Soul Calibur V is the biggest disappointment since my father.
I really can't think of any other thing in my gamer life that issues more feelings of disappointment, anger and utter betrayal when it comes to games that I play. Hell, it's not even the worst game that I've ever played and that's what makes me irk...
While my father has admitted to his mistakes, tried to made strides to not be a disappointment and I've made my peace with him and how he screwed up my life...Soul Calibur V's damage has forever affected me as a player. Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age, Kingdom Hearts...I can't play any of those games without thinking of the betrayal that was Soul Calibur V. It's like a fly that won't go away, no matter how much I swat it or go to another room. It's a pebble in my shoe and my shoe is stuck on my foot.
And if any of you "awesome-whores" under the age of 20 come up and say that Soul Calibur 3 was the worst game because it had dated graphics, then I suggest you stop reading this review right now before I tell you how much of an idiot you are! It doesn't matter how shiny or pretty it is, a turd is still a turd. Same with a gun, it doesn't matter how clean or shiny it looks, it'll still kill you if you're looking down the barrel when the trigger is pulled.
I just don't understand what happened...even with the obvious, I still don't understand how they screwed it up! It was made by the same team that made the previous games, did they just come into development and forgot about what they've been working on for the past 15 years?
I need to focus...need to focus...need...to...focus....
For Context, I've been a fan of the series since Soul Calibur 2. I remember being in a Yugioh Recreational Tournament at the local Toys'R'Us where I would eventually get Tales of Symphonia and across from the same Wal-Mart where my mom got me SC2, a PS2 and SC3 as rewards for good grades in school. Well, at the time, I was an impressionable 13 year old boy and they had a demo for the game in the store. I played a blond with tights and short skirt and had fun. Then I learned that Link from Legend of Zelda was going to be in the game.
I had to have it.
Eventually, I studied and improved my grades as part of a deal that my mom made with me. For every A or every few B's, I would either get money or a video game. Since I could care less about money at the time, I went with video games. Eventually, I earned Soul Calibur 2 and loved every minute of it.
Not just Link even though he was a badass in that game, I also got hooked into it's story, it's lore, the historical background where each of these weapon masters were drawn from, the nearly 200 weapons that I could collect, each with it's own history and stats and it's epic gameplay where my brother managed to pwn me with Kilik even though I played the game more than he did!
That's...kind of what he did...
Even in retrospective, Soul Calibur 2 is well-regarded by mainstream gamers, soul series fans and even critics, it currently holds the second highest critic score in the series after the first Soul Calibur game.
Eventually, my mom bought me a ps2 along with Soul Calibur 3 and I was in love. Sure, Link was gone and the graphics were honestly a step down from 2, but the content was the highest in the series.
We had character customization for the first time with unique fighting styles; we had mini-games including one where we had to fight a stone colossus and another where you got to fight Night Terror; an alternate story mode involving newly made characters; Arcade; Harder Arcade; and a legit story mode that followed each character with input options for different outcomes and you could choose your path in that story.
Not to mention that the overall story of Soul Calibur had it's greatest draw here, it felt like...the Empire Strikes Back of the Soul Series.
No offense Tekken Fans, but this was where Soul Calibur surpassed Tekken as Namco's best fighter franchise.
A little after the 360 and PS3 came out, we had Soul Calibur IV and we were told that it would be the last Soul Series game. We were sad to see Soul Calibur go, but it was for the best and we figured that they would go out on a good foot.
They did and more...
Maybe it's not the best game in the series, but I'd say that it was the most AWESOME! It had heart...it had balls! It took a lot of risks and all of them payed off pretty-well.
Character Customization was updated, allowing people to even customize the look and costumes of the cast. You could even alter the weight and muscular tone of your customized character. True, you could only pick styles based on the cast, but you could still customize your character so that it was "your" character.
The Active Matching Battle system which allows players to choose their own team of characters and switch them out during battle allowing for a lot of tactical maneuvering and momentum. Sadly, you could only do this in the Story Mode and the Endurance Tower of Souls mode. With the Story Mode, your teams were pre-chosen based on your chosen character which was still cool because the game still pit some of our favorite characters on the same team.
