Soulcalibur V preview – Flaming souls and fast blades

Soulcalibur V is around the corner. Namco Bandai sent along partial builds of the game with certain features, such as the main story mode, locked out. It was, however, enough for us to poke around with the new characters and get a feel for what you can expect at the end of the month. Here are some initial reactions:

Link still dominates

Each Soulcalibur game has the tradition of a guest character from either other game franchises or geek lore. SC V delivers Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio Auditore. Ezio has a few solid tricks up his sleeve, and is definitely a more sound combatant than the likes of recent guests Yoda, Darth Vader, and Kratos (seen in Broken Destiny (opens in new tab), the criminally overlooked PSP game).

His short range blade attacks are a little reminiscent of Raphael. His projectiles are dangerous, but probably won’t be as crucial to your attack plan as Link’s arrows and bombs were. For those keeping count, it appears that his aesthetic mimics Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, though the art style gives him a more youthful face.

He’s a fun character to use, but he’s not stealing the crown from our iconic friend in green.

Criticals are still satisfying

I’m not a competitive-level fighting game fan, but I’ve played my share of Soulcalibur over the years, including some of Broken Destiny two years back, which was a good handheld fighter, if you could find friends to play with. I’ve enjoyed unleashing SC V’s nasty finishers as much as what I saw in SC IV and in the PSP game. As you’ll notice from our GR GamePlay demo, Ezio’s is a doozy.

Be virtuous. Be patient

For the average fighting game dabbler, SC V’s arcade mode finale will virtually assure full-on rage. Depending on your character of choice—or worse, if you play on random—higher level characters’ devastating attacks will dispatch you within a matter of 20 seconds or less. Your mileage may vary, but be ready for some frustrating fights and a boatload of patience if you don’t play Soulcalibur frequently. I shudder for Algol encounters in the final product.

“More of the same” isn’t the right phrase, but…

SC V is clean and gorgeous. Project Soul has paid close and careful attention to its trademark Euro-amalgam fantasy world. Admittedly, the menus and UI seem unchanged over years of sequels, but they’re functional enough. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Soulcalibur V’s existence is less driven by “we haven’t seen a Soulcalibur in years” and more by “people are playing fighting games more often.” Compared to comebacks from the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom and Mortal Kombat in the past twelve months, SC V feels a little anticlimactic and rather iterative. If you’re sick of SC IV, it’ll be an ample replacement, and as 3D fighters go, it’s a good one (so far). Will it replace the current slate of Capcom titles, or make you forget that Sega’s churning out its final VF 5 iteration? Probably not.

Current prognosis?

Stay tuned for reviews. From the time spent with this near-complete build, it’s a good fighting game that’s fun to play with friends. The jury’s still out on whether it’s got enough going with its online content to warrant a spot on your shelf, but until we’ve got a final verdict, stay tuned.

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