SoulCalibur 5 Review

By Daniel Maniago - Posted Feb 02, 2012

All in all, SoulCalibur has maintained a high level of quality throughout the series. Does SoulCalibur 5 continue the tradition of excellence?

The Pros
  • Beautiful presentation
  • Revamped battle engine
  • Intricate character creation mode
The Cons
  • No tutorial mode
  • Story mode is relatively short

In 1996, the fighting game genre was at full throttle. Just one year prior, Capcom introduced the first Street Fighter Alpha title in arcades while Midway sought to appease fans with the much anticipated Mortal Kombat 3, so it was in '96 that a new 3D fighter by the name of Soul Edge was released arcades. 

It has been said to have been developed by Namco as an experiment to test the feasibility of a weapon-based fighting game. Though Tamsoft’s Battle Arena Toshinden had been released prior and also featured 3D weapon fighting, Soul Edge sought to do 3D weapon fighting justice, something Battle Arena Toshinden arguably failed to do. Soul Edge featured tight gameplay, unique characters and fighting styles, and a spectacular console release with Soul Blade. The game received rave reviews and was considered one of the best fighting game titles available on the Sony PlayStation.

A Tale of Souls and Swords, Eternally Retold

Roughly two years later, SoulCalibur was released. Though the name had been changed slightly, SoulCalibur was developed as a direct sequel to Soul Edge, and built on the success of its predecessor. It featured drastically improved graphics, some of the most detailed character designs at the time, and an improved fighting engine that added stance changes, a relatively unexplored fighting game mechanic. One of the flagship titles during the Dreamcast’s infancy, SoulCalibur was one of the best received fighting games of all time, winning several awards and perfect scores across multiple video game publications.

The SoulCalibur series delivered numerous sequels in the years thereafter. SoulCalibur 2, though not as groundbreaking as the first, was well received and saw a healthy amount of competitive play in tournaments across the world. SoulCalibur 3 saw success as well, but several glitches within the game (including the infamous Variable Cancel glitch that hampered competitive play and a file corruption glitch) served as glaring blemishes in an otherwise well received game. SoulCalibur 4 also did well, but received much criticism from the hardcore fanbase due to its character balance; characters such as Hilde and Algol as well as console-exclusive characters were often banned in tournaments. All in all, SoulCalibur has remained consistent throughout the series. Does Soul Calibur 5 stay true to the consistency found in the previous installments?

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Choose a Mode

SoulCalibur 5 retains the tried and true formula of the typical fighting game: choose a character to play as, and then battle until only you or your opponent is left standing. This can be done in several modes in the game. The standard Arcade Mode and VS Battle modes are available, as well as an online mode in that allows you to test your skills against other players from around the world. Quick Battle lets you fight against a challenging CPU foe. Legendary Souls allows players to attempt a series of pre-set challenges. 

The game also has a story mode that follows the main characters, Patroklos and Pyrrha, through a 20-chapter story that explains what all the fighting is about. Though the story mode may not be as refined as Mortal Kombat 9’s, SoulCalibur fans should find it enjoyable nonetheless.

SoulCalibur 5

My Epic is More Epic

The SoulCalibur series has raised the bar in graphics and presentation with each sequel, and SoulCalibur V does not stray in this regard. Character models are as detailed as ever, carefully crafted right down to the individual strands of Leixia’s tassels. The environments are breathtaking and dynamic; multi-faceted stages take the action from one location to the next. The musical score is particularly epic this time around as well. Composers Junichi Nakatsuru (veteran of the SoulCalibur series) and Hiroki Kikuta (composed the unforgettable Secret of Mana score) are joined by 18-year old prodigy composer Tomoki Miyoshi and Cris Velasco (composer for the God of War trilogy soundtracks), among others. This game does not disappoint the senses.

SoulCalibur 5

Old Faces, New Rivals

Veterans of the series will feel right at home with SoulCalibur 5’s cast. Familiar faces from the original are back, including favorites such as Mitsurugi, Siegfried, Voldo, and Cervantes. Though recurring characters such as Taki and Xianghua are noticeably absent from the roster, in their stead are newcomers Xiba, Natsu, and Leixia, who are trained to fight in similar fashion to their previous counterparts. 

