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I never got into the original SoulCalibur. It was released at a time when I didn’t have much interest at all in fighting games. Fast forward years later to SoulCalibur II and all of a sudden I had found the series within this genre I had been looking for all along. SoulCalibur V is the latest entry in the now long running series and it is looking better than ever.
Unlike most fighting games, SoulCalibur isn’t about kicking and punching or, to an even lesser degree, focused on elaborate combos compared to others. Instead, every character wields a melee weapon of some kind and is geared towards slow and powerful attacks, fast and nimble strikes, or a more unusual approach such as characters like Voldo who can fight facing backwards or Yoshimitsu who despite appearing in Tekken feels more at home in this series.
My go-to character since II has always been Siegfried, as he utilizes stances and fights more or less like a heavily armored tank class in an RPG. It isn’t about how many hits you get off with him, but what kind and at what point you use them.
The big addition in SoulCalibur III was the player’s ability to make their own unique character using a very well made creator that has been carried over into SoulCalibur IV and V and has been improved upon substantially. From what I’ve seen of it in V and recalling my experience with IV, I’d say next to the wonderfully satisfying gameplay, it is the second biggest selling point for me. I made so many characters in IV I had to eventually delete some to make space for newer ones.
While I could go into depth about how crafting your own fighter gives you a much more personal experience with SoulCalibur than any other game in this genre, the core of any one of these games is always the gameplay. SoulCalibur is all about mastering vertical and horizontal attacks, knowing when to block and when to counter and, like all fighters, mastering the techniques you need in order to shave off your opponents life gauge before they do yours.
While sounding familiar to anyone who has played a fighting game, the key difference is the eight way movement. Being a 3D fighter (in terms of movement more so than visuals) moving around the combat arenas is key to victory. If your opponent has charged up a powerful vertical combo you can avoid it entirely by dodging the right way at the right time. Likewise, if they intend to dodge yours, you can quickly cancel and try for a horizontal instead.
SoulCalibur V is introducing a new super meter that, like those in other fighters, grants a powerful special move once you have attained enough power to activate it. Gone is the soul gauge previously used in the series as well as the indicators of which parts of your armor are currently broken, though the damage mechanic itself will still be present.
Another new addition to gameplay is the quickstep, which is done simply by double-tapping up or down to move out the way of an opponent’s attacks so fights now more than ever are about making sure that whatever you are doing connects. It will be interesting to see how changes like these affect the tournament scene, as SoulCalibur has been a part of fighting game conventions like Evo for many years.
Details at this point in time are still pretty limited, but suffice it to say we can expect a ton of new arenas and characters and supposedly a much bigger story. Many of the series' older characters have indeed been retired fiction-wise, but Namco hasn’t removed them so much as replaced their identities with a series of fresh new faces. If you actually care for the story of SoulCalibur, some new characters are the descendants of the older ones while others are merely pupils. The only guest character known so far is Ezio from the Assassin's Creed series, who thankfully isn't platform exclusive. It will be a nice surprise if there are indeed others.
I cannot wait to get my hands on this game in a few weeks. It is slated for release on January 31st in the U.S. and February 2nd in PAL territories.