The Soulcalibur series has always been my favorite fighter, perhaps my favorite videogame since its inception. I played Soul Edge in the arcades and enjoyed Soul Blade on the original playstation, but the Dreamcast version of Soulcalibur was the one that really made me realize that it was the game to end all games, at least for me.
I loved SCII just as much, and while SCIII was a little disappointing, I still thought it was a very worthwhile sequel. I loved SCIV, too, despite the inclusion of Star Wars characters that I thought were completely out of place. This brings us to Soulcalibur V. I’m going to start this review with the very negative, initial reaction I had with the game, but believe me, the good will outweigh the bad.
SC V takes place 17 years after the events of SCIV, so there have been a lot of changes to the roster. About 50% of the original characters made it back in and most of the characters that didn’t have some sort of a successor. For example, Xianghua is gone, but her nearly identical-looking daughter is there to take her place. However, a few fighting styles have been completely omitted from the game, including one of my favorite characters in the series: Seong Mina. Other omissions include: Talim, Zasalamel, Yun Seong, and Rock. If any of these characters were your favorite, you’ll be outraged.
Adding insult to injury is the complete lack of single player content. Story mode is short, and in my opinion, a complete waste of time. It revolves around the two new sword and shield users Patrokolos and Pyrrah. A few other characters make brief appearances, but the fact that you can’t run through story mode with any character is criminal. Even worse is Legendary Souls mode where you try to fight against an insanely sadistic level of difficulty where the computer reads your button presses to punish and humiliate you. The only way to win is to resort to the absolute cheapest tactics that you learned from playing against the AI in Mortal Kombat.
I was floored when I found out that I couldn’t increase the time limit or my health gauge. These were very basic features that I’ve used in all the previous Soulcaliburs. And finally, the move lists have been shortened. Needless to say, my first few days with the game weren’t very pleasant.
Eventually, my opinion on the game started to move in a positive direction when I realized what was going on. This is a tournament game. Development time was spent making this a great competitive experience. One of the first things to surprise me was the online play. When I play online with my friends there’s virtually no lag whatsoever, and when I get into a crowded room, it’s still very playable.
Characters are really balanced, to the point where it wouldn’t matter to me if they ever did a balance patch. Move lists are shorter because they seemed to have gotten rid of a lot of the broken/useless moves. Matches are more exciting and the newly implemented meter system changes the way I play Soulcalibur, separating it from previous games, making it feel new to me. I don’t know why it wasn’t talked about much before, but Quick Battle is actually a pretty meaty single player experience where you fight 240 different created characters of varying difficulty. It took me around 50 hours to defeat everyone and I still go back for more. It doesn't bother me anymore that I can’t turn off the timer or change the life meters because I’m playing the game the way it was meant to be played.
The game improves on SCIV with better graphics, music, and a much more robust character creation mode. If you love Soulcalibur, or just fighters in general, you should check it out.