Review by DarklordIV
The Tale of Souls and Swords Retold, but should it have been retold?
Soul Calibur V is a mixed package to say the least. I've been a fan of the soul series since Soul Calibur 2 and each game since has introduced some changes that have mixed things up. Soul Calibur 3 introduced a character customization mode and two single-player modes, one involving the current story and the other focusing on unique plot. Soul Calibur 4 also brought in some changes: it expanded on the character customization mode, introduced a limited, but still fun tag-team function; changed the combat to balance out the characters and play styles and online competition to find fresh opponents to test your skill against.
But despite these changes, each game still felt like Soul Calibur. They all had stable characters while still leaving room to introduce new ones to expand the mythos of this series. Each character had their own motivation, story and ending in relation to the swords Soul Calibur and Soul Edge.
Soul Calibur V changes a lot, but maybe too much. It's literally on the border from becoming unrecognizable as a Soul Series game. Luckily, a stronger combat system, enhanced customization and varied online content keep the soul of this game strong.
So let's start with this game's weakest portion.
The overall story of Soul Calibur features warriors from across the world with various styles and motivations being drawn into a conflict centering around an eternal battle between two swords: Soul Calibur, the spirit sword of purity and righteousness and Soul Edge, a demonic sword of evil that possesses the one who wields it. In the last Soul Calibur game, the current conflict came to a climatic showdown which depowered or destroyed both swords.
This game picks up seventeen years later as the eternal battle prepares to start again with newly chosen wielders for Soul Calibur and Soul Edge. However, while this series has always been marveled for having a followable and engaging plot as to why everyone is fighting, Soul Calibur V fails to deliver on this potential and it shows in the story mode. The one-player story mode is barely even complete, in fact developers admitted that it was 1/4th shorter than they had planned. This wouldn't be a problem since plans can fall through, but the main protagonist is such a weak character...I'm baffled as to how anyone thought following him would be a good idea.
At least it would have been a good idea if it wasn't handled so terribly!
Patrokolos, son of Sophitia, will be the character who the story mode has you play as for the vast majority of the story. Occasionally, you'll switch to his sister, Pyrrha, but you're mostly stuck with Patrokolos. I'm really resisting the urge to tell you why he fails as a main protagonist because that list would be long...but let's just say that from the first moment you see him, you'll question why this weak-willed brat is the "hero" of the story. Then, the story mode doesn't even show half of the cast in the game and those who do appear barely have any lines or relevance aside from fighting you.
It was great to see a story mode that actually follows "a story", but it was implemented very poorly. Fortunately, it only takes a few hours to complete and then you can erase it from your memory like I did before I had to write this review...but alas...I'll live.
Personally, Pyrrha, ZWEI, Xiba or Siegfried would have made better main protagonists.
The rest of the offline offering is okay...nothing good and nothing bad. The arcade mode is pretty short, Legendary Souls will frustrate even veteran players and playing against the computer is only fun and challenging for so long...
The character roster still stays true to mixing combat styles from around the world. Characters like Mitsurugi, Nightmare, and Ivy are still around with absent characters being represented by successors including Leixia representing her mother Xianghua; Xiba for Kilik and Seong Mina; and Sophitia's children for...Sophitia. I'm sad that some characters like Talim, Zasalamel, Yeong-Sung, Cassandra, and Rock are completely absent without even an explanation as to why they're not in the game. I know it's inevitable that not all characters will be able to return since there's a time skip involved...but that doesn't take away the sting. Though, out of the new characters: ZWEI and Pyrrha are my personal favorites in regards to character and combat style and Xiba is pretty funny too.
The combat is still soul calibur, but fine-tuned in favor of aggressive fighting rather than defensive. Player's now have the choice to use special attacks once a meter is filled up that implement short cutscenes where each character thrashes their opponent in a unique fashion.
Online is superb and fun, allowing players to chat online before you fight and you can even select the region and skill level that you're after. Which means you can be a relative rookie and seek out more experienced players to test your might against.
Character customization is back with a vengeance. Original Characters can be customized to a certain degree while you're given complete freedom when creating a new character. You can change body mass, height, proportion, and even alter armor however you wish. This allows for a lot of creativity and the in-game engine allows for your character to look as authentic as the actual roster.
So we have a lackluster story mode and not a lot of offline content, a great online mode, expanded character customization, a retooled fighting combat system, and a roster featuring characters old and new. In short, the game functions well while the narrative suffers from terrible writing decisions. So here's how we break this down:
If you're a fan of the soul series whose followed up from earlier games like Soul Calibur 2 or even Soul Blade for the Playstation, you're going to be a tad bit disappointment from some of the changes. However, this is still a solid fighting game and I'd recommend it to Soul series fans if just for the online content and being able to try out some of these new characters.
Admittingly, an 8/10 is gracious, but most of my problems with this game stem from things that weren't in the game that I wanted to have in it. It's unfair to give it a 7/10 just because Seong Mina isn't included, it's good as a fighting game, which is most important.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: SoulCalibur V (US, 01/31/12)
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