Soul Caliber has been a long running series, (arguably) beginning on the Dreamcast in 1999. When I first played Soul Caliber, I immediately became a fan. After Soul Caliber II was released, I was hooked. Link and I became a lot closer, after working our way through the incredible story mode. Sadly, my fandom tapered off after not being able to play Soul Caliber III. I slowly stopped paying attention to the franchise, almost forgetting the passion I once had for it. But, Soul Caliber V has just dropped and I’m ready to dive back into Namco’s fictional world.
Soul Caliber V (SCV) brings a new story to light, taking place 17 years after Soul Caliber IV. The two children of Sophia, Patroklos and Pyrrha, have to travel across Europe to find a cure for Pyrrha’s malfestation (a curse that is contracted by contact with the evil sword, Soul Edge). This is really the entire summary of the main story, because it is painfully thin. The story mode almost seemed to be an afterthought, with only about an hour’s worth of content. In previous Soul Caliber games, you had a multitude of special fights and challenges to accomplish. I remember spending days attempting to get through the story mode, while never getting bored. Sadly, SCV seems to have abandoned the story mode, making for quite the disappointing experience.
The entire story only consists of about 20 fights and a few cutscenes. The story is primarily told by showing a picture of the characters and having a dialogue play. Also, you can only play as Patroklos or his sister, but they both have very similar fighting styles. This wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the awkward way that they both handled. It made me feel like I was trapped in the story, instead of involved with it. Really, though, one of my favorite parts about fighting games in general is beating the campaign with my favorite characters, to see how each story ends. Sadly, by leaving out the ability to play with other characters in the story mode, they’ve created a terribly underwhelming campaign. This is all terribly disappointing, considering how good it could have been.
The roster of SCV has taken a bit of a hit, losing many iconic fighters. This is explained through the elapsed time from the end of Soul Caliber IV, replacing many favorites with new versions of them. Not to say they’re remaking the characters, but they made new characters with similar clothing, weapons, and fighting styles of the originals. Honestly, I wish they’d just left in some of the originals, instead of making players learn to use this “off-brand” version of the classics. Still, they kept a lot of the fan favorites from the previous games. You’ll still be able to see Ivy scantily clad in her “armor” and you can still kick ass with (my personal favorite) Cervantes, as well as many others. Besides, I think they intended for players to use the Character Creation Modes to resurrect their favorite characters. Ezio Auditore makes the cameo for SCV, keeping in tradition with completely nonsensical cameos. I mean, I’ve got nothing against playing as Ezio, he’s actually a pretty decent fighter, but it feels like the franchise really “Jumped the Shark” with the Star Wars cameos in Soul Caliber IV. Now, these novelty characters are just a part of what comes with playing the games.
The combat itself felt strange, compared to Soul Caliber IV. It seemed like there was no fluidity to the motion and attacks of the characters, making the entire game feel clunky and awkward. Do you remember Sophia from the games? Do you remember how her character felt stiff and lifeless, forcing you to just repeat her best move repeatedly? That’s Soul Caliber V in a nutshell. I’m not sure how or why, but none of the characters move smoothly. Now, I’m sure that there are plenty of Soul Caliber fanboys that are willing to troll all over the comments, but I can’t ignore clunky game controls. When it comes to fighting games, controls are the most vital part.
The character creation mode is one of the most immense things I’ve ever seen in a game. If there’s a way to do character creation right, SCV has certainly found it. The level of detail that you are able to manipulate is truly incredible, allowing you to create completely unique characters. Whether you want to create the most badass character to walk the virtual planes, or create some terrifying abomination of nature, SCV gives you that ability. To be honest, I think I enjoyed creating characters more than any other aspect of the game. It’s an addictive type of fun, which will quickly sap hours of your life away. Meanwhile, you can fill your custom rosters with any fighter you can imagine. Also, after viewing all of the characters that people have made, maybe the creation mode offers a little too much customization…there are some strange people out there. God…the horror.
The online capabilities of SCV are probably the best out of the entire franchise. The layout of the lobbies, as well as the menus, allow for easy navigation into whatever match you are looking for. While the matches do have their moments of lag, out of the matches that I played, I encountered very little problems. They tend to run quite smoothly, allowing for you to fight your peers at the top of your game. Of course, the people who frequent the multiplayer modes of fighting games are never the people you want to play. If you’re up for the challenge, you will certainly find one online. Otherwise, it is the easiest way to feel bad about yourself and possibly break a controller.
The graphics and audio are up to par with the rest of the franchise, offering fully detailed fighters, arenas and many unique tracks to fight to. While the in-game graphics are nothing to marvel at, they certainly hold their own against most games that are currently on the shelves. The cinematics are well rendered and gorgeous, which you should really savor, considering their rarity. The music is a somewhat mixed topic for me, since it is exactly the same as the previous games. If you’ve enjoyed the soundtracks of Soul Caliber - Soul Caliber IV, then you’ll certainly enjoy what SCV has to offer. If you’re like me, then you’ve never really enjoyed the music in the first place. So, don’t expect to have a change of heart while playing through this game.
Soul Caliber V is a tough review for me to write, since I’m torn between wanting to love any game with “Soul Caliber” on it, but I really didn’t enjoy this fifth installment that much. While the character creation and online play are some of the best on the current consoles, Soul Caliber V falls short in almost every other department. Some may absolutely love this game, based on the multiplayer alone, but the lack of depth in most of the game’s content forced me to feel shorted. While this is a solid rental for any fan of fighting games, I can’t advise the lovers of the Soul Caliber franchise to rush out and buy this sequel.
I give Soul Caliber V 2.5 ”Horrific Creations” out of 5
By Blake Edwards