Intro: Myth Busters
Before I fully begin this review, I want to take some time to debunk a few myths on why this game's story is "good" or why the game in general is the best in the series.
A) Because it's different from previous games.
No. Different isn't always better, the nail that sticks up is the one that's hammered down. Doing things differently only works when the result is as good or better than the previous method. As we can see with SCV, throwing out the traditional character endings backfires because now we have no idea about who we're playing as. We don't even get to choose who we play in the story mode.
B) Those cutscenes have great graphics.
No! Having cool graphics during cutscenes have come to be expected in games. In fact, having good graphics is just something that's part of making a game's environment and feel. There's nothing special about having awesome graphics because everyone has awesome graphics nowadays. Plus, it doesn't matter how pretty your game looks, if its lame then it's just pretty lame.
That's why a lot of people don't like Avatar too much or think that it's overrated. Sure, it has good technology and graphics, but the story is copied and pasted from other movies that told the same story: Trees and Nature=good; Technology, military and cooperations=evil.
Same thing with Final Fantasy XIII. It has the best graphics in the series, but if you judge on basis of content, quests, side-missions, story, plot and exploration potential...it measures out as more of an interactive movie than a video game. In that sense, it's worse than Dirge of Cerberus.
So if you think SCV is better because it has the best graphics, then you've been played my friend.
C) It did away with cliche black and white morality and added some shades of grey to it's dramatic tension.
No! Grey and Grey morality doesn't excuse miscast roles or bad writing. That kind of thing only works when both sides are relatively even in moral complexity and basis. For instance, you could argue that Star Wars has a lot of shades of grey. The Empire can be considered unforgivable for blowing up Alderaan and murdering the Jedi, sure and most Sith aren't exactly sympathetic.
However, you could make an argument about the heroes not being too heroic. Luke blew up a Station filled with millions of people who weren't evil and were just doing their jobs; He tries to bring his father back to the light side, but doesn't give a damn about the hundreds of storm troopers that he kills without a second thought; The jedi are guardians of peace and justice, but they also kidnap and brainwash infants and forged an alliance with Jabba the Hutt, a known and infamous despotic gangster with dynasties in the drug trade, bounty hunting, assassinations, slavery and illegal trafficking.
Adding shades of grey can make an audience think. But you still have to firmly establish which side is "good" and which is "evil" and let the audience choose for themselves based on how the story plays out.
But, this can also backfire if the writers don't think themselves and the good guys will end up being more villainous than the actual villains or the villains will seem more like good guys than the actual good guys.
Here's two examples:
Star Trek: Insurrection.
Regarded as one of the weakest star trek movies and is contentious as the worst start trek movie ever made. One of the reasons that this is the case is because the movie didn't do that great of a job with it's moral aesop.
In the movie, Picard comes across a race of human-like aliens known as the Ba'ku and befriends them. However, Picard comes into conflict with his superiors since they plan to beam the Ba'ku off the planet so that they can freely study it's miraculous regenerative energies that allow people to live hundreds of years without aging.
The story would want you to believe that the Federation is wrong for doing this and therefore, support Picard when he goes out of character and launches an insurrection in the sake of saving the Ba'ku. The problem with this story is that the Ba'ku are squatters on Federation property, they don't own the planet, the Federation does; Picard had taken part in at least two force relocations before but only now has a problem with it; and finally, this regenerative energy could actually help billions since the Federation was in the middle of a climatic war with an Empire called the Dominion.
One could make an argument on how Jake Sully is the true villain of the movie and Miles Quaritch is the rough hero whose doing what he must to save humanity. The movie wants you to believe that humans are taking over Pandora because we're greedy monsters who want to destroy everything green and natural. The Na'vi are portrayed as a perfect simple race of noble warriors who are perfectly at peace with nature.
Ignoring the fact that indigenous cultures can be just as brutal to each other as "civilized" cultures can.