The most infamous addition to this game's gameplay is the Soul Gauge for two different reasons. One was that it introduced costume damage where parts of your player's outfit would be damaged or destroyed if that part of the body was hit too often and that blocking or getting hit would diminish this gauge. If your gauge was emptied out then your opponent would have a shot at a cool one hit ko attack that would instantly win them the match.
Online Mode was introduced here and despite some hiccups, was very fun. There were two different ways of fighting, either standard or with stats and abilities that you gain through customization.
Lastly, this was the climax of the overall story. We had a lot of drama going on with the cast and it worked. Notable examples being: Sophitia being forced to the dark side to save her daughter, Pyrrha; The strain on Kilik and Xianghua's relationship due Kilik's past and the confrontation to come; Ivy literally dying because most of her soul was eaten by Cervantes (her father!); and the final battle between Siegfried and his demonic alter-ego Nightmare, the battle that would end Siegfried's quest for redemption from his days as Soul Edge's wielder in either victory or defeat, new life or death.
And then Soul Calibur V came along.
You'll probably notice that I've skipped over the series prologue game, Soul Blade and the first game, Soul Calibur.
This was intentional.
In fact, I've tried to find copies of the PS1 version, but I can't find it. Even then, it wouldn't really matter. So much changes between SCI and SB that Soul Blade seems like it's part of a different series. Likely because Namco didn't expect Soul Blade to kick off into it's own mainstream franchise and really treated it as a side-project compared to Tekken. In all honesty, it was a game that was part of a different era of gaming, so it wouldn't be fair for me to compare it to later games.
It would be like trying to compare the first Legend of Zelda game to Skyward Sword, they're both good in their own right and you'd look like a jerk for saying that Skyward Sword is better than the first Legend of Zelda. They're games in different eras of gaming and shouldn't be compared like one's better than the other.
I did however download the first Soul Calibur off of Xbox Live just to see where it all started and I wasn't disappointed. I could see why the people who first played this game in 1999 really liked it. Again, I won't compare it to later versions because it wouldn't be fair, but it would still hold up.
In short, I'd recommend Soul Calibur through SCIV to any fighting game fan and even Soul Blade if you're a vantage collector. Hell, I may end up buying that one just so I can say that I own the entire Soul Series.
But all of this is muddled down by Soul Calibur V...
For context, let me take you back to 2010 and you hear that Daishi Odashima, one of the game designers for SCIII and SCIV and current director of Project Soul, tweets that Soul Calibur is back. I was hyped for a new soul series game, but we didn't hear much else for a while.
They started releasing pictures and trailers regarding it's gameplay and characters. So you probably heard stuff like this from Soul Series fans:
"Awesome! An older Mitsurugi and an older Siegfried are in this game! This is gonna be cool!"
"Patroklos? Pyrrha? Wait...Sophitia's kids! Neat! They're going to be the successors for their mother and aunt!"
"Hey! Xianghua and Kilik had a daughter-"
"Wait...Xianghua married some random general? Eh...we'll see when the game comes out..."
"Hey Maxi's back! And there's a newer looking Nightmare too!"
"Are those Soul Edge and Soul Calibur? They look epic!"
"Whose the girl with the floating crystal ball? She kind of sounds like Amy...is she Amy?"
"We can actually have fat characters and freely add muscle to different parts of our custom character's bodies? This is gonna be the best Soul Calibur game ever!"
And then we played the game...
You mean to tell that even while working with another development company that Project Soul couldn't deliver?
Random Fan: But the game was rushed by Namco-
Shut up! I'll get to that later! So what if it was rushed? It doesn't exactly help that Project Soul is leaving this in the dust in the state that it was released in! When you make a mistake, you need to own up to it and make amends! Trying to leave it in the dust and hope that we forget about it won't work...it'll just hurt sales for other games that Namco makes. Like Tekken Tag 2.
It's odd for me to say, but as far as fighting games go, Soul Calibur V is still relatively good. But as far as being a Soul Calibur game is concerned, it really hit the mark for reasons that I can't fathom...
Focus...need to focus...
Let's start with the positive things about this game. Half of which are things that don't happen in the game.
1) Mitsurugi wasn't ruined
Now Kilik was ruined by being made into a mimic character and for possibly not being Leixia's father. But this wasn't detrimental to the series, just to the character of Kilik and Xianghua.
