are awkwardly done by hitting back + ABK). I find it really surprising that Namco decided to downplay one of SC's most rewarding, skill-demanding gameplay mechanics. Thankfully, the new Just Guard system offers an alternative way to predict your opponent's attacks, and replaces GI as the prominent parry mechanic. Also worth mentioning is that most characters have at least one move with a GI property built into it, so at least Guard Impacts haven't been removed from the game completely.
Unlike GI, Just Guard doesn't cost meter, has no whiff animation, and gives the player a better advantage than a GI when successful. However, your timing has to be practically perfect to execute it, as it's very similar to just-frame moves. If you can tap guard (or down & guard) precisely as you are attacked, you'll be granted significant frame advantage, especially against powerful moves with pushback. It's very similar to Parrying in the Street Fighter 3 series and Just Defending in Garou: Mark of the Wolves. With practice, learning the Just Guard system really opens up the heart of SC5's gameplay, and possibly makes up for some of its obvious shortcomings (which I'll get to later). Still, as a HUGE fan of Guard Impacting, I'm saddened to see one of my all-time favorite fighting game systems so blatantly dumbed down.
Now that I've outlined the new mechanics, I'll state my opinion about them. As a serious and part-time tournament player since SC2... I feel very restricted when using most returning characters in SC5. Primarily it's the attack speed and moveset variety that have been greatly toned down. Following the trend of the last two games, the number of options and cancels per character have severely diminished. It seems like the new dev-team doesn't want players to be able to "trick" their opponents in too many different ways. Many classic moves now have slower start-up & recovery time. The gameplay feels so heavily "structured" now, as if I'm supposed to play a certain way... (and one of my favorite aspects of SC is being able to be creative and play how I want to play). In essence, SC5 feels like a "diet version" of my favorite drink. The new bottle design is all flashy-looking... but I want all my sugar content, and SC5 is a bit short on calories.
In continuation, I was never a "play by the book" player... I always try different things and enjoy winning with moves that most players rarely use. The fact that so many moves & stances were removed in SC5 is really discouraging to a player like me, and to me, it just seems counterproductive. Comparatively to previous versions of these same characters, I'd go as far as to say that some of them are downright "boring" to play in SC5. Take Mitsurugi for example, one of the mainstays of the series (and one of my usual mains) - For starters, they took away his iconic Relic Stance (back+BK). Uhhh... why??? It's not like Relic Stance was ever broken or overpowered. To a non-SC player, this may seem like petty complaining on my part... but what if "they" just took away Guile's Flash Kick in Street Fighter, or Kazuya's Hell Sweeps in Tekken... you just can't do stuff like that and expect not to piss off returning players. In a nutshell, Mitsurugi lost a TON of great moves and stance transitions. He was such a dynamic, fluid character from SC1 through SC4... but not in SC5.
It's disappointing when your favorite character (a character you've put countless hours into learning over the years) has been remodeled so drastically. Thankfully, not all returning characters were dumbed down quite as much as Mitsu, so there came a point where I had to say "f*ck it" and try out some other characters. After doing so, I found myself satisfied with other character movesets, and using some characters I didn't expect to use. The bright side about downsized movesets is that it makes learning/relearning characters less time-constraining and less intimidating. In fact, SC5 is probably the most accessible Soul Calibur ever. You might say it "levels the playing field" for returning players. For me, Ivy was a bit too gimmicky & complicated for my tastes in SC4 (although I mained her in SC2)... but I actually like her SC5 iteration (even though she's not nearly as fun or dynamic as she was in SC2). So it's really a case-by-case basis when it comes to character changes. Several characters actually do seem faster than their SC4 incarnations, and the general movement speed is "fast" & responsive, which is definitely a good thing!
New characters like Z.W.E.I. and Viola bring "magical" fighting styles into the series, and while they seem out of place at first glance, they're actually pretty cool if you give them a chance. The next generation characters like Natsu, Xiba & Leixia also bring something new to the table, but, in my opinion, really don't live up to their predecessors. I'm also incredibly surprised that the dev-team didn't bring Bangoo into the mix, because he was one of the first characters I thought of when I heard the game was set 17 years later.... Such a missed opportunity (ohh well, there's always SC6)! This time around, there are also 3 "mimic" characters, the fan favorite Kilik being one of them (a hugely controversial choice). I was ecstatic to see the return of Edge Master, but having 3 mimic characters is pretty excessive, and makes the character roster seem rushed. In my opinion, SC4's character roster was more vibrant and well-rounded in comparison.