However, I actually did some research and have come to two conclusions: One, Sully is a selfish traitor and Two, I should think before rooting for the Na'vi. At this point in human history, Earth's natural resources have been exhausted and regardless of the reason, humanity needs a means to survive. That means is off-planet exportation and the main fuel for that transportation is the unobtainium that Jake was "supposed" to be negotiating for!
With this in mind and considering the events of the movie, Jake Sully has potentially doomed the human race to starve to death because he loves the Na'vi so much. I won't pretend that Quaritch was perfect, but at least he was loyal, at least he was trying to save humanity, and he was even going to fund the surgery that would allow Jake to use his human legs again. He really didn't become vindictive towards Jake until Jake betrayed him.
My point is that Grey and Grey morality works for making the audience think. But if not done smartly, it'll confuse them and you'll end up miscasting your roles in the story.
D) Patroklos was conflicted and more human than previous main characters.
You know what...I'm just going to start this review right here, with the biggest problem with the Story Mode and Soul Calibur V in general.
Problem 1: Patroklos
Before I go any further, I want to show you something.
This is Patroklos' character introduction scene and sums up everything that's wrong with this character!
Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cho1pjbx6YA
Watch up to 45 seconds and then skip to 3:12 and watch it all the way through.
Watch it again...and again...
Then go back to 3:41 and just pause.
THAT IS OUR HERO LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!
But just to make sure that no one is confused on what a hero is or try to say that Patroklos is supposed to be an anti-hero...let's get a lesson on this from the most credible source on the internet.
"A hero (heroine is always used for females), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion.
A demigod is the son or daughter from one immortal and one mortal parent, an example would be Heracles, son of the mortal queen Alkema and the god Zeus.
Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence."
In short, a hero in most contexts is a character struggling to achieve a deed for the greater good. Saving a princess from a dragon, Fighting an evil king, Rescuing children from kidnappers, Freeing slaves, Standing up to an Injustice in the System and overall being a generally good person. There are many ways of writing these characters and each type works for it's own story.
Master Chief is a hero and a good guy, but he's emotionally stunted by the methods used to make him into the soldier that he is. This makes it hard for him to connect with the people that he's trying to save.
The X-Men are good guys, but they're outcasts from the society that they protect due that society's own flaws. Despite this unfair treatment, they still protect the ungrateful bastards because they're of a higher moral fiber.
Batman is a good guy and hero who works under a moral code, but he's not nice. He'll beat the bad guys within an inch of their lives, threaten them, intimidate and terrify them, invade people's privacy and even stand in defiance of the law to do what he feels that he needs to do.
And since this is gonna come up, let's talk about Anti-Heroes and why Patroklos doesn't fit the definition of a hero or an anti-hero.
An anti-hero is basically a protagonist with negative and even villainous qualities who still qualify as heroes due to character development that tones down their negative qualities, struggling against an even greater and less morally questionable evil and actually have some profound heroic qualities that balance out the negative ones.
Let's have Kratos from God of War for an example.
Kratos is a blood-thirsty, murderous, vengeful savage whose on a single-minded quest to kill the Greek gods and doesn't care about what he destroys or who he kills to accomplish this. On first glance, the only thing that makes him remotely heroic is that the Greek gods are generally jerks to humanity for their own amusement and that they'd screwed around with his family out of fear of a prophecy that they ironically allowed to be fulfilled.
What balances him out is that he really was a good son, brother, father and husband to his family when they were alive. He defied Spartan tradition to save his daughter from being hurled off a cliff, He was tender and kind to his wife, and really feels remorse for having killed them despite it not being his fault. He wanted peace with his past and the gods lied to him about being able to give that to him. He even forms a father-daughter bond with Pandora during the second and third games, a bond that really exposed his humanity...humanity that was quashed by both his own actions and fate itself.
By the end of God of War 3, he attains his vengeance, but also sees the chaos and destruction that it has caused. To give humanity hope, he sacrifices his own life and to atone for the destruction that he selfishly caused. It's the kind of character that you can sympathize with, but the story doesn't hold his hand and makes him pay for every mistake that he makes.
