Transcending history and the world, a tale of souls and swords. Eternally Retold…
There was a time when these words got me pretty excited over a game as I knew that I was about to play a fighting game which stood above many of the others. Soul Edge/Blade on the PS1 is one of my favourite games from that console generation and I haven’t met any gamer who has a bad thing to say about soul calibur 1 & 2. But then time was not kind to the series and after the next 2 games, the series really felt like it was in its dying throes and doomed to being a relic and slowly forgotten. But now, 3 years later, Namco have decided to have another crack at the genre and provided us with the 5th in the soul calibur series (and 6th Overall).
Namco decided to do a “Tekken 3” on us and set the next game 17 years after the events of Soul Calibur IV and in doing so, pretty much removed most of the previous cast and replaced them with younger “disciples,” keeping very few of the original cast. So just as how Heihachi Mishima, Paul Phoenix, kuma, yoshimitsu and the williams sisters are the only characters to have appeared in every Tekken game so far, now only Mitsurugi, Voldo and Sigfried have appeared in every soul game. Naturally, this didn’t go down too smoothly with some of the fanbase but for the most part, there are characters which play in the same style of almost every previous character… (Damn you Namco, where’s my Talim?)
The game introduces the children of Sophitia as the main characters in this game and they take center stage on the story mode. Aside from story mode, there’s also the obligatory arcade and training mode and also a new mode called quick battle. Quick battle is an interesting addition which has been done in a few games before. Basically, it’s an offline mode where you pit your skills against specially created AI opponents which range from weak E5 enemies to demonic A1 monsters! And if you’re a real glutton for punishment (or an amazing player) you can try out the legendary battle mode where you fight absurdly powerful opponents one after another (I beat the first opponent to unlock him as a playable character and that took some effort!!).
Online mode has also gone and had an overhaul. Along with ranked and player matches, there’s now a new option called global Colosseum where players can join a room in their area and chat with other players while waiting to be randomly paired up with other players for matches. At the time of writing, the rooms have yet to be populated to a decent level yet but that’s how it’s meant to work in any case. And, of course, Create a Character has been given an overhaul so you have more control over your custom characters looks.
The question is whether or not SCV can impress once more after the very disappointing SCIV…
- It’s a thriller, thriller night – Damage levels are still pared back from earlier games but it didn’t take long for me to get some good matches going with other players which went down to the wire. This tension in matches was something I felt was missing in the last couple of games where you either overwhelmed or were overwhelmed.
- Workable online – It’s no Blazblue but the online mode is pretty solid from what I’ve seen so far. There were some rough patches at the start but once things smoothed out, the game played rather well. There was some noticeable latancy in the moves input but for the most part, timings in SC games aren’t too strict anyway.
- Fast but punchy – The characters move rather quickly in the game, much like in SCIV but the moves feel like they have more punch to them, while SC3 and IV felt a little weightless, at least to me.
- Well proportioned characters (Kinda) – We’ve all made jokes about Ivy and her gigantic balloons strapped to her chest but this time, they’ve toned her down to more managable proportions and even made her dress up a little more too! But it’s not just her, Characters like Astaroth and Nightmare started getting ridiculously beefy, to the point where they would make Marcus Fenix look lanky. Now, they’re leaner but just as mean!
- No Love for the loner – One of my biggest gripes about the game is that it’s geared almost exclusively towards getting players fighting eachother. There are single player modes in the game but they feel incomplete and the game feels like it’s forcing you to go online more than any other fighting game. Hell, You don’t even get epilogues for the characters if you finish arcade mode with them! After the high of playing the game for the first time, you realise that there’s not that much to do in the game on your own…
- Patroklos – MY GOD!! I don’t think I’ve seen such a douchebag of a main character in a game for a very long time. For the main hero of the game, he is insufferable! Take the arrogance, stupidity and lack of responsibility from Luke von Fabre from Tales of the Abyss, crank it up a notch or 2 and remove any points of sympathy or redemption in his plot and you have this dick! I must confess that I had a massive smile on my face when he met Nightmare for the first time in story mode.
- No longer Eternally Retold – Story mode is a bit of a joke in this game. Of course, nothing will come even close to the edge master mode in soul edge/blade but the story mode in SCV doesn’t do a job as a tutorial! Decent players will complete it in just a few hours and the game only covers Patroklos and Pyrrah. You use Z.W.E.I a few times and the other 2 get new moves sets later on but that’s it. If you want to know how the other characters fit into the story of this game or even their relationships with eachother, you can forget it!! You don’t even get anything in arcade mode! For a fighting game which worked hard to build up its mythology and lore, this is a pretty big slap to the face. but I have to give it kudos for referencing the original point of soul calibur, when it was one of a trio of chinese artifacts as opposed to what it became later in the series. Guess I’ll have to stick to Blazblue for story in my fighting games!
- weaker lineup – This is a personal thing but I felt that the character lineup for SCV was somewhat weaker than previous games. I also find it hard to justify having 3 characters who use other peoples styles… Admittedly, they are subtly different (one mimics all the ladies, another does the men and the 3rd does everyone) but one still feels like the spaces could be better used.
- Harada – There’s a character in quick battle who’s based off Harada, the producer of Tekken and he’s given the moveset for devil Jin. He’s also one hell of a cheap MOFO!!! Damn him!!
Soul Calibur V has been picking up some pretty strong scores from review publications and, for the most part, they’re around the right mark. Personally, I would mark it a bit lower if I gave out scores simply because, while the mechanics and the system are very well done, I can’t help but shake the feeling that the single player parts in particular, are kinda half baked. Like they wanted more time to finish it off completely but decided to just trim bits off instead and hope that players don’t notice. We end up taking things like endings for characters in arcade mode for granted because we don’t read too much into the story (who cares about what Streetfighter characters get up to, right?) but when they are gone, it just doesn’t feel quite right. Especially for a game like Soul Calibur. I wouldn’t be surprised if Namco does a capcom and announces a “super” Soul Calibur V less than a year down the line and use the title to give us more background for the other characters and whatnot!
Still, the game is still very fun and that’s what really matters so it’s a good time to get some games going while the iron is hot because come March, I’m pretty sure that many players will jump ship over to Streetfighter x Tekken!!