SC5's Creation Mode offers a slew of improvements and new features over previous iterations. While it's not "perfect," it definitely raises the bar very high for fighting game customization modes. This time you can alter a character's height & width, the size of body parts, the color of weapon trails, and even some weapons themselves. You can add various items and stickers to any part of your character's body, positioning & angling them as you so desire, or place various "patterns" upon specific equipment & weapons (and customize the patterns)! A fighting style based on Devil Jin is also available exclusively in Creation Mode... a treat for the Tekken players (although I'm disappointed Devil Jin didn't make an appearance himself). Overall, the item selection in Creation is still somewhat limited, and many items are borrowed from SC4... but Namco's DLC support of the game has definitely improved the variety.
I'd like to hear the dev-team's reasoning for taking the time to render creepy-looking animal heads & silly props, instead of creating additional badass knight helms or cool samurai armor. Creation Mode seems to promote making "silly-looking" characters over "cool" ones. And as someone who prefers creating cool characters, there's not a whole lot to work with from the start. However, you do unlock new items & weapons as you play... but you probably won't even know it. Hey Namco, I'd like to be informed when I unlock a new weapon that I can customize visually! In previous SC games when you unlocked something, you received a flashy notification on the main menu, complete with a catchy sound cue! The tiny unlock notifications in SC5 are very low key and can easily be missed if you take your eyes off the screen for a second, but it's easy to see your newest goodies once you're in Creation Mode. You also have a "player level" that rises as you play through the 1P modes. Other than showing how much of the game you've played compared to others, it doesn't serve much purpose.
Creating your own character is cool and all, but my personal favorite part of Creation Mode is being able to edit the 1P & 2P costumes of the actual SC characters. There are 8 detailed layers of colors to edit on each character costume (not counting hair), and with such an expansive color palette to use, there's very little chance that 2 people will ever create the exact same color scheme... It's awesome! When you're done editing, you then pose your characters against various backgrounds & borders and creatively take a snapshot for their character icon (one of my favorite features from SC: Broken Destiny). Needless to say, Creation Mode is one of SC5's best features, and seeing the community's clever creations (and cameos) never gets old.
As far as 1-player modes go, your choices are limited. Quick Battle pits you against various custom (and normal) characters, which earns you "Street Fighter 4-style" titles (among other things) upon victories. Many of the opponents are pretty tough to beat, as the computer AI is impressively (and sometimes annoyingly) good, so there is some solid replayability there. SC5's Training Mode is quite deep and features piles of options like Command Recording, multiple CPU mode settings, and even Instant Replay... in a nutshell, it's one of the best training modes to date. Aside from those 2 modes, however, there's not much else, unfortunately. There's no Survival, no Tutorial, no Museum/Gallery (which means no Character Profiles or Weapon Demonstrations, still). Thank goodness for Online Mode...
Last Updated: 8/8/2012 Developer(s): Namco (Project Soul) Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Artwork by: Takuji Kawano (character artwork) Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360 Release Date(s): January 31st, 2012 ()
February 2nd, 2012 ()
February 3rd, 2012 ()
Characters: Siegfried, Patroklos, Natsu, Zwei, Pyrrha, Hilde, Mitsurugi, Ivy, Maxi, Astaroth, Voldo, Tira, Viola, Raphael, Nightmare, Cervantes, Yoshimitsu, Dampierre, Leixia, Xiba, Aeon Calcos, Algol, Kilik, Patroklos Alpha, Pyrrha Omega, Elysium, Edge Master, Ezio Auditore
Related Games: Soul Edge, Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur 2, Soul Calibur 3, Soul Calibur 3: Arcade Edition, Soul Calibur 4, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, Soul Calibur Legends, SSF4: Arcade Edition, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown
Gameplay Engine 8.5 / 10 Story / Theme 5.5 / 10 Overall Graphics 9.5 / 10 Animation 9.5 / 10 Music / Sound Effects 10 / 10 Innovation 7.5 / 10 Art Direction 9 / 10 Customization 10 / 10 Options / Extras 5.5 / 10 Intro / Presentation 6 / 10 Replayability / Fun 9 / 10 "Ouch" Factor 9 / 10 Characters 8 / 10
8.4 / 10
Review based on PS3 version Final Words:
Due to the amazing console installments of the series past, long time fans have come to expect a certain level of quality out of "Soul Calibur" on a home system. Sadly, SC5 lacks the epic presentation and entertaining unlockables that the series became known for in the early days. Even so, SC5 manages to shine during actual gameplay, where the lush in-game graphics and amazing music/sound quality do the talking. There is also a solid and fun gameplay system in place, which allows SC5 to hold its own. SC5 is very much an "arcade style" fighting game... and yes, even some beloved arcade fighters of the past didn't contain character endings.
