Soul Calibur V Review

Soul Calibur has become an iconic benchmark in the world of fighting games, with a history that dates back to 1996. Back then, people went to these things called arcades: dark rooms filled with giant black cubes featuring a big screen and joysticks which allowed groups of people to play games together before they were released on consoles.

Or, if you’re too young to have ever been to an arcade, now we have Xbox LIVE with friends sitting next to you.

Despite numerous name changes to avoid Tim Langdell potentially suing them, Soul Calibur became a huge success. Fusing the fast paced, high octane action of beat ’em ups like Tekken with intense weapon based combat, Project Soul had built a game that offered something fun and completely different to what was already on the market; at the same time, they  managed to avoid alienating the fighting game enthusiasts.

So, sixteen years on from the original Soul Edge, how does Soul Calibur V stack up?

SoulCaliburV_27The first thing I do with any game that offers me a “create-a…” mode is delve straight in and make me a character fit for destruction. Soul Calibur V‘s create-a-fighter mode at first glance appears to be near-identical to those of the previous installments. It still follows the traditional “pick a fighting style,” “pick a hair” and so on. But it’s not until you look deeper that you are exposed to the wonders of the new create system.

There’s a handful of new hair and gear as expected, but what makes the mode so addictive is all the little add-ons and tweaks Project Soul have implemented. Tattoos and designs can now be placed anywhere, as can scars. Weapons can now be colored and effects added. You can even go as far as adding objects to the player character! Wanted a lip ring? Grab two earrings, smush them together and drag them into place and voilà!

These may all sound like superficial and unnecessary features but they really do add something extra to an already magnificent create mode.

Once I’ve made the perfect character to fight with – something that admittedly takes me longer than it should – the next thing is to test them out in a match.

I don’t know who’s idea it was to change up the button config of Cervantes but whoever you are, you suck!

Combat plays in the same way of Soul Calibur IV. That may sound like a negative but it’s not. Sometimes fighting games don’t need to change the formula to improve. Tweak it until it’s right. Balence if where needed. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

It’s a shame that principle wasn’t applied to Cervantes.

One great addition to the combat comes in the form of Edge attacks. Get beaten to a pulp and your bar charges. Once filled, the player can unleash one of a handful of super attacks. Unlike Street Fighter‘s super combos, they’re not as game breaking (Akum+Raging Demon=Win). They merely add another way for a player to turn the tide of battle or gain some much needed space between you and your foe.

Graphically speaking, again, it looks very similar to Soul Calibur IV. At the risk of repeating myself even further, that isn’t a bad thing. Soul Calibur IV looked amazing at the time and still does to this day. Soul Calibur V takes the same vibrant and visceral visuals and cranks it up with some new touches. If your time’s spent staring at the character models then you’ll be missing out. What makes this latest entry more luscious than it’s predecessor is hidden in the background.

Remember playing Street Fighter 2 and laughing at some random guy moving his fist up and down? That’s how Project Soul have approached SCV.

Levels are no longer set on run of the mill backdrops. One level in specific makes me squeal with delight every time it’s on screen. Two combatants fight in the foreground, while in the background, hundreds of warriors are going at it! Some on ground level, some on the back of an Elephant! Yeah! Elephants in the background swinging their tusks wildly towards anyone who dares to tug on their trunk!

If only the story had the same epic feel.

The story in SCV focuses around Patroklos and his sister/love interest Pyrrha. The children of former Soul Calibur favorite Sophitia.

Interestingly Patroklos is a name from Ancient Greek mythology that means “glory of the father.” Which is handy seeing as the story is built around them and their mother. Ahem …

In case you’re wondering, the name Pyrrha (in Greek Mythology) was translated from the Latin word “pyrrhus” and the Greek term πυρρός (purros) meaning ‘flame colored, the color of fire’ or ‘red’ or ‘reddish’.

Interesting stuff I know! Sadly that’s where it ends.

Story mode would be great for insomniacs as the repetition of starring at an image while some guy reads the text for you gets very tedious and is sure to put even the biggest Soul Calibur fans to sleep.

When a video cut-scene rolls, the game comes alive, despite attempts from Patroklos to ruin it; who, by all accounts, is the most annoyingly wet character I’ve ever played as, and I’ve played as Ethan Waber! The problem lies with the use of text and image combos SoulCaliburV_23over paying for full video cut-scenes.

I accepted the excuse “it’s a fighting game, it doesn’t have to have a good story” back in the nineties, but not any more. Why is it that beat ’em ups get a free pass when it comes to story mode? What would happen if RPG makers said “oh, it’s an RPG, it doesn’t have to have a good story?” Admittedly Two Worlds did exactly that, but there’s no reason for it.

If you’re going to add a story mode, do it properly!

Poor writing, horrible characterization and archaic story-telling is made worse when we learn that Patroklos and Pyrrha are related. That may not sound like a problem until certain comments make you wonder just how “close” the two were.

“I wish I could hear him say my name one more time!” says Pyrrha at one point. That’s not the comment of a sister made about a brother she misses! Incest doesn’t sell folks!

Unless you’re George R. R. Martin that is.

My first thought when I perused the menus was “where’s the Tower of Lost Souls?” I loved that mode. It added enjoyment balanced with the right amount of challenge for us die-hard fans. So what’s in it’s place?

Arcade has been dwindled down to six consecutive fights and the endings have been removed in favor of story mode, a decision that I’m still scratching my head about.

A ridiculously hard versus mode was added which plays out as so: Miss a block or fail a 27 hit combo, the CPU will hit you with, what feels like, a three hit combo that rips half your health off and then juggles you into the air so they can hit another three hit combo that finishes you off. It’s grossly unbalanced and I fail to see the point of it.

Soul Calibur V isn’t a giant leap forwards in terms of visuals and gameplay and is lacking in longevity. But what it does deliver is a satisfying dose of beat ’em up glory. Sure, the story is awful and outdated, but the combat is a good as it’s ever been, perhaps even better! Plus, it has Ezio Auditore as a guest character! What more could you want from a fighting game?

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Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland

Born in Cyrodiil but raised in Ferelden, more commonly known as England. Wesley Copeland is a passionate writer with more opinions than an ostrich.
Wesley Copeland

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