The stage of history
Originally released in 1997, Namco's Soul Blade was the first game to bring a knife to a fist-fight. At a time when Street Fighter was throwing down in 2D side-on brawls, and Tekken players were side-stepping their way to becoming the Kings of Iron First, Namco decided to take a punt on something a little different: a fully 3D, arena-based fighting game in which each character wielded a deadly weapon.
After an incredible boom fighting games fell by the wayside, but Namco soldiered on, pumping out a new SoulCalibur every few years - but the lack of changes to the formula bogged the series down. Fast forward to 2008 and Street Fighter IV revitalised the genre, and now Namco is stepping back into the arena with SoulCalibur V on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And thanks to a few smart tweaks to the series' traditional gameplay, it's arguably the best Calibur to date.
Get the edge
The most obvious addition is the introduction of a comeback mechanic similar to Street Fighter's Super and Ultra Combo moves. SoulCalibur's version is called the 'Critical Edge' and is represented on screen by a bar that slowly fills every time your fighter lands an attack or takes a hit. Once the bar is filled you can input the appropriate commands and watch as your character unleashes a highly-damaging, flashy move.
The most interesting part of SoulCalibur's new mechanic is that it also allows players to spend their meter when it's only half full. This 'Brave Edge' attack delivers a less-powerful but still damaging blow that modifies the properties of the regular move that preceded it, usually by making it safer to use or giving it an extra-sting. This is particularly exciting for players who love putting combos together, who'll almost certainly find it in their interest to spend time in the game's fully-featured training mode figuring out which strings of attacks are most rewarding in terms of damage.
The second major tweak comes in the way blocking is implemented in SoulCalibur V. In the previous game, relying too much on blocking was punished by the 'Soul Crush', which meant weapons would break after a certain amount of damage had been blocked. In this game, each character has been given a single move that can break through the enemy's guard in an instant, forcing cautious fighters to step out of their comfort zone. SoulCalibur V is also a faster paced game than its predecessors too, requiring players to make full use of side-stepping to evade attacks and often to exploit openings.
A new SoulCalibur also brings with it a handful of fresh characters to play with. These include Lexia, a young Chinese girl very capable of pulling off juggle combos and creating high-low mix-ups, Z.W.E.I., who's able to summon a white werewolf; Viola, a crystal ball-wielding witch and Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, star of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, who fills in the traditional guest character slot.
With always impeccable visuals, an epic soundtrack, full online play and a deep character creation mode, Namco Bandai's latest feature-rich SoulCalibur returns in fine form. Fans of the series will enjoy sinking hours into mastering the title, while newcomers and those who prefer a lighter fighting game experience will find their needs more than catered for. SoulCalibur V isn't one you should miss.
- Fast and furious battles.
- Beautiful visuals.
- Excellent cast of fighters.
- Cheesy story mode.
- Very cheesy voice acting.