Patroklos lacks any of this.
There isn't any redeeming or heroic qualities within this character. Even his love for his sister is messed over because of his later actions. When I see Patroklos, I don't see a main character, I see a whiny and pathetic brat that the story wants us to believe is the main hero.
I saw this challenge posted by some guy on Gamefaqs.com and decided to put it here with his permission:
Describe your most and least favorite characters in the series without saying their names or important details about their storylines. You can use physical features as well, but the important thing is to think of as much as you can to describe the character to someone whose never played or heard of Soul Calibur.
Then, the guy who goes next puts up the answer to your descriptions before they give theirs. Then the guy after that can choose to either guess both previous descriptions, or choose one.
Here was the original topic creator's example:
She's been around the block for a while, but she's still as playful as in the beginning of her journey. Her weapon features a lot of kicking, I'm surprised that she hasn't lost a leg yet. At first, she's just in the fight to rebel and prove herself, but she grows up and eventually rejoins the fight out of responsibility rather than selfish ambition.
She also has a cocky streak to add to her determination; fortunately, she gets better as time passes and goes from a arrogant traveler looking for a fight to a slightly-arrogant teacher chiding her stubborn charge.
He's a short-sighted, bigoted brat. He's disrespectful to friends and allies; Hardly ever thinks for himself; but he's either very handsome or very charismatic because he always ends up getting what wants even if he didn't earn it or deserve it; Has a vengeance complex and will cut down the innocent because of said-complex; Doesn't match the description for his title; and he's very smug and cocky towards others. To be fair, he does grow up, but I don't count it because...it took a Deus Ex Machina for it to happen.
PS: You shouldn't have to guess who my most hated character is...kind of intentional.
PSS: Guest Characters can be used too.
I'd say that his favorite character was Seong Mina while his least favorite would be Patroklos.
Whenever I think of Patroklos, I only have negative things to think of and say about him. The only thing that's remotely good about him are his combat styles, styles that should go to more deserving and better written characters. But, this piss-shit gets the best of all worlds and I don't see why.
That's because the story is too forced to let him feel any true and unscripted character development. From Point A to Point B, he becomes whatever character that the plot needed him to be without any development to serve as a bridge.
And at each of those points, he's not likable in the least. He starts out as a murderous and vengeful idiot to an ungrateful and heartless jerk and then to a complete and utter tool despite the "character development" that the story wants us to see.
Problem 2: A Bad Story that Excuses itself.
Another thing that makes Patroklos and SCV's story worse is that the plot makes things way too convenient for it's supposed hero. How else could you explain how Soul Calibur chooses Patroklos as it's wielder when he's taken part in at least one massacre of his own free will? Or why it stopped working for Siegfried but chooses Patroklos over the infinite list of more worthy fighters?
Logically speaking, shouldn't Leixia or Talim be Soul Calibur's next wielder? Seeing as that they're both strong-willed and good-hearted characters who aren't tainted by Soul Edge and they don't murder people in cold blood? But since Talim was dropped from the cast for no reason and Leixia barely shows up in the story, I guess Soul Calibur tried to make due with what it had.
Wait a minute...
"Looks up Cassandra and Sophitia's profiles for SCII and SCIII"
Uh..wasn't Patroklos also born with Soul Edge's taint because Sophitia was wounded while fighting Cervantes? And since Sophitia's dead and Cassandra's in the Astral Chaos...that means that Rothion most likely never knew about it. Shouldn't it have festered by now since that kind of energy feeds on negative emotions like anger, vengefulness, selfishness, and cold-blooded murder?
