SoulCalibur 5 PS3 review
Enough gauge talk – back to the fun stuff. Soulcalibur V excels at exaggerated (and often underdressed) characters. Whatever your carnal inclination, there’s someone on the roster to inflame your desires. Someone, somewhere, has a Voldo thing. Guaranteed. As well as series classics, there are seven new characters unsheathing their weapons, not including hidden unlockables.
Additions include slightly incongruous oddities like ZWEI, a brooding bad-lad with a werewolf up his sleeves, and his associate Viola, who forgoes blades in favour of a mystical floating gonad (it’s better than I’ve made it sound). Some of the characters are only ‘new’ in the cosmetic sense, and feel more like straight replacements: Natsu is Taki, Leixia is Xianghua, Xiba is Kilik.
Most important are siblings Patroklos and Pyrrha Alexandra, subjects of the story mode and war-sprogs of Calibur favourite Sophitia. A narrative that’s more advanced than ‘stab-win-gloat’ may seem unusual for a fighting game, but it makes perfect sense among the lavish folds of Soulcalibur.
You follow Team Sophitia over 20 stages. Patroklos starts off as an infuriating, precocious runt – think Joffrey from Game Of Thrones – before evolving into something far nobler (if indeed one can be noble while wearing a screaming dead kitty on one’s shoulders). Likewise, Pyrrha is a quivering jellyfish in the beginning, but she experiences a drastic, well-realised evolution – eventually putting the ‘fist’ in pacifist.
Unlike in most fighters, Project Soul has made the effort to materially alter the characters as they progress. Both protagonist and sidekick have secondary appearances and movesets that almost amount to two new characters. It’s the manifest rejection of the palette-swapping origins of earlier beat-’em-up franchises. The story is also oddly moving in places, framing the impenetrable nonsense of previous games with a grand (if occasionally overblown) story of brother, sister and massive, demonic chopper.
Like every Calibur title, it’s all presented beautifully, but this is perhaps the gentlest leap forward in terms of aesthetics. This is only a criticism because the series has looked so good for so long that, short of pouring rainbow-juice into your eyes, it can’t be any more visually arresting. It’s accompanied by a score that echoes Final Fantasy and Game Of Thrones, so every sweep and slash feels crucial and empowering.
It all adds up to the perfect environment for a game that rewards timing, perception and strategy in a way that just about any gamer can understand. But don’t be intimidated by the good looks and graceful moves; shimmy on over and get to know Soulcalibur V. You’ve got nothing to regret but the shakes.