The Legacy of the Redundant Soul
I so desperately wanted to fall in love with SOUL CALIBUR V, much the way I had with the original Soul Edge/Soul Blade for the PlayStation, and its sequel, Soul Calibur, for the Sega Dreamcast. Since those two games, the series has been wrought with unsatisfying experience after unsatisfying experience -- all of which seem to be lesser versions of the one before it. Soul Calibur V is really no different.
When I first popped the game in after it being delivered to my door step, I was met with the sensation of disappointment once again -- the same disappointment I felt with Soul Calibur II and III, but not quite as bad as what I felt with IV. Soul Calibur II's gameplay felt lessened, to me, than it's predecessor and had a lot less features. Soul Calibur III had the creation mode for the first time in any fighting game, but it was limited and not very well structured, and it, too, seemed to have less offerings than its previous installment. VI suffered from the same creation mode issues, lacked in all the extra modes I had becomes accustomed to with Soul Blade and Soul Calibur, but offered Darth Vader, Yoda, and Starkiller as extra characters. It seems that as the series progresses, the focus is put more on what guest characters they can stick into the game rather than making the new experience better than the last.
With Soul Calibur V we once again have solid gameplay that is accompanied by a solid online mode, but we have a neutered single player experience that's limited to a very shoddy story mode, the regular arcade mode that goes into fighting games but restricted to just six opponents, and a mode that was borrowed somewhat from Tekken; particularly the handheld versions of Tekken on the PSP. There's no survival mode, no sort of challenge tower, no mode that guides you through the gameplay process as before; there's no depthy story mode or pseudo RPG mode, no character viewers or background viewers; there's not even any sort of storyline components for the characters that we've all grown to love and appreciate. Nope, no CGI endings, no couple of illustrations accompanied by some text endings, there's no story elements for any of the characters outside of the story mode and it just covers the new characters.
Visually, the game is very pretty, but to me, aside from some changes to how the game plays, it's no different at all from the previous game. In fact, it feels like such a lesser version of Soul Calibur IV, that aside from unlocking the creation parts, there's almost no incentive to actually play this game at all over the previous one. Yeah, it has Ezio from Assassin's Creed, but if I want to play a game for that specific character, I'm going to play Assassin's Creed.
Soul Calibur V is redundant, and it makes me feel that Team Soul -- along with a few other Japanese game developers -- have no idea what they're audience expects from them, and assume they can just do what Activision is doing with Call of Duty, except fighting games are not Call of Duty. You can't really build a robust online component to a game that's basically a fight between two digital characters. You can make it work, you can make it work really well, or you can make it fail horribly. While Soul Calibur V does work online really well, some of us who play these types of games, don't care at all to play them online. Yet, most of the devs and publishers that make fighting games from Japan assume that that's what they're entire audience wants from them now, and so the past decade and a half of all this expansive single player content is being done away with so that you and your friends can collect emblems, titles, and tags online.
All the while redundantly unlocking items to make up a new fighter with that are just the same items and materials from the previous game. Yes, you have to spend an absurd amount of time playing Soul Calibur V to unlock the same equipment that you spent an absurd amount of time playing Soul Calibur IV unlocking. It was upon that point, after reaching almost level fifty of in the game, that I realized that there's no real point in playing Soul Calibur V. Even within the creation mode, it's still just as restrictive as it's always been with the only new addition to it being the adjusting of the characters size. You still can only make clones of the fighters offered -- which makes for some hilarious moments, actually, when you make a male character in a woman's fighting style, and he stands and runs and behaves in the game like one of the females. They didn't go all out, which is a huge disappointment when you learn that around four-hundred individuals worked on this game. It was rushed, it feels rushed; and it's very sad to see a game that used to offer a slew of unique experiences within the fighting game genre has been robbed of all of that. I would've liked to have seen maybe ten different fighting styles that were exclusive to the creation characters instead of just making fifty clones of Mitsurugi.
The end results have soured me on Soul Calibur completely and worries me about Namco's future fighting game endeavors, such as TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2. I still have hope, 'cause I was very disappointed with Soul Calibur IV as well, and Tekken 6 served up a great fighting game for me.