In fact...shouldn't this give Patroklos an ability to distinguish the difference between innocent people and the malfested? In fact, shouldn't he have a really bad feeling whenever he goes around Graf Dumas, whose not only Nightmare in disguise, but he's wielding Soul Edge itself! How come Patroklos isn't sensing any of this stuff? Setsuka's been around since SCIII and would've known something about soul edge, its taint and the malfested, wouldn't she have taught Patroklos some things about it? Things that would keep him from being blatantly strung along and manipulated by a guy who should exude mass amounts of discomfort onto Patroklos?
The reason that I say this is because Soul Calibur character profiles have had various examples of soul edge shards and taints reacting to each other, Soul Calibur, purifying objects or Soul Edge itself.
Sophitia's scars from Soul Blade were aggrevated in SCII and her kids went crazy and started fighting over the shard that Rothion brought home;
Taki infused a shard into one of her knives (Mekki-Maru I believe?) and used it to track down Soul Edge and other shards;
Ivy eventually learned to track down soul edge and it's shards since she was born with soul edge's taint inside of her;
Kilik was infected with the Evil Seed and eventually trained to track and purify similar taints;
Maxi was infused with a shard of Soul Edge and had reacted whenever another shard was nearby (Soul Calibur III)
Pyrrha's malfested arm was a result of various sources of Soul Edge's taint including soul edge itself, the shard in her body, the taint that she was born with, and likely Patroklos' taint reacting to each other;
Tira was also infected by both the Evil Seed and Soul Edge and presumably used it to keep track of Sophitia, Pyrrha, Patroklos (SCIII) and various other characters;
And various characters have held on to soul edge's shards to track other shards or Soul Edge itself.
My point is that the games until know implied that people who had soul edge shards or were somehow affected/tainted by it could sense other people who fit the same criteria. Kind of like how immortals could sense each other in the Highlander Series or fighters sensing each other in Dragon Ball Z. The fact that this can be heavily supported makes this a credible idea.
In fact, what makes someone a malfested?
I don't think that the game really gave us a definition on what makes someone malfested. It can be implied and confirmed that malfested are people corrupted or influenced by soul edge's taint. But doesn't that make Patroklos himself a malfested? Then how come he can still wield Soul Calibur without being burned by it's holy power?
How come everyone in Schwarzwind except ZWEI was totally cool with this heartless murderer being given ownership of Soul Calibur?
Hold on...so Siegfried was deemed to no longer have the will to wield Soul Calibur...despite having broken free of soul edge's overpowering and soul-crushing influence?
Some will say that Soul Calibur's knight templar spirit was controlling Patroklos later in the game...But doesn't that make Patroklos even less of a hero if he doesn't have the willpower to stand by his one primary motivation? So Siegfried's willpower isn't strong enough to wield Soul Calibur, but Patroklos can wield it despite having less willpower and resolve?
How does that make sense?
And no one tell me that it's all explained in the Art Book. An artbook that's only available overseas or available as a smaller version in the Collector's Edition. If you're not going to include the answers in the standard edition of the game, then why should we have to pay money for your mistakes? These are answers that the game should give us so that we can better understand and accept the story that they're trying to tell us.
And no one say that this was overlooked because the game was rushed. Stop bringing up that excuse. Patroklos' and Pyrrha's storylines were given top priority over the other 3/4th's of the story mode which means that this problem is inherent in the game's design. Which means that either the developers didn't do their homework to keep from messing over their own lore or they just didn't care.
Either one is bad.
The whole story just seems too forced so that Patroklos could be the hero. Everything is handed to this brat for other reason than that the plot said so. He didn't earn any of it and what's worse is that he even gets a second combat style that he's still really good with even though he hasn't used it in years.
Then there's that time travel bullshit in Chapter 16, a poorly disguised deus ex machina that came out of nowhere so that Patroklos could learn a lesson without taking responsibility for his mistakes. That was the point where I stopped caring about the story and where it damaged Soul Calibur lore forever.
All of this is made even worse by another problem...
Problem 3: Miscast Character Roles.
I'm more or less speaking in regards to the Alexandra siblings. It really seems like their roles should be reversed and that the only reason they did the way that they did was to be edgy and different.
