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GAME REVIEW: SoulCalibur V

Posted on February 5, 2012

Developer: Project Soul

Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Release Date: January 31, 2012

It's been a good four years since the last installment of Soul Calibur, and not much has changed. That isn't a bad thing though, as SoulCalibur V is the same game we have all grown to love. If you have enjoyed the Soul series, I'm sure you'll find this latest game fairly enjoyable. This may not have made much of an impression as the first two SoulCalibur games though, but for the most part this game is a solid fighter that looks and plays beautifully. With several new characters (including Assassin's Creed's own Ezio) and the return of many other favorites, you'll be hacking and slashing your way through the online ranks, and maybe finding yourself playing the game's forgettable story mode.

The SoulCalibur series is one of the best 3D weapon-based fighters out there. The buttons are simple, using three buttons to attack (horizontal attack, vertical attack, kick) and one to guard. Every character uses a wide range of attacks and combos, and with a little time and practice, you'll be able to pull most of these off. The game isn't too difficult to learn, so everyone could have fun performing some awesome looking moves. Of course, the game isn't easy once you end up going against a veteran SoulCalibur player.

The "Critical Finish" and the "Soul Guage" introduced from the last game are gone. Instead, we get the new super meter that allows for powerful attacks called "Brave Edge" and "Critical Edge." The Brave Edge allows users to enhance certain moves by pressing all attack buttons together right after input. This will take 50% of your special gauge. Likewise, you have the Critical Edge, which performs an attack that deals large amounts of damage, but uses up 100% of the special gauge. For those similar with Street Fighter IV, Brave Edge = EX SPecials, and Critical Edge = Ultra combos.

You also have Guard Impacts, which are timed blocks that leaves your opponent open for major punishment. This has been around since the beginning of the Soul series, but now they cost some special meter to pull-off.

As for different modes you could play, you get Legendary Souls, Arcade, Quick Battle, versus, training, Story mode and Creation mode. Legendary Souls is a super difficult ladder where you face off against the strongest fighters in the SoulCalibur universe. Trust me, it'll definitely drive your patience. Quick Battle is kind of like online play, except it isn't online. You play CPU opponents who are suposed to play similar to players you would meet online. I guess this mode is there for those without Internet access. Arcade, versus and training are standard, and creation mode allows players to create their own fighter. And of course, you have online versus, where you get to play people all around the world on Xbox Live or the PSN.

Then you have story mode, which is more miss than hit. The story focuses on two new characters, Patroklos and Pyrrha, both siblings and children of Sophitia, one of the staple characters of the Soul series. You play Patroklos throughout most of the story (with a couple others), but for the most part, it's all Patroklos. Now, that's great in terms of delivering a more focused, linear storyline, but limiting the use of other characters made story mode seem a little flat. You get to fight most of the roster though, but after that's all done, they're pretty much just forgotten. It seemed as though characters were thrown into the mix just the mere sake of having them in the story. Some characters don't even make appearances at all.

If anything, the story mode is the biggest letdown of the game. The story is underwritten, the dialogue is flat, and the cutscenes are nothing more than still images with voice overs. Nothing too special. But hey, fighting games aren't about the story, right?

Aside the game's great depth and gameplay mechanics, the one thing that really stood out from the series was how gorgeous each game looked, and SCV looks fantastic. Ever since the first SoulCalibur that debuted on the Sega Dreamcast, the franchise was known to be a known for its wonderful visuals, its awesome character designs and backgrounds, and SCV lives up to the reputation. All the colors on screen really pop and the animation is superb.

The music is great too, and sometimes it just totally fits the mood. Lovely, orchestrated pieces play while you duel to the death, swinging and your weapon around at your opponent while things crumble around you in the background. It's awesome! But you know what isn't awesome? A lot of the cheesy, corny dialogue.

Seeing how SCV is a fighting game, replay value really depends on how much time you invest in getting better, and whether or not you're competitive. Yes, here are a couple of modes you could play, but they're all fairly similar. Either you play the CPU, you play against a human opponent locally or online, or you can go play training mode to better your skills. But as any gamer who loves the fighting genre, online play is where you're probably going to spend most of your time at. So replay value could range from minimal, to plenty, depending on who you have to play, and whether or not you could put the controller down when playing online.

Or, you might find yourself fiddling around with Creation, which is basically Create-A-Soul/Character Creation from the last two games, you'll be able to make your own fighter by equipping certain clothes, equipment, accessories, and much more. You'll be able to change colors on your outfit, give you male character female attire and vice versa, put on make-up, change hair styles, weight, voice pitch... you name it! You can literally go crazy with this thing, and you might end up spending a lot of time on this if you start getting creative.

Creation mode only effects how your characters are presented though, and not how they actually play. All the available move sets you could apply to your creations are taken from characters on the existing roster. The only exception would be the Devil Jin move set from the Tekken series. Still, playing around with different combinations to create something awesome could get kind of addicting. After you're done making some amazing (or horridly awful) creations, you'll be able to use your custom fighters on any play mode, for the exception of story mode.

Whenever there's a new installment of any fighting game, the biggest questions is: who are the new characters? Well, in SCV, many franchise favorites return, and there are over ten new characters to choose from. Unfortunately, a lot of those characters are either upgraded versions of an existing one, an ancestor of a previous Soul character who plays similarly, or a mimic. For instance, you have Kilik, who randomly mimics the moves of all the male characters, Elysium, who does the same but with all female characters, and Blade Master, who randomly mimics everyone. You also have Yan Leixia, the daughter of past Soul character Xianghua, to whom she plays very similar too, and Aeon Calcos, who is basically Lizard Man with a different name. So while there are plenty of fighters to choose from, there aren't too many unique characters to choose from.

SoulCalibur V is a solid fighter that plays great and looks great. It's the same game we all know and love, but that's just it, it's the same game. Of course, that's not a necessarily a bad thing though, because the game is fun, and online play could get pretty addicting. Still, with the lack of new content and single player modes, you might feel a bit underwhelmed.

8 out of 10
Review by: Richard Fagel

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