I think I may just about get away with that joke. Vengaboys, you have not been forgotten!
I have to confess this – I was not kind about SoulCalibur 4 (yes, the lack of a space IS INTENTIONAL it is supposed to be that way Spam-bots please stop commenting on those details thank you kindly!). I didn’t understand why it had to rework every command. Why it felt the need to be so anti-single-player. Or why it felt the need, with the amount of flesh on display, to ram in Star Wars cameos. Seriously, that wasn’t necessary. I’m not going to apologise for that old review. Partially because most people who read it thought it was very very funny.
So I tread into the arena of SoulCalibur 5 with some degree of care, because so far it is still mostly just screenshots and theory. That said, it’s attempting one of those really tough parts in a fighting game series – moving on.
Yes, there is mostly a new cast – Yoshimitsu is still there, but then, that’s a given. He’s a robot. So is Voldo – as much as I wish it wasn’t. And Ivy too, seeing as she is supposedly immortal, which may explain why Ivy’s chest never stops growing. Maybe all her latent magical power is located in her mammary glands? Just a thought.
But the plot it seems is the same, and I’ll repeat from my old review – everyone is after the Soul Edge for some reason. Some want it for power, some want it for redemption, some want it to woo a princess, some want to take it and make it a mystical sex toy that rogers the entire universe to super-happy-finish. The plot, as ever, isn’t going to win awards.
That said, it does look better. Reports have said they’re toning down the arcade single player difficulty for those of us who enjoy a reasonably reactive punching bag after a stressful day, but keeping the challenge in other modes – I am completely okay with this. It’s gone a bit more towards the Anime style, but that’s fine too.
I suppose the nicest addition is Ezio Auditore Di Firenze, he of Assassin’s Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations. Ezio has been one of the most surprisingly amazing character designs in years, charming and yet flawed, gifted and yet woefully inadequate in the foresight department. Seeing images and videos of Ezio take out his prey leaves no doubt, in the right hands he will be a stylish killing machine.
But ultimately, this is my worry. In eagerness to push the formula, Namco may have forgotten that one of the largest criticisms from many former fans was that SC4 was a pig to get into – a tough nut to crack, with or without the unforgiving AI. It was a game designed to appeal to a smaller demographic – those who participate in tournaments. It was supposed to be a challenge for them – the rest of us, it seems, became surplus to requirements.
And it didn’t help that online matching was unreliable and could be cheated so badly it made it virtually unplayable.
SC5 is daring to move on with characters who are the offspring of old favourites, trying new and exciting design mechanics and bringing in Ezio for a bit of outside fanservice, to try and nab some more sales. This is good. But unless the game is simple to learn, hard to master and balanced for the common man, not the professional – it may yet be doomed to repeating its mistakes. Only time will tell if Namco has taken much of the criticism on board, especially since Capcom came and usurped the title of King of Fighting Games back from under their bloodied noses.
SoulCalibur 5 needs to be fun, above anything else. We will see if this important lesson has been learned – but here’s hoping, because we all love a good comeback!