Once more, it seems, we must delve through space and time, taking on one’s preferred armaments to battle in the undying war between Soul Edge and Soul Calibur. But is it worth the 60-dollar price tag indicative of all games of this generation, or is it just another foot-note in the grand schemata for a long running series. Well, I can tell you for certain, what it does do, it does well, and feels good in the process.
Now, I’m not really a long-running fan, as much as a mid-series convert who found that making a guy swing a 7-foot, 2-ton sword at people to be both enjoyable and addictive in a way few fighters have been for me in the past. My short lived experiences in Dead Or Alive 3, and subsequently, in DOA4 where I mastered all but the Russian dude and his crazy grappling technique, as well as an all-game-encompassing stint through the Tao Feng campaign, were small tastes of the genre, and I never really took much stock in that avenue of games.
Soul Calibur 3 changed that with some, as I came to find them, engrossing single-player modes and challenges, which finally integrated a custom character feature I’d always adored in other games, even when they were minimal at best. The customization feature set this time around is FAR MORE engrossing and complex, allowing for full color customization of all items, the addition of customizable patterns to outfits and even weapons, and a sticker system that grants four layers of additive decals. All-in-all, the custom character feature is beautiful.
But you may be asking What about the gameplay? And after defeating the 1706 single-player mode, and some quick-matches (as well as trying to survive some multiplayer rounds), I can say that the feel of the game really hasn’t changed. Sure, you can super charge a circular meter at the top of the screen, allowing for specialty moves, but the sense that it’s been changed to reflect new innovations in the fighting system are either too minimal to recognize, or aren’t present at all. Is this bad? No. The fighting still feels fluid and organic. The controls are just as natural as always, and besides small tweaks in various character attacks, and some nice looking counter-attacks, the overall feel is familiar.
The single-player modes are pretty light, and most of what makes up the 1706 AD mode is, well.. better left a side-dish to the main-course of Quick Matches, Legendary Souls mode, and the Multiplayer mode, of which had pretty good latency. The fact that the story mode was littered with slide-show cinematics does not earn it any points in my book. I didn’t really play more than 10-matches in MP, so you’ll have to decide whether or not you are worthy of recognition amongst your sword-swinging, nunchuck wielding peers. I, myself, need more practice. The ability to search for rooms is nice, but if you aren’t willing to spend the time to do that, you can also join the Global Colosseo, a regional based chat-room, where you can participate in tournaments or random matches, or enact a challenge on another player in the room. The presentation is alright, and watching other’s in other matches is entertaining while you wait to play, but it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re standing in line, rather than joining into the fray at the drop of a hat. The replay feature is pretty generic, but at least gives you an the ability to analyze play styles at various angles.
Visually, the game looks even better than the fourth installment, and the few cutscenes you’ll come across are actually lip-synced to the English OVA’s, making it feel like it’s better realized locally. (The writing is still cheesy, but hell, they brought in a different ‘Narrator/Announcer’, who gives the game even more personality!) The audio is what you’d expect from Soul Cal, featuring grand orchestral scores that accent the battles to a somewhat epic proportion, and the voices are fitting in most cases, but you won’t find grade-A writing here.
All-in-all, I’m satisfied with the game, and it feels just like you’d expect a Soul Calibur game to feel. Team Soul has really upgraded the look of it, as well as the adapted the character customization to reflect all sorts of weird concepts you’d want to implement into your own fighter. Is it worth the asking price of a new retail game? Well, it depends on your tastes, and it might be worth picking up when the price drops about 10 bucks. If you already have a preferred fighter, you might get a weekend’s worth of entertainment out of Soul Calibur V.