Two random fellows on the street get into a fight right before your eyes. Much to your delight, the two fighters seemed rather adept at fighting as each fighter gracefully unleashes flurries of attacks upon each other. Inevitably, one fighter goes down after an intense battle of give and take with a good bit of mind games thrown in. Now comes the hard part. Do you care as to why these two seemingly random people started fighting each other? Or do you only care that the two put on a very entertaining show of strength and guile? In the case of most fighting games, we don’t care as to why the characters in the roster list decided to pick a fight with the other characters on the roster list, but the SoulCalibur series has a rather special distinction of being a fighting game that had a story underneath it that doesn’t involve a freakin’ combat tournament.
Starting back from SoulCalibur, the series has followed many fighters out to possess/destroy the legendary evil sword, Soul Edge. That story continues on, for better or worse, with the next three sequels, but fast-forward to SoulCalibur 5. That rich universe that has been built upon for five games before it, to an extent, disappears.
SC5 does have a dedicated story mode done a la Mortal Kombat 9. It follows the story of Patroklos, one of the new fighters in SC5, on his quest to find his sister, a journey that intertwines with Soul Edge as it progresses. Like MK9’s story mode, SC5’s story mode has you fighting several battles as Patroklos and a couple other fighters depending on where the story takes you, but the story ends right after Patroklos’s journey ends. In total, that mode has you playing as four different fighters, and basically covers the story for only three of them. Most other fighters offer the ability to play as any of the fighters through the story mode and be rewarded with their own unique ending. It makes for a great incentive for players to want to be somewhat proficient with every character and see their ending. With it gone, you’re left wandering as to why these fighters on the roster list, many of which are veterans to the series, are even doing here. Worst of all, you just don’t have a reason to play any of the characters other than your favorites.
Sometimes fighting games leave the back-story to a separate mode where you can go in and just read each fighter’s bio. SoulCalibur 4 went as far as to create a chart showing every character and their relationship to each other. SC5 gives us nothing. No little blurb about a character’s motivations. No birthdates. No blood types. Nothing. You might as well make up your own story about each character’s role in the SC5 universe, because obviously, SC5 doesn’t care. (side note: all of the bios can be found online)
Perhaps none of this matters. No fighting game has ever been lauded for its incredibly story. Ever. So how well does SC5 hold up technically?
SC5 introduces a couple of mechanics that should be familiar to fighting game aficionados. The Critical Meter acts very much like every other Super Meter in other fighting games. It accrues through attacks, both dealt and taken. Certain moves can only be activated once the meter has the necessary amount including the Critical Edge, SC5’s take on the flashy Super attack found in other fighting games that dishes out a rather significant chunk of damage if it lands. The meter’s inclusion adds a nice little layer of strategy as it can be saved up for either offense or defense.
SoulCalibur’s signature move, the Guard Impact returns very much changed from SC4. Here it requires the use of the Critical Meter as well, but it has become much more powerful compared to its predecessors. Namely, you don’t have to guess the type of attack to counter anymore. One Guard Impact counters them all, and if it succeeds, it leaves the opponent very much vulnerable for an attack. This tug and pull between saving the Critical Meter for offense or defense works wondrous to make the battles feel fresher than it has been in a long while. The aforementioned Critical Edge moves also makes for a great satisfying cap to ending combos on a high note.
In trying to create a more balanced fighter, the developers must have realized that they would need more time than they actually had. That might explain the absolute dearth of single player content, aside from the Quick Battle mode where you can earn little titles to collect to stick under your name in your profiles. It might also explain the truncated move list for every character. Veterans of the series will immediately notice that compared to previous iterations, the moves list has significantly shrunk. One could argue that most of the moves taken out were useless to begin with, but it also make each character far too predictable given their narrow vocabulary. It limits the number of different ways a player can play a fighter. It does mean that a player will have to be much more tactical with when and how they use any given move, but the loss in diversity will certainly be missed by anyone who would occasionally play their favorite character differently than they normally would.
Perhaps the series needed this change. It needed to appeal to the hardcore fighters crowd with its focus on creating a more balanced fighter complete with some very high level mechanics like the newly implemented Just Guard mechanic, a very complicated mechanic with a high risk but very high reward, and tournament proven mechanics like the Critical Meter. Although SC5 still remains very approachable to new players, I mourn the loss of most of its traditional single player components, which gives me a reason to play without the need of another player.
- Critical Meter adds a refreshing layer of depth
- Guest character, Ezio Auditore isn’t crap like most guest characters in the past
- Extremely flexible Character Creation mode (Maybe a little too flexible)
- Reduced single player content
- Shortened moves list
- Way too flexible Character Creation mode (You’ve been warned)
Praise It! (4/5)
Confused about our score? See our Ratings Guide.