Patroklos and Pyrrha (kin of Sophitia) are introduced as the main characters of the game, while new characters Z.W.E.I. and Viola bring a unique style of their own to the fight. Viola in particular fights with an orb as her main weapon, a style scarcely seen since Samurai Shodown’s Amakusa. Ezio from Assassin’s Creed joins as a guest character, and fans of the series will find that his fighting style remains true to the series in which he originates from, fitting in seamlessly into the SoulCalibur universe.

SoulCalibur 5

Unsheathe Your Sword

As for the actual fighting engine, several additions have been made along with adjustments to previous systems within the game. Gone are SoulCalibur 4’s Critical Finishes and Soul Gauge. Also changed are Guard Impacts, which are no longer performed with forward + G. Instead, a combination of back+A+B+K must now be used to perform one. It also requires a block of Critical Meter to execute, a new gauge found in Soul Calibur 5. This gauge is similar to “super meter” found in other fighting games and can be used not only for Guard Impacts, but to perform Critical Edge and Brave Edge attacks (powered-up special attacks). Timing your guard precisely as your opponent’s attack comes into contact results in a Just Guard, effectively reducing the block stun incurred by the attack (similar to Garou: Mark of the Wolves’s Just Defend mechanic). 

These new features add another level of complexity to the fighting engine. Some characters do well using meter for Guard Impacts, while others are better suited using meter for Brave Edge attacks. Familiarizing yourself with several characters’ move sets will bring you success in Just Guard attempts. All returning characters have been newly rebalanced and tweaked as well. Hilde’s controversial Ring Out prowess has been toned down considerably with the properties of her charge moves being changed, though she still remains a threat in battle. 

SoulCalibur 5

The Power to Create

If you aren’t satisfied with the character roster, SoulCalibur 5’s massive character creation feature should do well to satiate. Rarely before has a fighting game given players such levels of customization to work with. You are given the freedom to edit almost anything and everything: clothing/armor, skin color, weapons, fighting style, trinkets, even your sclera is editable (the white in your eyes, in case you didn’t know). 

Surprisingly, Devil Jin’s fighting style from the Tekken series can be applied when creating a character, a nod to Namco’s other popular fighting franchise. Accessories can even be positioned and angled as you see fit. Countless hours will be lost trying to create the perfect character; even more time will be spent trying to make the most ridiculous character ever. Either way, SoulCalibur 5’s character customization is top notch.

SoulCalibur 5

Global Beatdowns

Soul Calibur 5 also features a new and improved online experience. Ranked matches are for serious contenders looking to rise in the ladders. Player matches are more casual and do not affect your rank. In the Global Colosseo mode, massive lobbies can be created in which you can trade strategies (or insults!) as well as organize matches with friends and rivals alike. You can download and watch replays of your own online matches as well as those of other players via their player license. This can be used to see your own mistakes as well as learn from others, ultimately fostering a high level of play and competition as the game’s competitive life goes on. Though your experience online with the netcode will vary, the initial response has been generally positive among the hardcore fighting game audience.

SoulCalibur 5

 And the Verdict is. . .

SoulCalibur V aims to please many different audiences. Casual fans will be in awe at the sheer beauty and polish of the game. Hardcore fighting game enthusiasts will appreciate the adjustments made to the fighting engine. Players looking for the most bang for their buck might be disappointed with the sparse selection of game modes, but should look into the character creation mode to keep them busy. 

Long time SoulCalibur fans can enjoy the fact that at the end of the day, it’s definitely SoulCalibur; all new additions to the game do little to change the overall “SoulCalibur feel” of things. And, for a series as consistent as this one, that’s a good thing.

Editor's Note: This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3. The Xbox 360 version of the game was also played, and no major differences were noted. If further investigation reveals any discrepancies between the two platforms, this review will be updated.

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