- Publisher: Namco Bandai
- Developer: Project Soul
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Fighting
- Pros: Gorgeous graphics; Critical Edge moves; solid fighting engine; fun multiplayer; greatly expanded Create-A-Soul; good roster
- Cons: Story mode is bad; Legendary Souls no fun; not a ton of single-player content
Features and Modes
SoulCalibur V takes place seventeen years after SoulCalibur IV. Some characters are a little older. Some characters have magically not aged at all. And some fan favorite characters are gone entirely. There is no Sophitia or Cassandra this time around, for example, and they are instead replaced by Sophitia's children Patroklos and Pyrrha. Other missing characters are likewise replaced by characters that play mostly like the ones they are filling in for. It works out pretty well since the 30 character roster is filled out with a good mix of familiar characters along with a larger than normal addition of new faces. No Star Wars characters this time around, but Ezio from Assassin's Creed 2 / Brotherhood / Revelations is here, and actually pretty decent.
One aspect where SoulCalibur V is a bit of a letdown is in the single-player features department. Arcade Mode is now just a string of 6 fights with no story, and no character specific cutscenes at the end. There is a Quick Battle mode where you fight against more than 200 different A.I. player profiles. Legendary Souls is an ultra hard mode against the A.I. which is just brutally difficult. Seriously, it is no fun at all. There are also local multiplayer and training modes. The game's story mode is a sort of goofy tale of Patroklos and Pyrrha's run ins with the Soul Calibur and Soul Edge swords, but plays out more like awful fan fiction than a story that is supposed to be canon in the fifth entry of a long running franchise. The story mode is a mix of still storyboards with narration along with some fully rendered (and great looking) cutscenes, but the story is dumb and it only takes about 3 hours to beat with zero replay value.
Strangely missing are art galleries or cutscene galleries or other unlockable goodies usually present in these games. Some of the characters do have to be unlocked, but only take a few hours to acquire. After that, the single-player content has pretty much dried up.
The real draw of fighting games is multiplayer, however, and SCV does a much better job here. You can create custom characters with the greatly improved Create-A-Soul tool, and have a lot more options than in SCIV. Local play, as always, is awesome. Online play is the typical quick matches and ranked matches, but also a new Global Colosseo mode that puts dozens of players into one lobby and lets you freely challenge each other rather than waiting in line for your turn to fight.
A major new feature is the Critical Gauge, which is basically like Street Fighter's super meter. As you fight you build up your Critical Gauge, which you can then use for EX-style Brave Edge moves, or use a full meter for a Critical Edge move. The Critical Edge moves are just like Street Fighter IV's super and ultra combos and can turn the tide of a match in one stroke. It gives SCV an interesting pacing and feel where you aren't really ever out of a fight if you have a Critical Edge to burn.
The Critical Gauge is also used defensively for Guard Impacts, which is basically a combo breaker now. You have another defensive move called "Just Guard" which doesn't use any meter and doesn't break combos, but it does let you block with out any sort of stun or other disadvantage normally caused by blocking.
All in all, it is a fine fighting engine overall. There are lots of high level techniques and combo strings and things available for hardcore players along with simple-but-satisfying play styles for everyone else. I will say it feels different enough at first that it is kind of overwhelming and difficult, but once you get used to the pacing and put some practice into learning your characters it all starts to come together.
Graphics & Sound
The sound is also well done. The epic music the series is known for is fantastic here, and the clash of swords and armor has never sounded better. The voice acting is only okay, but none of it should grate on you too much.