The lights are on
I’d be lying if I said I consistently play the Soul Calibur series, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t a fan. I’ve played nearly every game in some way, but I’ve only ever owned 2 and 5. However, I consider it one of my favorite fighting franchises, and put it above the likes of Street Fighter and Tekken. The mechanics throughout the series have always been fun and innovative, and that doesn’t change in 5.
I didn’t play 4 enough to notice any changes between the two entries, but the core gameplay is still completely intact and fun as ever. It’s also simple and streamlined for newcomers and button mashers, as well as deep and diverse for veterans. The combos and character specials take pure precision and memorization to pull off, and are devastating in the hands of a master player. As someone who has yet to get the hang of all of the combos and specials, I am absolutely terrified to play against someone who’s actually good at the game, but that’s a different story.
Obviously, with any good fighter, there’s plenty of incentive to learn the ins and outs of multiple characters. Each one has their own unique fighting style and weapon, and it’s extremely fun to study and try to master them. Some characters more than others.
However, these characters are seemingly defined by the game’s story mode, and it is…something. I know it’s certainly not the key focus of the game, but I can’t help but feel the story mode was tacked on just so Namco Bandai could say they had it.
The story follows brother and sister Patroklos and Pyrrha, who were apparently separated at and early and are now trying to find each other. However, Pyrrha has sold her soul for some reason as has become a demon-like creature called a Malfested, something Patroklos has sworn the rid the world of.
After about ten chapters of searching for Pyrrha, Patroklos finally finds her and discovers her fate. Then they fight. It’s simple enough and even somewhat interesting up to that point… until a certain character is revealed to be someone else. From that point, the story jumps the shark, nukes the fridge, and leads to a climax that certainly does not fry the Coke.
The main characters are also incredibly boring and uninteresting, and the writing certainly doesn’t help. Patroklos is mopey, Pyrrha is bubbly and always apologizes because she doesn’t want to fight, and the side-characters are just… there. The only worthwhile character in the whole story is Tira, and she disappears fairly early on with no real explanation as to why (at least, from what I saw). The story has no real payoff either, it just ends and that’s that. You get a few characters and a new mode for your effort, but the lack of an actually satisfying story sours the reward a bit.
Another big flaw with the story is how lazily it’s put together. Not just with the writing, but with the cutscenes. Sometimes you’ll get CG cutscenes, and they look great, but a lot of times you’ll get a storybook like slideshow with voice acting. While that may sound like a nice artistic way of moving the plot, it plays out very inconsistently and honestly seems like it was just a souped-up storyboard that they didn’t have time to animate.
Story aside, one other thing I feel the game lacks is content. While fighting fans who try to get the most out of each character will certainly get their money’s worth, I believe the more casual gamers will feel slightly ripped-off. Unless you try to do everything in the game, there’s no use in even buying it at full price.
On the note of casual players, I have to applaud the developers for making the special character, Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed series a cinch to play as. This is obviously to ease the fans who only bought the game for Ezio into the fighting, and I think it’s a brilliant strategy. Ezio also plays exactly like you’d expect him to, and he fits in well with the rest of the cast.
To wrap things up, I feel like Soul Calibur 5 is only worth a buy to hardcore fighting fans and completionists. If you’re looking for a fighting game that will last you months, look elsewhere.