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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Soul Calibur V’: Have the swords rusted?

Published: February 17, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

“Soul Calibur V” is the latest game in Namco Bandai’s “Soul” series, which tells the tale of two semi-sentient legendary swords. There’s the cursed sword, Soul Edge, and the blessed sword created to destroy it, Soul Calibur. Each game in the series features 20 characters who set out either to obtain or destroy one of the swords. Past installments of the series have earned consistent praise for their controls, variety of characters, graphics, music and storyline. While “Soul Calibur V” is fun to play, it falls short of being a great game, especially in light of its $60 price tag.

In previous games, each character had his/her own story. By engaging the game through arcade mode a player could piece together the game’s larger, grander story. “Soul Calibur V” differs in that it utilizes story mode, in which the player is assigned a pre-chosen character for each fight for roughly 20 chapters. This change offers some benefits. The story the designers set out to tell would have been difficult to follow had they retained the previous format.

“Soul Calibur V” tells of a young man named Patroklos, the son of a character from an older game, and his search for his long-lost sister Pyrrha. As his journey progresses, he becomes the chosen wielder of Soul Calibur and discovers that his sister has been raised to wield Soul Edge. I won’t spoil the details of the final battles, but leave it to say that while the story is different, and weaker overall, it is nonetheless fun to play. After playing other games in the series I would have liked to continue more of them rather than just experience the characters that directly interact with the main story.

While the storyline is a weak facet of the game, it does have its positives. One such positive feature is the way it doesn’t integrate the game’s “guest character.” Traditionally, the “Soul Calibur” games feature between one and three guest characters from other franchises. Past games have featured Link from “The Legend of Zelda,” and even Yoda, Darth Vader and Vader’s secret apprentice (since named Galen Marek) from “Soul Caliber IV.” This game’s guest, however, Ezio Auditore da Firenze from “Assassin’s Creed” is not part of the game’s story mode. This is favorable because, while I absolutely loved fighting as Yoda in the last game, it never meshed well with the story. By keeping a few specific characters out of the plot, the game avoided a convoluted story.

Another great aspect of the game are the exceptional controls. It’s not overly difficult or painfully simple to execute combination attacks. Furthermore, there is a fine balance between horizontal attacks, vertical attacks and kicks, with each type of attack superior to another. Another carefully executed element is the guard feature. In some games a patient player can guard continuously, only stopping to launch a quick counter-attack before returning to a defensive position. In this game, if a character guards incessantly their defensive armor and ability will weaken under the continued assaults of their opponent, forcing players to balance between defense and offense. In combat, even the best defenses will eventually weaken under continued assault. The same is true in this game. While defense is absolutely necessary, players need to take risks and go on the offensive in order to win matches.

The general visual presentation is spectacular; the graphics are nothing short of beautiful. The backgrounds are detailed and varied. The cut scenes are detailed to the point that they look like they are from a movie. These scenes, however, do have some problems. Throughout approximately 75 percent of the chapters, interactions other than fights are depicted through what look like drawings on parchment paper. While it looks interesting for the first few moments, it felt very out of place alongside the CGI cut scenes and on a game respected for its visual presentations.

To sum it all up, while the game-play and visuals remain very solid, and are the foundations for a great game, the story is both poorly developed and poorly presented. If I only played games for the multiplayer and online play, this game would be great— namely because the factors that affect multiplayer are well developed, for instance, the controls, the fighting system and the visuals. But if you care about having a decent story, this game is a real disappointment as the story is hardly worth the $60 that video games now cost.