Soul Calibur V came out a year or so ago, I know. I just got it as a birthday gift last month, so, here’s my review.
First off, let me say that I am, in fact, a hugemongous Soul Calibur fan. I started the series with SoulBlade, and followed it through SoulEdge and into the SoulCalibur series (and own all of that series except SoulCalibur II). I’ve been following the convoluted story of souls for over a decade now.
I told you that to tell you this: SoulCalibur V was a huge disappointment.
I’ll start with the good. The music is excellent orchestral stuff as always, and the soundtrack CD that came with the Collector’s Edition (which also includes an Art of SoulCalibur V book and a “Making of SoulCalibur V” DVD) was worth the purchase. The graphics are the best of the series. The stages are beautifully rendered, and some have things going on in the background that were a little distracting from the fighting the first few times I saw them. The characters simply have never looked better. The Creation mode has more options than ever before, making it quite easy to create very personalized characters, and I really appreciated the ability to modify almost all dimensions of the body types (a big-boobed woman trying to fling around Maxi’s nunchaku is going to have very bruised breasts and suck at fighting). The stickers and weapon effects are a nice touch, as is the ability to take a photo of your created character for their pre-fight picture. The bonus character this game is Ezio Audittore from the Assassin’s Creed series, and he rocks. He is great fun to play, and his moves and abilities make sense. Another plus is the availability of a fighting style from Namco’s Tekken series, Devil Jin style, which none of the roster characters use; it’s a very fun and enjoyable style to use.
Now the bad. . .and there’s so, so much of it.
I’ll start where I ended the good: Devil Jin style is available; all of the other non-roster styles from SC3 and SC4 are gone. No sickle, no grieve edge, nothing else.
Also missing: a shit-ton of characters. Setsuke, Taki, Sophitia, Cassandra, Seung-Mina, Yun-Seong, Hwang Sung-Yeong, Talim, Zasalamel, Xianghua, Rock – all gone. The storyline takes place 17 years after SC4 so it does make sense that some of the characters would be dead or retired, but still, this roster really took a severe hit. In the cases of Taki, Setsuke, Cassandra, Xianghua, and Sophitia, there are new characters that use their styles, but you know, it’s just not the same (and having Pyrrha, Sophitia’s daughter, use her mother’s trademark crotch-in-your-face throw on her brother Patroklos is just a little weird).
Story Mode took a major hit too. In SC4 and previous games, Story Mode was short and each character had their own story endings. In SC5, there is one story, and it’s Patroklos trying to find and save his sister Pyrrha. It took me a little over three hours to complete, and there’s only one ending. That’s it. There’s no stories for the other characters, there’s no bios for the other characters, there’s nothing much about them at all except that they exist. They’re all usable online and in Arcade Mode and training mode, but without being able to unlock some info about them, it’s pretty difficult to care. (Except about Ivy, who is still my dream woman.)
Really, the only reason I found to keep playing after beating Story Mode (other than the sheer pleasure of smacking digitized people around with edged weapons) was unlocking new items for Creation mode by gaining player levels. Oh, and all those effects that your clothing and equipment choices made in other games? GONE. No more trying to balance your equipment to give you access to better abilities. Your clothing and weapons make absolutely no functional difference anymore. I can understand simplifying the system a bit for new players, but it lost a fun level of complexity there.
The addition of the Soul Gauge, which powers up your moves and can be used to unleash a Critical Edge move when full, didn’t bother me much one way or the other, except that it’s so easy to block or avoid the CE moves that using them becomes a dangerous proposition. Guard Impacts are now also dependent on there being a charge present in the Soul Gauge, a change I didn’t like much at all. Perhaps using Guard Impacts to charge the Gauge would have been better, but what do I know? It did make the game feel a bit more like a Capcom fighting game, but if I wanted to play the Capcom Way, I’d buy a Capcom fighting game (I have several already, thanks).
Oh, and if you played SC4 and thought Algol was a cheap boss. . .fight Nightmare at the end of Arcade Mode and you will miss Algol. The end-boss cheapness also feels more like Capcom than Namco, the difference being that you can’t use Galactus and see how much different it is to play as him. You can play as Nightmare and realized how sped-up and uber-cheap the AI is in the final boss fight.
And did we really need three different characters that just use other peoples’ styles? The unlockable Edge Master, Kilik, and Elysium are all clone characters. Those three slots could have gone to new characters with different styles.
I have heard that the online mode is really really good; I wouldn’t know from experience as I don’t play games online very much. Maybe Namco did right by the online players with SC5, but it doesn’t feel like they gave much of a damn about the offline players.
There’s just not much here for us offline people, and little reason to keep replaying once you’ve unlocked all the characters. Honestly, once I’d unlocked the characters, I went right back to playing Arkham City, trying to beat all the challenge maps.
There’s some good and a lot of bad in SoulCalibur V. It could have been worse, but it could have been a whole lot better.
P.S. As cheap a final boss as Nightmare is in Arcade Mode, the characters in Legendary Souls Mode are much, much worse. Seriously, this mode makes me completely disgusted with the game. It’s so ridiculously difficult with characters moving at lightspeed, using unbreakable combos over and over again, and perfectly countering your moves that it’s really just not worth playing. The time investment required to get good enough at the game to handle this mode is not rewarded in any way, and the unlockables you can get from it can be obtained much more easily (and with much less profanity) by just playing through Arcade Mode again and again to get your player level up. Really, fuck this mode and whoever at Namco thought that “cheap” equals “enjoyable difficulty.”