We're not wrong to "expect" certain things from a series when it's delivered such quality content in the past... but does SC5 deserve a horrible rating simply because it's missing story and presentation elements? Well, if that's the case... then the highly acclaimed Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown should get an even worse score, since it has no story element at all. See, it's all about perspective... and when it comes down to it, the gameplay is what matters.
So really... how is SC5's gameplay? Well, if you ask a panel of veteran Soul Calibur fans their thoughts, you're going to get very mixed opinions. The thing about the Soul series is... depending on the characters you've decided to main over the years, you've either enjoyed the changes with each sequel or you despise them (probably a bit of both). To get the most out of SC5, you'll really have to "empty your cup" and approach it from a fresh perspective. On that note, I strongly suggest that you try out all characters... not just your returning favorites.
SC5 has significantly grown on me after playing for over half a year. Even though I don't believe it is the best gameplay experience of the series, SC5 definitely rewards practice and skill. While the new mechanics may not enhance the experience that the series was previously known for, systems like Brave Edge and Just Guard offer a unique gameplay experience that stands on its own. However, SC5 certainly doesn't come without flaws.
Of course I miss back-and-forth Guard Impact wars with fellow skilled players, and punishing spammers with GI into stylish counter combos. Now with smaller movesets, easy-to-connect super moves, and stricter defensive options, SC5 nearly "promotes" spamming and repetition... (and trolling)... it actually plays more like a 2D fighter at times. However, the streamlined system definitely has its benefits for the competitive scene. Even though SC5 lacks the 1-player experience, it has the setup of a tournament-ready fighting game and has received great support because of it.
It's understandable that returning players are discouraged to have to relearn a character they once knew so well. If you could list ALL the individual complaints that loyal players have about changes to SC4 characters' movesets, you'd have the length of a novel to read. I've actually taken a good look at complaints from the SC community, and I share some of the same general opinions. However, the good news is that it doesn't take quite as long to learn SC5 characters due to their smaller, streamlined movesets, so it's a double-edged sword.
All things must change... but why change what isn't broken? Even though SC3 & SC4 weren't perfect, they were getting somewhere. SC5 seems like a step in an entirely new direction. Instead of catering to the hardcore players, in this "chapter" they're obviously more interested in bringing new players to the scene (the developers even admitted it). Amid SC5's somewhat "casual" flavor and gameplay discrepancies, all is not lost. High level SC5 gameplay is actually pretty fun... but in order to get to that point, you have to be open to many changes. ~TFG Webmaster
Online Mode / Global Colosseo
In addition to the staple online matchmaking modes, Soul Calibur 5's online Global Colosseo features an extended lobby that allows for up to 50 players. Each player is represented by an ID card containing very detailed player data (which can be visually customized with any of your Creation Mode icons). The battle lobbies of Global Colosseo are arranged by specific locations around the world, in order to support the best connection possible. Players then place their cards in a local battle lobby where they can wait for challengers, challenge others, join a random match, chat, or even enter an online tournament. Players can also text chat as they spectate matches and view their opponent's connection quality before starting a match.
Another new online feature is the Soul Link, allowing you to choose up to 4 players to monitor their stats and activities.. kinda creepy! lol. There are also replay sharing/uploading capabilities... PSN even allows you to save replays as files so you can upload them straight to Youtube (but the quality isn't that great). The netcode had a somewhat rocky start, but it was cleaned up fairly well after the first patch.
Even with the subtle lag, I've manage to have many good matches online. Online is fairly solid overall, but I really wish Namco implemented a way to show the "disconnect rate" for players you encounter online. For some reason, I've encountered a ton of rage quitters in SC5... I've probably been cheated out of nearly 50 wins which makes my record kind of useless to me. On a more positive note, it's awesome seeing all the ridiculous (and sometimes epic) character customizations other players have created. Namco's DLC support with SC5 has also been fairly impressive and moderately priced. Once again, even though SC5 disappointed me in a few ways and isn't necessarily the Soul Calibur I've come to know and love over the years, I still find myself coming back to it and having fun (over 5 months after the release). ~TFG Webmaster