Soulcalibur V isn’t a reboot in name, but as we spent hours
diving into its intricate system, it sure feels like one. If Soulcalibur III
was a largely-forgotten misstep, and Soulcalibur IV was a good sequel for its
time, Soulcalibur V marks a solid improvement. It has some questionable moments
in its presentation, but overall, it weaves nostalgia together with reinvention
for a reasonably sound fighting experience.
SC5’s plot takes place 17 years after the events of SC4.
Outside of some age-less characters, the biggest impact of this temporal change
is a fresh new roster of characters for you to learn and explore. It also gives
Project Soul a chance to extract fan favorites from the more forgettable faces
of the last two titles. The result is a group of great new characters to dive
into (and if you’re playing competitively, dissect and master), and enough familiar
ones for lapsed gamers. So if you play Soulcalibur frequently, or you ignored
each game since the halcyon days of Link, Spawn, and Heihachi, there’s
something here for you.
SC5 eschews the numerous guest cameos for a less bloated
star roster, featuring Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed series, and the
unlockable Devil Jin, a Soulcalibur-ized version of the Tekken brawler. Both
are far more impactful than the likes of the three Star Wars characters of
prior games. The benchmark of a solid guest character largely lies in how they
play were they not skinned with a familiar face. Ezio’s attacks feel effective
and strong, and he’s just as accessible and fun as long-time favorites like
Mitsurugi and Maxi.
When souls burn, does
If you’re not sure about sampling the youthful roster, SC5’s
story mode eases you into trying them out. Over the span of 20 chapters, you’ll
play as Patroklos, son of Sophitia, as he battles his way through numerous
characters and combatants to reach his long-lost sister Pyrrha. Things are, of
course, never as simple as they initially appear, and the lingering effects of
Soul Edge still cast over the land. The malfested are still spreading evil, and
Pyrrha has been exploited by Tira, who is grooming her to wield the evil blade.
It’s all a fantastic excuse to let you test out Patroklos,
Pyrrha, and other new fighters, including the spirit animal-channeling Z.W.E.I.
(and there are more combatants who evoke classic characters). You will, however, endure some downright
groan-worthy moments in its cheesy motion comics. It’s bad to the point of
endearing, but then, how heavily does credibility play a role in a game
featuring people battling in these
outfits? By the time it’s done, you’ll feel rather comfortable with the two
siblings’ style, and arguably more than you would simply grinding through
Aside from Story mode, look for Arcade and Legendary Souls
modes to help you earn XP to unlock more stages and characters. They won’t come
easily for casual players, though.
Without some time invested in SC5’s nuanced defensive system, you’ll be
re-fighting Nightmare quite a bit in Arcade mode. Legendary Souls is not for
the faint of heart. It’s a mode designed for you to brawl through on Very Hard
difficulty. For the completist, you’ll need to clear the mode to unlock certain
characters. Buckle up.
Building up the meter
Soulcalibur V feels like a fresh start for the franchise,
and that’s not just thanks to its new cast of combatants. The Soul Gauge has
given way to the Critical Gauge, a two-tiered meter that falls in line with
similar features in other fighting games. You can use it for features such as
Brave Edge, which allows you to add a bit more spice to your combo for more
impact, but at the cost of some of your Critical Gauge. Also, Critical
Finishes, introduced in SC4, have been pared down to Critical Edge, which allows
you to execute a dramatic ultra combo sequence, but it doesn’t immediately end
There are subtleties at play that tournament-level players
will dig for that the average fighting game fan won’t nail down immediately,
such as a Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike-like parry system, known as
Just Guard. It has less meter-cost than the Guard Impact system (which returns
from SC4), and for those who master it, it’ll likely serve as a tactical
A more apparent addition for any player is SC5’s introduction
of a dashing side step that allows you to get to your opponent’s vulnerable
side a bit faster than before. It’s a great feature that lends a quicker pace
to fights than in prior games. The combination of new fighters, and the speed
of battles makes for an experience that evokes the chaotic fun that made
Soulcalibur II a favorite for both competitive players and the average gamer.
It’s often tough to gauge the netcode for a fighting game on
launch day, so we can’t guarantee that your online fights will clip along at
fluid pace, but the social features, such as the Global Colosseo, add a nice
touch. The Colosseo is a lobby set up for local players to hang out and set up
matches. If you live in a city where there are organized meetups, it might not
be as useful, but in case your local area doesn’t have anything in place, it
could be useful. For what it’s worth, the matchmaking and games we played
flowed smoothly and we didn’t encounter any lag.
Is it better than...
Soulcalibur IV? Yes. The Critical Gauge gives it a momentum
meter that falls more in line with the standard two-tiered charge of today’s
popular fighters, and it’s less bloated with licenses. If SC4 was proof of
concept of Soulcalibur in HD, this is the fully realized experience.
Soulcalibur II? Not quite. With the nostalgia glasses on,
SC2 wasn’t just a fighting game for competitive players, it was accessible for
the masses and was simply loads of fun. It’s a different time and era in
gaming. In its defense, SC5 comes closer than any other game in the series
For those who skipped straight to the end
With its increased pace, defensive tweaks, and reincarnated
fighters, Soulcalibur V feels like a sorely needed reinvention for a series
whose formula has gotten too long in the tooth. It feels as accessible and
nearly as entertaining as Soulcalibur II and soundly one-ups its HD
predecessor. You won’t realize how much you wanted this revamp until you’ve put
in a few hours on the arcade sticks.