However, they didn't do anything like that to Mitsurugi. Mitsurugi is so cool, he's synonymous with Soul Calibur and is one of the most recognizable characters in he entire series.
Fortunately, he's not in the story mode at all. This should be a bad thing, but after going through the story mode, I'm glad that he's not in it. Because I know exactly what would happen if he was...
There would be some stupid scene where that Piss-shit Patroklos finds him and they fight and Patroklos wins. Then Patroklos would act like an ass and kill Mitsurugi for interferring with his duty as a "Holy Warrior." Fortunately, that scene never happens. Mitsurugi is still seated in his seat of badassery alongside Algol.
2) Hilde wasn't raped
Hilde was and oddity in SCIV, not just because she's the first red-head in the series, but because she was the most covered girl in that game. She was donned in full-plate armor while everyone else wore semi-revealing outfits that shouldn't count at all for protection except that the people wearing them are some of the best warriors in the world.
Thankfully, they don't throw this out the window. Hilde is still covered and still kicks ass. They did give her a pair of adorable kids without revealing who the father is...but I'm sure that it's not important. (My money's on Siegfried!)
3) They stopped stripping Ivy
With each game since SC1, the developers had been making Ivy's outfit more and more revealing. By SCIV, she's basically wearing strips of cloth that are magically enhanced so that her huge tracts of land don't slip out and cause this game to get an M rating. I wouldn't say that it was bad, but it did offend some circles of gamers.
So in SCV, they tastefully tone down her sexualization, giving her a primary outfit that covers her up more than any other game, but it's still VERY sexy. In fact, they did this with all of the female characters, covering them up but still making them somewhat sexy. Kind of a "Less Skin is More" approach, but not to conservative levels, it was an even ground.
4) No Ridiculous out-of-place Guest Characters
SC2 was released on different consoles and had some badass guest characters. Heihachi for the PS2, Spawn for the Xbox, and Link for the Gamecube. None of them really fit and their reasons for being in the Soul Calibur universe didn't make too much sense. But they were so awesome that gamers didn't really care.
SC4 also had some cool guest characters, but they really didn't fit and even gamers complained about it. Adding Star Wars characters to a fighting primarily based in the late 16th century is not a good move. I don't care how you explain it, there's something wrong with having a lightsaber get blocked by a steel katana...or giving these jedi/sith characters access to iconic force abilities that include shocking people to death, telekinesis, mental persuasion, and psychic choking.
Thankfully, they change this in SCV. We only have one guest character, Ezio Auditore from Assassin's Creed 2. Sure, he's a hundred years ahead of his actual time period, but he still fits into the time period and he's freaking awesome to boot.
Now the for the good things that are in the game.
5) Character Customization is expanded
Same rules as the customization in IV, only now we can alter body mass for each part of the body as well as height. You can even download costumes from Xbox Live's marketplace including costumes from the good Soul Calibur games.
6) Decent Combat Mechanics
A tutorial would be nice and I didn't like how they made guard impact/just guard more complicated to use. Other than that, the combat is decent. They toned down the special guage and equipment damage from SCIV, however it's not to levels that most will complain about.
That's what I'll do later in this review.
Story-wise and New Character wise, the only things that I liked about this game that's in the game's story were:
7) ZWEI and Pyrrha
While we don't see as much of them as I like and Pyrrha's screwed over for being miscast as the story's "villain", I still like both of them.
True, ZWEI looks like he belongs in a Final Fantasy game. But he's such a blunt badass that I don't care if he's out of place. He was a Sour Knight, a guy who didn't like people or how stupid they could be, but he was still a good guy and a loyal friend if you give him a shot.
Pyrrha's parts in the story really reminded me of Shinji Ikari. She's wimpy and doesn't have a backbone, but that's more because of getting a bad deal in life than it being her own fault. Her struggles with finding happiness were heart-wrenching and despite being cast and led along to being the "tragic villain", I felt like she was relatively more of a heroic figure than her brother, Patroklos.
Yeah...we'll get to him later.
What else did I like about this game? Let's see...I liked it whenever ZWEI beat up Patroklos; I liked it when Patroklos cried like a little wimp; I liked the corny line when Patroklos was called a dog; and even when I'm playing as him, I really love it when another player owns Patroklos.
Yeah, I really hate that little piss-shit.
Want to know why? Stay tuned for part 2.