Betraying their own lore in the process.
Before this game came out, there were certain requirements that characters had to meet to even be considered worthy of the Soul Blades.
Soul Edge was easy. Anyone can grab a hold of it and wield it, but only those with a strong will could use the sword without being controlled or devoured by it and if you can use Soul Edge without being controlled by it, you do whatever you want with it's power.
In his background, Algol used Soul Edge as "The Hero King" and spread peace throughout his kingdom and the adjacent lands. His son was tempted however and stole Soul Edge from his father which lead to a fight where Algol won against his possessed son and fatally wounded him. Remorseful, Algol sacrificed his life to create Soul Calibur after many failed attempts and wasn't revived until Soul Calibur IV.
Generally though, Soul Edge tended to use evil-aligned or malicious characters for it's intentions. People like the following:
Cervantes - A pirate who has committed mass theft, mass murder, at least one act of rape, treason against his country, and nearly murdered his own daughter just to amasss power for himself.
Pre-redemption Siegfried - An armored gangster who stole from caravans, murdered knights of his own country including his own father, betrayed and murdered a noble who had employed him, and selfishly sought after Soul Edge to avoid taking responsibility for killing his own father.
Nightmare - The series' most iconic wielder, at first it was just Siegfried while Soul Edge controlled him. From SCIII onwards though, Nightmare basically becomes the physical shell for Soul Edge's malice and spirit.
Astorath - A giant golem who was created to kill people and loves it, betrayed and murdered his own creator, planned to betray Nightmare and tried to kill Rock just because his model is based on Rock's physique.
Lizardman (Aeon Calcos) - A former human turned lizard who murders and eats everyone in his path in a destructive quest of vengeance against the god that abandoned him.
SC2 Everyone - Yes, in SC2, everyone had access to their own version of Soul Edge's completed form. Good and Bad, which is consistent because like I said earlier, anyone can wield Soul Edge but only the really strong-willed could use it without being controlled by it. So in this game, it's a matter of subjectivity as to who could handle Soul Edge and who couldn't.
For me personally, I'm certain that characters like Kilik, Talim and Link could handle Soul Edge without being tainted. I say this for the latter because he's handled cursed items throughout his home series and it never damaged his heroic heart and spirit. In fact, Kilik and Talim can wield both Soul Edge and Soul Calibur as their ultimate weapons in SCIV.
Then we get to Pyrrha...whose only real qualification is that she was born with Soul Edge's taint and that Sophitia apparently embedded a shard of soul edge inside of her when she was little. So physically she's compatible, but why should it matter if her heart isn't really into it?
In fact, the only reason she ends up wielding Soul Edge is because Tira was manipulating her the whole time. Pyrrha never did anything evil, the townsfolk and villagers that she does kill in the story were trying to kill her for something that she didn't do. Since when is self-defense evil? Apparently, her taint/shard did absorb the souls from those people, but it wasn't something that she intended to do.
Even later when she becomes Pyrrha Omega, she's pretty much a puppet for Tira. It especially doesn't help that our hero rejected her after she just saved his life from Nightmare. All she really wanted was a family that would love and accept her and that little piss-shit rejects her and runs away. Something that Tira had told her would happen and after that, everything she does is a result of either Tira's manipulation or the increasing influence that Soul Edge has over her body and her mind.
Then we get to Patroklos and Soul Calibur.
Despite some details in SCIV, the requirements for wielding Soul Calibur have been the same since the first Soul Calibur. One must be pure of heart, will and intention in order to even touch the sword, much less wield it. It was a homage to Excalibur and other legends about soul-searching swords and it worked.
Let's take a look at some canonical and even potential wielders:
Xianghua - A loyal and spirited warrior who was originally sent to bring Soul Edge to the Ming Emperor. But upon learning the truth, she works to destroy it instead and throughout the series exhibits great care and love for her companions Kilik and Maxi, even when the latter has a soul edge shard in his body and the former is trying to isolate himself from attachment.
