Soul Calibur V Preview – Pushing It to the (Soul) Edge
Written Wednesday, August 03, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
For years, Soul Calibur has been carving out a niche in weapons-based versus fighting ever since releasing as Soul Blade/Edge back in 1996, constantly retelling its tale of swords and souls with clashing steel and a menagerie of weird and wonderful characters. So far, there's only nine of these characters confirmed thus far for Soul Calibur V and a story set a whole seventeen years in the future, which unlocks the potential for an array of new additions in terms of both the roster and the gameplay mechanics.
Chief among these is a renewed, revamped core battle system for Soul Calibur V that places a greater emphasis on strategy for the Soul Calibur veterans, while still being accessible to rookie players according to Namco Bandai and developer Project Souls. It's a welcoming 'come one, come all' approach, but is something that's impossible to gauge without going hands-on with the game. Sadly, this is still eyes-only stuff featuring the seven characters currently in the game (there's nine including Xianghua and Kilik's daughter, Leixia and Nightmare who are both absent from this build), with lead protagonist, son of Greek goddess Sophitia and new centre of Soul Calibur V, Patroklos being the first to fight in our demo against the immortal Ivy, whose age has been suspended indefinitely at 32.
As you'd expect from a Soul Calibur game, the action is fast, but this time around it's apparently even more dynamic and 'nervous' - as Namco Bandai phrase it - meaning more fights go right down to the wire and the tension can often be palpable. There's a new 'focus camera' too, which zooms in to get up-close to show the most spectacular moves from the optimum angle. So when Ivy unleashes her explosive Critical Edge attack, the camera seamlessly shifts in for the best view, which surprisingly is nowhere near her ample cleavage.
As well as Critical Edge moves, there's also the new 'Brave Edge' attack that also uses the new critical gauge, which is a crescent-shaped meter that hangs off the end of each player's health bar. Letting rip with a powerful and devastating Brave Edge attack takes 60% of your critical gauge and can help in turning the tide of a battle, assuming it connects of course. And given the refined evasion system, including a double tap defensive move with the 8-way run system, there's increased scope to dodge incoming moves that might otherwise open you up to a juggling air combo or a lacerating strike from Ivy's snake sword.
While first impressions are that Soul Calibur V looks uncannily similar to Soul Calibur IV - even right down to the same type-face, presentation and health bars - save for the new Critical Edge Gauge, Namco Bandai is keen to highlight the new gameplay additions, most significant of which might just be the Critical Edge and Brave Edge moves. Unleashing a Critical Edge attack – which can be charged to two levels within the Critical gauge – damages your opponent massively and can be mixed into your combos with up to two in quick succession. This must be part of the new tactical and strategical bent that Namco Bandai has been talking up.
Subsequent fights we see have Taki's student, Natsu – who like Taki fights with dual short swords - taking on an aged, greying Mitsurugi on the Torture Chamber stage, which is very reminiscent of countless Soul Calibur backdrops before it, as is the Sinking Merchant Ship that you'll recall seeing a variation of in previous instalments. By contrast the walled-in Coliseum and Moonlit field stages are far more interesting, and suit Soul Calibur V's blustering battles down to the ground. Visually, it's still utterly stunning and as we see more battles featuring Patroklos' sister and Sophitia's daughter, Pyrrha, Siegfried and all-new fighter ZWEI – who fights with a sword held by a side handle like a tonfa – we get the distinct feeling that Soul Calibur V will be an instalment worth waiting for.
With the original Project Souls development team back together having split following completion of Soul Calibur IV, it looks as though Soul Calibur V will be every bit as elegant, brilliantly overblown, epic and filled with the same kind of overwrought melodrama as the rest of the series. Hopefully, there'll be more to distinguish Soul Calibur V from its predecessor in the run-up towards its release though, as at present it does look like more of the same. It's all very well being told that there's new gameplay mechanics, but until we can get hands-on time with the game, it's unclear just how much impact the Critical Edge gauge, new evasion system and supposedly renewed emphasis on strategy and dynamism will have on how Soul Calibur V plays.
Still, with the customisation system making a comeback and the same daft story of swords and souls being played out seventeen years in the future, Soul Calibur V can't help but be a winner when it launches in 2012.