Soul Calibur 5 Review
Not wanting to be left behind by the re-emergence of the 2D fighter, 3D fighting games are looking to make a comeback, and the first game to carry that torch is Soul Calibur 5. Technically the sixth game in the series if you count Soul Edge as the first, Soul Calibur 5 takes a bit of a risk in placing its setting 17 years after the events of Soul Calibur 4, and removing many popular mainstays of the franchise.
Fortunately, the soul still burns strongly, as improvements to the fighting mechanics, a strong single player story mode, a fantastic cast of characters and overall polish make it a high caliber fighter that shouldn’t be missed by fans or newcomers alike.
Soul Calibur 5: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3
Developer: Project Soul
Released: Jan. 31, 2012
Single player story modes are often a criminally overlooked aspect of the fighting game genre — especially 3D fighters — with many developers seemingly content with just adding in short and mostly unsatisfying cutscenes at the start and end of each character’s arcade mode. Fortunately, Soul Calibur 5 manages to break free from that tradition and features an engaging 20 chapter story mode that follows the tales of Patroklos and Pyrrha Alexandra, the son and daughter of Soul series mainstay, Sophitia.
The story mode succeeds in drawing the player into the world of Soul Calibur, and for the first time, actually makes an effort to develop and show the personalities of its cast of characters. While it’s a huge step up from most other games in the genre, the mode is still far from perfect.
Not enough of the roster play a substantial role in the story, with several fan favorites such as Mitsurugi, Yoshimitsu, Cervantes and Raphael not playing any kind of role whatsoever. And with the lack of any sort of story told in arcade mode, players are left with a handful of playable characters that have absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever.
Another small issue with the story mode is the lack of animated cutscenes throughout the adventure. Several key moments in the plot are brought to life via beautiful pre-rendered cutscenes, but everything in between is told through voice-over and unappealing storyboard art. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Mortal Kombat’s lengthy and entirely animated story mode, but I’d prefer to think that MK raised the bar of what gamers should expect out of a fighting game’s story mode.
Ultimately though, SC5 is a fighting game and it’s the fighting that really matters. Fortunately, the game adds in a bunch of new and improved gameplay mechanics while also removing ones that didn’t really make much sense.
The first and most important change to the fighting system is the removal of the Critical Finishes of SC4 and addition of a super meter known as the Critical Gauge. With 1/4 of the gauge full, a player can perform a Brave Edge attack, which is performed by pressing ABK at the end of certain combo strings to add on extra damage, guard break, or add an opportunity to continue the combo.
With a full gauge, players can utilize their character’s super move known as a “Critical Edge.” These moves include high damage special attacks, counter attacks, combo set-ups, and more.
Soul Calibur 5 also makes several adjustments to the guard impact mechanic that has been around ever since Soul Edge. Previously, you could perform a guard impact just by pressing forward or back and block at the same time to parry an enemy’s attack. You needed to use the correct input depending on whether the attack hit low, medium, or high as well. However, in Soul Calibur 5, guard impacts now use up your meter, but will repel an attack regardless of whether its vertical, horizontal, low, medium, or high.
Probably the best thing that comes from this change is the inability of the enemy AI to spam cheap counters and make you feel completely helpless. In general, the AI feels much better than in previous Soul Calibur games, and losing to it feels less like losing to a robot with perfect reflexes and more like losing to a player that got the better of you.
This is a good thing, too, because upon beating story mode, you unlock the Legendary Souls mode which puts you into a grueling gauntlet consisting of seven ridiculously hard AI characters that will juggle you like a chainsaw at the circus.
Online play is as you’d expect from a quality fighting game. You’ve got player matches, ranked matches, unlockable titles, spectator mode, lobbies, the whole deal. From my limited experience, matches were relatively smooth but not entirely lag free.
The Soul Calibur games have always been my favorite of the 3D fighting genre, and Soul Calibur 5 is one of the best in the series yet. The fighting is fast paced, flashy, full of depth, and carried by a cast of interesting characters both new and old. The addition of the critical gauge and adjustments to the guard impacts only serve to make an already great fighter even better–and the addition of a full fledged story mode is a step in the right direction, both for the series and for the genre in general.
- Same awesome Soul Calibur gameplay except now with super moves!
- A short lived but nonetheless well done story mode tells an interesting story of two siblings that get caught up in the battle between Soul Edge and Soul Calibur.
- Fully featured online mode with lobbies, spectators, unlockable titles, ranked matches, player matches, etc.
- Great roster of fighters, both new and old.
- Fantastic training mode that actually teaches you how to properly play each character.
- A large number of characters have no part in the story mode nor do they have any sort of story told in any other mode.
- Story is unfortunately told primarily through ugly storyboard pictures in between magnificent pre-rendered cutscenes.
- Story mode is only 3-4 hours long.
- Arcade mode is completely stripped down, eliminating any sort of openings or endings for any of the characters
Final Score: 85/100