Maybe because of my small-minded geeky nature I completely avoided the previous installment of Soul Calibur. Ironically, what kept me from jumping back into one of my favorite fighting franchises was what seemed most attractive to a lot of my peers: the addition of Star Wars characters to the roster. I couldn’t get my brain around it; previous guest appearances (Link, Haihachi, heck, even Spawn) could be explained without stretching my imagination too far. But interplanetary space samurai from a distant time was too much; Robocop would have been less out of place. But I digress…<!–more–>
Considering the last time I played Soul Calibur was years ago on my GameCube I was more than ready to get back into the tale of souls and swords eternally told, but would SC5 live up to my expectations or would it tarnish all my fond memories of its predecessors?
Soul Calibur 5 is the story of… Hmmm, let me first admit that prior to playing the game I was very hostile towards other reviews harping on the story mode for this game. I mean, it’s a fighting game, who cares about a story mode you play once then forget in favor of multiplayer right?! Well, I stand corrected: SC5’s story mode forces you to play with the least interesting characters in the game, then it’s character development consists of making said characters impossible to like, while informing you of how awesome they are. SPOILER: you start off as a serial killer, murdering the innocent because someone told him they were monsters, then not caring when he finds out the truth. He’s the good guy, and things only get worse. The story is told mostly in black and white sketches and bad voice acting of badly written dialogue telling a terrible tale. A couple of in-engine scenes are thrown in to make sure you’re awake, and as beautiful as they look, you will not care.
Sorry, I had to get that out. I promise things get better for this review.
Arcade mode is more of a time trial mode: Half a dozen fights, ranked by the time taken to complete, and added to online leader boards. You have the voice of different paths to take, changing the locales you fight in, and the enemies you face, and having the chance to unlock some secrets.
The games graphics are not mind blowing, but beautiful nonetheless. Characters designs are very varied, detailed and definitely an upgrade from the previous game. All the favorites are back, along with a few new faces, and even a mode where you can create your own character, but more on that in a bit.
Stages are impressive to begin with: cage matches with walls that fall outwards when a fighter is slammed against it, expanding the playing field, and allowing for ring-out opportunities; A lush rain forest, churches, castles and some stages that change between rounds.
One of my favorite features is the returning creation mode. I never got a chance to play around with this mode in SC4, so I was pretty excited to finally get my hands on it. In this mode you create a fighter based on the fighting style of a character in the roster, and you tweak their appearance. Playing in the other modes will unlock new items giving you more options for crafting your character which can sometimes result in very impressive duelists, hilarious joke characters or, once you’re more familiar with the options, clones of characters from other franchises. My Doctor Doom will haunt your nightmares.
The game play in SC5 is a bit faster than in previous games; maintaining the same pace and emphasis on strategy, while allowing for more impressive looking battles thanks to the combos now possible. Also the addition of super moves gives a player a chance to make a comeback, making fights a bit more interesting. The game is still quite easy for new players to get into and have fun, but it also accommodates the hardcore fighters with more ways to improve their skills.
Luckily for this game story mode is not really any fighting game’s forte; that’s really decided by the game’s multiplayer, and SC5 has the makings of a contender. Fights are fast paced and fun whether you’re a noob or a pro. Online matches are extremely smooth and, for the most part, pretty much lag free. It’s also a nice treat to see what other players around the world have come up with in their character creators.
Soul Calibur 5 is a great addition to the current wave of fighting games. It’s an impressive game, with a nice set of features and extremely enjoyable multiplayer experience, ruined only by its awful story mode. Just buckle down, beat story mode to unlock the secret characters, and try your best to forget what you do within; then carry on to online mode and enjoy the game the way it was intended.