I suck at fighting games.
No, seriously, I’m freaking awful at the things; actually “awful” I think doesn’t even do credit to just how bad I am at fighting games, I think a more accurate term for my skill level at fighting games would be “…ungfwaaaaah”
So Soul Calibur, a fighting game series known mostly for it’s incorporation of weaponry instead of fists, it’s unique use of multiple ways to win and end matches, and female characters whose armour equipment consists of thongs riding so deep that it’s debatable if they can taste the fabric. Usually I’m probably the worst choice to review a fighting game because, again I’m pretty horrific at them if you look at my skill in Street Fighter 4, Tekken and Marvel vs Capcom 3 (which I’m still taking flack for because I was one of the five people who thought it wasn’t that bad) though DOA4 I liked, I was a freaking ninja at that game; but oh yeah I’m reviewing this one because I’m like a freaking historian for Soul Calibur (translated: I played SC2 on the Dreamcast in high school and rented SC4 one weekend)
So the story of the last few games is that two swords, the blessed sword Soul Calibur and the cursed sword Soul Edge have controlled mankind’s turmoil for generations, both blades have had more than one wielder, but the paladin Siegfried and the azure knight Nightmare are the final notable swordsmen of their respective blades. The story of SC5 opens with a final battle between the two warriors at the end of SC4, when Soul Calibur looked less like a sword and more like a crystal fan, and Siegfriend finally strikes down Nightmare, ending the conflict.
Fast forward 17 years. A civil war rages on between an Imperial force and a band of rebels known as “Malfested”. The story focuses around Patroklos, the son of Sophitia from previous Soul Calibur games. Pretty much Patroklos is a champion of the Imperial forces, which is admirable, but we learn quickly that Patrokos is pretty much a dick and abuses his position, slaughtering innocents because he “thinks” they may be rebels.
Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
Admittedly I’ve not gotten far into the story mode yet, and Patroklos’ actions are to be excused because he’s desperately searching for his abducted sister, and it will no doubt lead to what will be an attempt at a gripping tale of a character reversal as he becomes the hero, so we’ll just say Patroklos is a work in progress that will no doubt come with convoluted angst and a great enlightenment that will form him into the franchise’s new hero. What? Fighting games have always had predictable story arcs.
K yeah Soul Calibur has always been a great utilizer of the graphical limits each installment has at its current generation, and SC5 is no different. The character models look incredible and the environments are spectacular. Subtle details like wind effects, leaves, grass, kicked up dust and clouds are some of the smoothest I’ve seen to date in a game that still travels at a very fast frame rate. SC5, if anything, is very easy on the eyes.
Sound design is fairly par for the course with SC5. The cheesie narrator spewing out lines about destiny and the stage of history during the battles is a staple of Soul Calibur’s presentation, even if some of the lines seem like they’re trying far too hard to seem poetic and meaningful.
The music is, as always, very well done and encompasses the stage or characters the pieces represent; they are fairly generic by-the-books orchestras playing fast, tension-building melodies, but as always they just work.
The game is broken down into several game types. Online, which like most fighting games features me going into lobbies to be audio-spammed by seven years olds for five minutes while I wait for them to kick my ass in under one minute. Again, fighting games are not my forte so I won’t be spending a lot of time in this mode, but the gameplay is smooth and I encountered no lag while playing online, which is rare for online play during a launch day. Seasoned fighters will be right at home with the online play, but I personally will be letting that option grow dusty on the shelf.
Story mode is the meat and potatos of the offline modes. This is the mode where, obviously, the story of SC5 unravels as we learn about Siegried’s victory over Nightmare and what he’s been doing since, the rise of a new Nightmare, and of course Patroklos’ coming-of-age tale as he gathers allies and makes enemies during his quest to rescue his sister, defeat evil and become the franchise’s new poster boy.
Side note: I don’t see that happening, so far I’ve not seen much that makes this guy memorable.
Arcade mode is another common mode you’ll find in SC5, as you pound your way through six battles to unlock gamer points that will unlock new levels and customization items for my online profile which I will never use.
Offline mode and quick mode are other standard modes where you can play short one-off matches against friends or the AI, nothing really ground-shattering to report on these modes.
Creation mode is where I get giddy like a school girl. Any game that lets me customize or create is always worth at least trying in my book. Games that have this feature usually see me spend more time in THOSE modes than the actual game (I haven’t watched wrestling in years but I still buy the games yearly, spend hours at a time on them but RARELY actually do matches) SC4 saw me spend more time editing and creating than actually fighting, and the potential to make beautiful and breath-taking new characters, in a disappoitningly low amount of move sets, is actually more fun than battling with them for me.
I’ve never been a savant when it comes to the controls of the SC games and usually just mash button and stick combinations that I know from other fighting games in hopes fo doing something awesome. I’m probably the least qualified person to discuss the combinations that unleash super moves, but whenever I did hit buttons and directions the response was lightning fast and despite my lack of knowing what the hell I was doing, the fights still felt fast-paced and exciting.
What I liked
The game’s smooth, fast and appealing to the eye. The sound is paramount to the tradition of Soul Calibur and it’s a game that can be enjoyed by someone who’s not even that familiar or seasoned with fighting games; and again, the creation mode kicks ass.
What I would change
Ivy’s like, 63 years old now, why do they still insist on having her rock the battle thong? It’s just… weird. Oh yeah and Patroklos isn’t a compelling protagonist and will likely be dropped by the franchise by the next game.
This is a game that will be nothing new to veterans of Soul Calibur, but the introduction of new characters in a new generation does give the series a sense of rebirth, a feature that will be welcoming to new potential fans of the franchise. The gameplay is great and should find its way into the libraries of fighting gamers of this generation, again I’m not exactly a guru on fighters, but I know a fun game when I play one and this Soul Calibur 5 will keep me sated until DOA5 comes out.