Lately, the fighting game scene has been dominated by 2-D franchises like last year’s Mortal Kombat and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, so the recent release of Soulcalibur V is a welcomed one. For those unfamiliar with the genre, Soulcalibur is a weapons-based, 3-D fighting game featuring horizontal, vertical, and kick attacks.
Core basics aside, there have been a number of significant changes, key among them being the removal of the Soul Gauge and the introduction of the Critical Gauge. This new gauge functions similarly to the super meters in just about every other fighting game, filling up as you give and take damage so that you can use it later to execute a flashy super move (“critical edge”) or to beef up a normal one (“brave edge”). Parries have also been replaced with a more advanced Guard Impact that repels any attack at cost of some Critical Gauge. More advanced players will be glad to hear the 8-Way Run system is still in place, but with the addition of a double-tap for side-stepping. This new fighting system runs smoothly for newbies and veterans alike, but some may find themselves disappointed with its similarity to other franchises. While the game boasts some new characters, most of them play like older characters with new skins, notable exceptions being Natsu (Taki’s demon-imbued apprentice), Ezio (of Assasin’s Creed fame), and Devil Jin (accessibly only by character customization).
That being said, there is a lot to desire outside of actual matches. The story mode follows Patroklos (and only Patroklos), son of Sophitia from previous installments, on his quest to rid his sister of the “malfestation” that has befallen her from contact with Soul Edge. This is a twist for any fighting game, as convention is to have a brief story for every character to tell a greater story from multiple perspectives, but while the idea is a step in the right direction, its execution is definitely flawed.
The plot itself isn’t that interesting, and the few redeeming cut scenes are overshadowed by endless storyboarding and poor voice acting. More often than not, players will find themselves frustrated with Patroklos. This forces players to endure a story they probably won’t care for with a character they might not be comfortable with. The standard arcade and quick battle modes are still present but none are all that impressive.
However, to judge a fighting game by its lack of an immersive single player wouldn’t be fair. Visually, the character designs and stages are wonderful to look at, with some stages even featuring multiple tiers. True to expectations, the franchise still boasts the most expansive customization system of any fighting game. Players can detail just about every feature, from their character’s voice to their facial scars. The clothing selection itself ranges from suits of armor to polka-dotted miniskirts. While move sets are borrowed from the game’s pre-existing characters, it’s important to note that height will actually affect game play through reach and attack rating. You can even bring your custom characters online, which is where most of the fun is anyway. Making people rivals allows head-to-head stat comparison, and thanks to Global Colosseo, you can even meet other players locally.
While certainly not the pinnacle of the franchise, Soulcalibur V is a great game with solid ame play. Diehard fans and new players alike will be able to enjoy it so long as they aren’t afraid to play online, but if they’re looking for something with an in-depth and moving story, Soulcalibur V is not the best choice.