SOUL CALIBUR V

Soul Calibur V
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SOUL CALIBUR V



Written by Chris Price
Photos and illustrations by Namco Games
16 Monday 16th January 2012

Ed: This article originally stated that Kilik was returning. As much as we'd like that to be true, unfortunately it was a mistake. Chris only had a couple of hours with SCV, and mistook a new staff-wielder (namely Xiba) for our old friend. Our humble apologies.

The series has stayed surprisingly consistent and true to the first Soul Calibur game – with the arrival of Soul Calibur 5, Project Soul certainly hasn’t seen fit to muddy the bloodlines like Street Fighter and Tekken with 2.5D makeovers, but has reined in a few extraneous elements.

Set some 17 years after the events of 2008’s Soul Calibur IV, the narrative doubles as a coming-of-age/revenge tragedy. 28 characters are available, some unlocked from the start, some requiring a spot of graft. Key protagonist Patrokolos ‘I am Justice’ Alexander is the offspring of series constant Sophitia, and forms the linear meat and potatoes of the ‘A.D. 1607’ Story mode with his sister Pyrrha. Natsu is a petite protégé of voluptuous assassin Taki, Yan Leixia is the daughter of Xianghua. Newcomer Z.W.E.I. ups the wierdness stakes with an orb-like offence, and has the support of the werewolf E.I.N.

Story mode follows a narrative series of objectives, whereas the Legendary Souls mode is a series of challenge battles to earn coins to buy character models and upgrades, which can then be incorporated into the Character Creation mode.

Returning characters include katana-wielding ronin Mitsurugi, the pneumatic Ivy, bequiffed Maxi, token S&M weirdo Voldo, and the powerhouse that is Astaroth. The series’ established long-running guest appearances is represented in the guise of Assassins Creed’s Eizo Auditore, who flawlessly slots in amongst the cast with a broadsword and arsenal of concealed arms.

Soul Calibur 5’s main concession to the current temperature of fighting-games is the in-battle ‘Critical Guage’. Now a well-timed controller double quarter circle input releases a ‘Brave Edge’ combination mid-battle or a cinematic ‘Soul Edge’ super combination when full, striking a wedge of your opponents’ energy from their bar without having to resort to tap dancing across the face buttons with your fingertips.

With a different start position for each character (standing strike, advancing strike or grab), the tactical incorporation of both of these can bolster pro-players techniques when employed in the heat of battle with chain offense, or alternatively turn the tide of a one-sided drubbing of the novice.

Soul Calibur has always done the cut and thrust weapon-based battle very well, hence its stubbornness to go the way of similar object-based fighters such as Toshinden and Samurai Shodown – and in the limited access I had, this shows no signs of abating.

The controller face harbours two weapon strikes (vertical and horizontal), a kick and a block button, as well as the 8-way run. But the momentum and impact of the series feels familiar, and the operatic overture and grandoise level introductions are all in check, surely pleasing existing fans, but also remaining one of the most accessible fighting games on the market.

Whether the new characters will prove enough of a draw will depend on your allegiance to Team Soul, with very little immediately setting it above its predecessors. With the genre as a whole offering very little aside from one-on-one play, the level of immersion of the single player mode (something Mortal Kombat did very well) and how much the online modes suffer from notorious fight-lag could possibly define whether it is a day-one purchase, or a casual pick-me-up.

But there’s no doubt that Soul Calibur V is an age-of-austerity Team Soul release. It’s a leaner beast in play, and all the more traditional for it – no better summed up than the disappearance of the egregious proportions of the female characters’ chests. This could well be Soul Calibur coming of age.

Soul Calibur 5 is out on PS3 and Xbox 360 on 3 February, 2012. Check out the Soul Calibur Facebook page for more info.

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