Written by Troy Benedict Friday, 03 February 2012 12:00
|Soulcalibur V (Xbox 360) Review|
Call me uncouth, but there are some parallels between Soulcalibur V and adult films. Both have beautiful, overly-voluptuous women whose body parts defy the normal laws of physics, they both feature handsome and over-exaggerated, muscular gentlemen, and both attempt to tell a story that isn’t necessary -- and quite frankly just gets in the way.
I have a lot of fond memories of the original Soulcalibur for the Sega Dreamcast. Towards the end of 1999, when the Dreamcast was released, it was probably the most gorgeous-looking game at the time. Not only was it a beautiful game to look at, it was a lot of fun to play!
Since the original game, I’ve been casual with my experiences with Soulcalibur. While we, as a family, owned Soulcalibur II (for the GameCube, of course), I found the game to be little more than a desperate cry for attention, with its exclusive characters for each respective system on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. To me, it really didn’t make sense other than to try and spike sales by including Link from the Legend of Zelda on the GameCube version, Todd McFarlane’s comic book character Spawn on the Xbox, and Tekken’s Heihachi on the PlayStation 2. I mean, really? You don't have faith enough in your own characters to pull in the sales?
For the most part, Soulcalibur III went completely unnoticed, as it was a PlayStation 2 exclusive release. And Soulcalibur IV introduced that desperation again, this time by introducing characters from the Star Wars franchise: Yoda on the Xbox 360 and Darth Vader on the PlayStation 3. I’m not that diehard of a fighting game fan, and I’m certainly not that vested in the whole Soulcalibur lore, but including Star Wars characters bothered me. It just didn’t make any sense other than to flash big dollar signs in the publisher’s eyes.
Now, here we are now in 2012 and we have a new Soulcalibur game. I still felt a bit “twitchy” when I saw Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the Assassin’s Creed franchise featured rather prominently on the box art, but he at least made a little more sense, and certainly fit better with the 17th Century timeframe where the game takes place.
Soulcalibur V surprised me, and not necessarily in a postive way. It was much more difficult than I had expected. I was always under the impression that the Soulcalibur series was the most approachable fighting game series, behind the enthusiast series of Street Fighter, and the more laid-back, but still tough-to-master Mortal Kombat franchise. In actuality, the moves were a lot more complicated to master than I had expected, and by the fourth mission in the game’s story mode, I knew that I would have to actually learn the player’s moves if I was to get anywhere with this review.
Also to my surprise, the training mode was not easy to find, nor was it easy to learn. The training mode, which I didn’t even think existed, is an option in Soulcalibur V’s off-line mode. Within you can select a character and an opponent, but from there it’s up to you to figure out how to use the training mode and learn the moves from it. Maybe I was spoiled by last year’s Mortal Kombat, which offered a full-featured training/practice mode that not only told me how to pull off moves, but also evaluated me on the moves so that I knew what was correct. Call it a bit of underestimation, or me just be being a completely ignorant and causal fighting gamer, but I found myself struggling to enjoy and learn a character’s fighting repertoire.
If you’re into the history and lore of Soulcalibur, part V has a lengthy story mode. The storyline only really exists to fill the void between battles, but it does introduce the game’s characters using a mix of in-game cinematics and charcoal-style illustrations along with voiceovers. For such a pretty game, I would have really liked to see the story told through in-game cinematics rather than static illustrations.
Soulcalibur V focuses on the story of Patroklos, who we find out is the son of Sophitia, as he grows from a misguided pawn to hero as he learns of his destiny to wield the legendary sword Soul Calibur.
The story for Soulcalibur V is rather predictable, and each narrative always ends with an encounter, which makes sense because this is a fighting game -- duh! It’s absolutely skippable, but the completionist in me felt that I should sit through each narrative in order to try and better understand the game and follow the character development (which is rather bland and predictable, too -- but hey, it’s a fighting game, right?).
During the first several missions you’ll follow Patroklos, but eventually you’ll branch out to follow Patroklos’ sister Pyrrha, for whom is he searching. I found this refreshing but annoying. Just as I was beginning to get accustomed to Patroklos’ and his move set, I was onto Pyrrha and had to learn a whole new set of moves.
This isn’t really a complaint, as it’s a good way to get players to experience different characters by not giving them an option, but at the same time, it is a bit of a double-edged sword in that it interrupts the flow of mastering a character. Then again, if you’re really gung-ho about mastering a character you can take the game online (or play offline against a friend or the computer) and play matches with the same character until your heart’s content.