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5/18/2012

REVIEW: Soul Calibur V (Xbox 360)


Soul Calibur V is finally out and ready to be reviewed after spending about two months with its ins and outs. The game’s developer company Namco took a big step forwards in the gameplay department, adding several mechanics that are more than welcome to a 3D fighter that has always gotten a lot of attention from the public and has managed to always get with excellent sales compared to competitors like Dead or Alive or Virtua Fighter, as well as keeping the technical aspects like graphics and sound with top quality.


As most people probably already know, the Soul Calibur series is a 3D fighter franchise where the characters use melee weapons to try to knock the opponents down, they use swords, axes, nunchakus and the like. Like in most fighting games, there are a lot of characters to choose from, each with his or her own style, speed, range and difficulty to use.

The game is incredibly good graphically, I can dare to say that it is easily the best looking fighting game of the generation. The textures in both the fighters and the environments are of great quality, they’re full of colors, well animated and varied enough to avoid much repetition, even when fighting the same opponents several times. There’s a lot of eye-candy to be had in Soul Calibur V, and I don’t only mention it because of the ladies but for the graphics themselves. The vast majority of the character models are jaw-dropping and when playing for the first time, I just stood there randomly moving my character while looking at the graphics and admiring what Namco did this time. I used to think Soul Calibur IV looked great (and I still do) but SCV definitely takes the visuals of a fighting game to another level. In fact, they’re only bested by the alpha demo of Dead or Alive 5 which many of us have in our consoles hard drives at the moment.

The ladies of the game is an aspect I think it’s worth mentioning. When Soul Calibur IV originally came out, it looked like Namco wanted to go the DOA way with this series because Sophitia, Taki, Cassandra and especially Ivy (my God, that Ivy) looked like girls from the anime series Queen’s Blade or Samurai Girls. Well in Soul Calibur V, the ladies are still VERY beautiful but none of them are dressed like whores and they don’t show boobs and ass around while fighting. This is especially easy to notice with Ivy who is still very hot and busty, but she’s dressed kind of like in Soul Calibur 1.


Soul Calibur V is a game that is greatly animated, I remember in the previous versions that many of the characters’ movements used to look a bit awkward in some occasions, especially the ones who are very fast and move around a lot like Taki, Maxi or Talim (who is gone this time, a sad thing). But in this one, they seem to have worked a lot on the animations because they’re very cool and since the game runs at a steady 60-frames-per-second, it’s even easier to notice.

In the sound department, the game does a very good job as well. It comes full with thousands of different sound effects for pretty much everything, from the weapons hitting their opponents to the yells of the fighters screaming in pain. The sound effects aren’t realistic or anything but they fit perfectly into the game. As usual now days, there’s the option to have voiceovers in both English and Japanese and as usual now days, the English voices are pathetic so I honestly don’t recommend using them. All the characters sound better in Japanese and it should be played that way at all times.

There’s a great soundtrack to be enjoyed as well, very similar to the ones of the previous games since it’s a set style Namco has been using since 1999 when the first Soul Calibur game came out for the Dreamcast (I know about Soul Blade’s existence but never played it so I’m not taking it into the equation). Many of the songs have a “medieval” feeling to them which reminds of movies of the same style and there’s even a remake of Maxi’s theme from Soul Calibur 1 which was one of the best songs of that game.


As I mentioned in the beginning, the gameplay took a very huge step towards being a much deeper game, there’s a new sidestepping and ukemi system that plays differently from before. The parries are also changed and they can’t be done at all times now. Instead, we fill up a bar to either use the parries or unleash a powerful “Ultra” that deals heavy damage, kind of like in 2D fighters like Blazblue or Marvel vs. Capcom. But the basics are still the same, we use four buttons for horizontal and vertical strikes, kicks and blocking and by mixing two or three of those we have even more options like throws, launchers and other special attacks.

The vast majority of the characters have their own set style now and there are almost no similarities between them, like in the previous titles where for example, there was no reason to use Rock because Astaroth was there, same with Raphael and Amy and so on. Now each fighter feels more unique, but there’s a downside. Many of the iconic characters are gone with no good reason. Soul Calibur V doesn’t have Sophitia, Cassandra, Talim, Yun Seong and other iconic and usually favorite fighters from the franchise. But we get several new ones like Natsu, Xiba or Patroklos who are very cool and replace the styles of old characters.

The game has several different modes to enjoy. First, there’s Story which takes us to see the events in the life of newcomers Patroklos and Pyrra, a brother and sister related to Sophitia who become involved in the Soul Calibur/Soul Edge thing. To be quite honest, the story is really stupid and doesn’t add anything worthwhile to the game other than a few laughs with your friends at how pathetic and retarded Pyrra is. For single player it is better to play the offline modes where we have Arcade, Legendary Souls and Quick battle which are modes that make you fight AI opponents over and over to unlock titles, level up and get new pieces for Creation. There’s also Versus Mode of course which lets two friends fight at it in the same console over certain chosen circumstances and finally, Training where you can practice and polish your skill to then test them with real opponents. Besides the offline modes we have the online multiplayer which is surprisingly good.


Online, the game runs almost perfectly, even if you don’t have a very fast internet connection, it is really rare to encounter lag in Soul Calibur V. I don’t know what Namco did exactly but while games like Mortal Kombat 9 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are simply unplayable online, Soul Calibur V is a breeze and feels like the opponents are sitting on the couch next to you. Pretty much everyone in every gaming forum on the internet agrees on this: The performace of Soul Calibur V Online is excellent. Sadly, not everything is perfect because the game lacks the option to “fight again” or “retry” after you win or lose a fight against a stranger and forces you to find a new player after each fight.

Like in SCIII and IV before it, SCV has an excellent creation mode where you can both make your own fighter and dress him/her up as you want or take one of the default fighters and change his/her clothes or colors. As you play the game, you’ll be unlocking new content for this mode. There are literally hundreds of things to dress your characters with, from dresses and skirts for the girls to armors and tunics for the guys. The combinations possible reach hundreds of thousands. The Creation Mode plays and works very similarly to the one in Soul Calibur IV but there’s a lot of new content to be enjoyed so they did a great job in the aspect which the game benefits a lot from.


Finally, as a fighting game, Soul Calibur V does a great job at having pretty much infinite replay value. The game really feels much more serious and deep than its predecessors. It has many different modes to enjoy, a great Online system with excellent performance and a very cool Creation Mode that is really fun by itself. As I mentioned, Soul Calibur V is currently the best-looking 3D fighter of the generation and probably the best in the other aspects as well, We’ll have to see how Dead or Alive 5 and Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown end up looking but I personally think this game will hold its ground against the two giants coming to compete with it soon. I totally recommend it.


Pros:

- Deep gameplay mechanics require practice and skill.
- Great soundtrack and graphics.
- Near infinite Creation Mode to make your own fighters.
- Excellent performance Online with little to no lag.
- A very cool and varied roster of characters.
- Many different modes to enjoy.

Cons:

- Many iconic characters are gone.
- No “retry” option online.
- Story Mode is stupid and pointless.


Graphics and Visuals………………10
Soundtrack and Sound Effects……..8
Gameplay………………………….9
Replay Value………………………9

Final Score………………………..9/10

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