Soul Calibur 5 is flashy, complex, and features a bevy of fantastic changes to the franchises design.    A good majority of the moves and combos, as well as the counter system, have all been reworked and simplified.  On top of that, the game has added a meter that slowly builds, allowing players to unleash stronger Brave Edge attacks or super-powerful Critical Edge attacks.  Both of these mechanics are lifted directly out of Street Fighter 4, and add whole new dimensions to the gameplay.

Visually, the game is gorgeous.  Soul Calibur 5 updates itself in glorious style with the advent of flashier EX and Critical Edge moves.  The Sword trails and fireworks that Soul Calibur is known for are still as vibrant as ever.  All of the fighters look beautiful and are animated in some impressive and realistic ways.  On top of that, the stages are sporting a very clean design and excellent lighting effects that help keep fighters immersed in the stage rather than standing in front of a background. 

Stages also feature additional areas that the players wind up in as rounds progress.   My favorite example of this is a two part stage which begins on a narrow ledge.  If one player wins via a Ring-Out, the victorious player leaps down after his opponent and they fight in a dungeon for the rest of the rounds.  Its a really nice idea on the part of the Project Soul, because it helps answer the age old series complaint of "Man, @#$%ing RING OUTS".

The music features the same epic orchestration as classic Soul Calibur games, as well.  The music and sound mix together nicely to create some great moments.  The slashes, bangs, booms, and cracks of combat gives every attack power and makes them all feel effective.  Being able to choose which music plays for each stage is also a really nice touch.

The online mode is thoughtfully crafted.  Lobbies have a small screen allowing players to watch, with full chat enabled.  Outside of regular lobbies are regional servers that allow players to come together to battle, chat, and start tournaments.  The mode also allows you to mark certain fighters an rivals and allow you to follow their progress.

The result of these factors is the freshest and most exciting Soul Calibur since the original.  For the first time in years, the game feels new.  Unfortunately, nearly everything wrong with every other fighter on the market is waiting for players outside of combat.  The words "incomplete" and "rushed" will whisper in the back of anyone's mind...

This game was not only rushed, Namco was pretty happy about it.  Representatives have even gone on record that they were expecting (and satisfied) with the scores the game got, and feel that the game accomplished exactly what it was supposed to.


The roster is the clearest example of both rushed development and questionable design choices.  Veterans cannot help but feel as if they are being sold the illusion of something new.  If one subtracts the clones, copies, and re-treads - they find one of the smallest rosters since the original  (just over 25).  Even Edge Master clones (who randomly use everyone else's style), occupy three separate slots on the roster.   Two (arguably three) Sophitia/Cassandra hybrids occupy space, as well.  Three classic characters have been replaced by younger and annoying copies, and others have just been axed completely.  What exists of the small roster is done brilliantly, but the entire thing feels padded and incomplete.

The three (non-derivative) newcomers:   Z.W.E.I, Dampierre,  and Viola (while cleverly designed) are almost completely based in magic or cartoon-ish moves.  This may not seem like a big deal, but Soul Calibur once had a heavy inspiration from real fighting styles.  Zany humor, ghost wolves, and magic balls are nice, but they actually detract from the games charm, and feel a little out of place. 

Stupid is the technical term for it.

The Story Mode is another perfect example of what I mean.  The whole thing can be completed in just two short hours, and really only focuses on newcomers Patroklos and Pyrrah.  Newcomers, in general, have pretty much no story at all.  What is Kiliks replacement, Xiba, fighting for?  Food.  His win quotes are all about food, and he even screams "Foooooood!" upon being knocked out.  What is Takis replacement fighting for?  I didn't care, but something tells me it is "whatEVERRRR" or...something.

Character Creation returns this time around, but the content seems drastically reduced in comparison to Soul Calibur 4.  Lots of stickers... and any additional parts were DLC on day one (alongside a day one, DLC character). You can still craft some hilarious and original things in Create-A-Soul, but its just another thing that feels incomplete and not completely thought through.

The list goes on from there.  Match customization has been reduced to a bare minimum.  Players cannot set the time above 60 seconds. Single player content is mainly two short and basic modes. Random, online disconnects happen way more often that expected.  Almost nothing is done to teach players how to play the game.  The game has some of the most godforsaken voice acting I have ever heard. 

I mean, really bad...

Even the games training mode has a serious design flaw that could have been easily corrected.  The new menu system is initially confusing but actually very deep. Too bad that flicking the right analog stick switches dummy settings on the fly.  This happens more times than worth counting.  The function cannot be disabled.

All these little details compound upon one another, and leave the player with an overwhelming sense of ... being underwhelmed.  Soul Calibur 5 has way too much competition this year due to endless fighting game releases.  Fans, like myself, are becoming annoyed with incomplete fighting games sporting senseless or rushed content.   The game advances by copying Street Fighter concepts, but falls way short by copying the Street Fighter business model.

Namco popped this baby out as fast as they could. A development time of about one and a half years along with a laundry list of "we scrapped it because of 'time constraints'" hold this game back at every turn.   Had they postponed the game another year, it would have likely had twice the content and outclassed everything else that has (or will) release for quite some time.  Wheras other fighters these days have initial releases that feel like two-thirds of the actual game, Soul Calibur 5 feels like half a game. It is both the best and worst Soul Calibur in the series.

P.S. Death to "Corporate Setsuka", I made Santa Clause in Create-A-Soul Mode, and Ezio is awesome.