SoulCalibur V – Review & Game Analysis
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Project Soul
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Director: Daishi Odashima
Composers: Junichi Nakatsuru, Hiroki Kikuta, Inon Zur, Cris Velasco, Andrew Aversa, Tomoki Miyoshi
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
Though I could never call myself a connoisseur of the fighter genre, for me, the SoulCalibur series has always represented the pinnacle of that form. The characters are uniformly interesting in terms of aesthetics and combat style, the environments are varied and gorgeous, and more than anything, the fluid, nearly photo-real sense of movement conveyed by SoulCalibur V makes you feel as if you really have the fighting prowess of a demigod. Though Project Soul’s newest iteration of the franchise has a very “back to basics” feel and fails utterly on a story level (especially when compared to earlier sequels), I can’t help but give it a high mark because of its utterly beautiful hand-to-hand combat scenarios.
On a gameplay level, the engine delivers on all fronts with a perfect response time and a staggering level of smoothness. For newcomers to the franchise, a “Critical Edge” system has been implemented that allows rookies to perform complex moves with the same flourish as veterans. A new gauge has been added to the SoulCalibur V interface, called the “Critical Gauge,” making its return from previous installments. The gauge can either enhance moves or be powered up to deliver massive, singular attacks. Two new blocking moves have been added, as well as the ability to sidestep attacks (and avoid those endless match-ending chain combos). These additions all give the duels that extra layer that makes them much more exciting.
The graphics, as is typical for the franchise, are unparalleled. The character designs, down to the lip syncing and the tailoring of the fighters’ uniforms, are extremely detailed, as is the fluidity and grace of the moves meted out during each match. The battle stages change as each fight unfolds, with some that take damage and devolve depending on the fighters’ actions. A much-needed improvement has been added to the battle arenas, in that now it is much more difficult to drop off the level’s edges – a level quirk that diminished the appeal of fights in past SoulCalibur games.
Though my favorite fighter from the past games – the bow staff-wielding Kilik – is absent from the fighter roster in SoulCalibur V, some creative new additions help to compensate. Protagonist Patrklos’ fighting style shares much in common with Cassandra, while Fiona brings some of Kilik’s long-range ferocity to the table with the implementation of her fighting Orb. Also, to satisfy Assassin’s Creed fans (there are many), main character Ezio from that franchise has been added as a new fighter. Ezio utilizes much of the arsenal from his own series, mixing close-up and ranged attacks for what makes for a pretty well rounded fighter.
The most relevant addition to SoulCalibur V, resurrected from past sequels, is a character creation mode that, despite some drawbacks, comes as a fun bonus. The items you unlock as you progress through the game’s campaign come into play here, and the options are myriad for which direction you choose to take your make-a-fighter. The main flaw to this system is that the customization is purely aesthetic. With the exception of Devil Jin’s fighting style, imported from Tekken, the combat styles of the customized players are just recycled from other combatants on the roster.
The highlight of SoulCalibur V’s smooth-running multiplayer mode is the Global Colosseo lobby, which hosts random tournaments and matches across the world. The single-player campaign is extremely fun and engaging, but for those hungry for a quality story to backdrop the action, this sequel leaves much to be desired. The cut-scenes are spare, with storyboards and text mostly motivating the plot, and what’s more, the characters each lack endings that would lend context and form to the story that is sorely needed. That being said, those shopping around in the fighting genre should be focused primarily on the combat experience, and on that level, SoulCalibur V is peerless.
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