Post-redemption Siegfried - During the events of SCI, Siegfried was freed from Soul Edge's influence after Inferno's (Spirit of Soul Edge) defeat at the hands of Xianghua. He contemplated his actions before and while he was Nightmare and took responsibility for all of it. He made a valiant effort at making amends for his sins, but was eventually forcibly possessed by Soul Edge and became Nightmare again. During his fight with Raphael in SC2, Siegfried made another effort at reclaiming his body and Soul Calibur, sensing both his desire to atone for his sins and his change of heart, Soul Calibur revealed itself to Siegfried and Siegfried took the sword and stabbed Soul Edge in it's eye!
Okay...that went on for a longer than I had expected...the point is that Siegfried's intention and will were pure and Soul Calibur was wielded by him from SCIII to SCIV.
SCIV Ivy - At this point, Ivy was dying and still fighting on to destroy all traces of Soul Edge. She was also trying to atone for her misdeeds when she worked under Nightmare and her entire character theme has a sort of "Noble Suicide" thing going on.
SCIV Cassandra - Seems like a disrespectful tomboy at first glance, but she's actually a strong good-aligned character. She loves her family and is determined to make sure that Sophitia makes it home safely. In fact, her SCIV ending has her break Soul Calibur with her bare hands when it starts going Knight Templar on her. She's a strong-willed character who wants to protect the people she loves, what's not good about that?
Talim - Does this need to be explained? Just look at her! She's not only pure-hearted, she's also ridiculously innocent.
SCIV Yoshimitsu - He's Samurai Robin Hood for a reason.
Kilik - Strives for inner peace and seeks to atone for his past mistakes, even the one's that weren't his fault.
SCIV Setsuka - Wishes to uphold the honor of the man who raised and cared for her by defeating Mitsurugi. In fact, by now her motivation isn't even primarily revenge. According to data that I did look up, she even defeated Mitsurugi without killing him and became a tutor in Istanbul for orphaned children. When Patroklos came under her tutorledge, she learned about his desire for vengeance and warned him against pursuing it.
Advice that was ignored.
Then we come to Patroklos...a character whose pure heart can be seen through his numerous deeds:
- Ignorance of an obvious evil when it's staring him in the face.
- Has murdered countless innocent people unprovoked in a quest for misguided vengeance.
- Disrespects friend and foe alike.
- Swears a lot more than a "Holy Warrior" should.
- Rejects his sister even after she saved his life for reasons beyond her control.
- Has an obsession with his sister and mother that contains undertones of incest.
- Displays arrogance and cockiness worthy of Gary Oak.
- Never makes up his own mind on what he wants in his life.
- Is easily led around by anyone and everyone.
- Murders his sister after going through a character arc for the purposes of saving her.
- Selfishlessly abandons the organization that gave him a free sword, training and helped him find his sister.
- Cries like a little pussy when his obvious flaws and mistakes are shoved into his face.
Quite the resume here, right?
In conclusion, it really looks like Patroklos should wield Soul Edge and Pyrrha should wield Soul Calibur. Relatively speaking, Pyrrha is actually more of a heroic character than Patroklos simply because she does greater good despite her physical and plot-related handicaps. The story basically forced these two into their roles just to do it.
The reason that I say that Pyrrha was more heroic was because she acted less evil despite having more of a handicap. She not only had the taint but also had the shard that Sophitia embedded inside of her, but everything evil that she does is a result of Soul Edge's overpowering influence or Tira's manipulation. Patroklos on the other hand with a less powerful or controlling taint...just refer to the list.
Hell, they even added a bullshit power to Soul Calibur just so that it could say that Patroklos is the strongest willed character to ever wield or potentially wield a Soul Blade.
This should be all, but I'm not even halfway through yet...which sucks cause I'm tired of talking about this stupid game.
Continued in Part 3.....