The world's greatest weapons-based fighting series is set to return at the end of this month when SoulCalibur V releases for both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. It's been two-and-a-half years since the last console release, but Namco Bandai clearly isn't going for a cash-grab nostalgia run. Some substantial changes have been made to the gameplay, on top of all the graphical improvements, of course.
If thirty playable characters aren't enough, feel free to make your own.
The most important revision is the addition of a new segmented super meter. "Brave edge" attacks, which use up half a meter, work like the old Capcom "EX" moves - that is, they're souped-up versions of a character's special moves. These add another level of offense, but they only work for select specials. "Critical edge" moves take up an entire charge meter and are meant to punish careless opponents and serve as a flashy way to end a round. You can store two full super meters, so it's possible to pull off brave edge and critical edge attacks in succession. Much of the gameplay overall feels smoother and more accessible, and the Street Fighter-style button command for the critical edge attacks reflect this: no matter which character you use, a familiar double-fireball with all three attack buttons will do the trick.
Continuing in the vein of easy accessibility, developer Project Soul has added a simple, but highly effective, sidestep and has tweaked the series' famous guard system. Guard impacts are now tied to the same meter used for super/critical moves, so they have to be used more cautiously, but you can gain a faster recovery by perfectly timing normal guards, so defense remains a crucial skill to master.
SoulCalibur V collector's edition (click image to enlarge)
Since the story of SoulCalibur V takes place seventeen years after part IV, many returning characters sport a more mature look and there are several new faces in the mix. Among the rookies are Patroklos and Pyrrha Alexandra - children of Sophitia - and Ezio from the Assassin's Creed games. And as if to prove that everything old is new again, Edge Master returns from the very first SoulCalibur.
If the thirty playable characters that come with the game aren't enough, feel free to make your own. SoulCalibur V sports a fairly robust character creation system. From height and other measurements to voice and movelist, you can do a pretty good job designing a fighter to your specifications if you put in the time.
The curtain pulls back on the stage of history once more on January 31 in North America and February 3 in Europe. A collector's edition will go on sale simultaneously, featuring a handsome book-style case, an artbook, soundtrack, "making-of" documentary, and exclusive character creation content.
Ivy concept art (click image to enlarge)
Leixia concept art (click image to enlarge)
Tira concept art (click image to enlarge)
Aeon, Astaroth, Cervantes, and Ezio (click image to enlarge)
Dampierre, Hilde, and Ivy (click image to enlarge)
Leixia, Maxi, Mitsurugi, and Natsu (click image to enlarge)
Nightmare, Patroklos, Pyrrha, and Raphael (click image to enlarge)
Siegfried, Viola, Voldo, and Xiba (click image to enlarge)
Yoshimitsu and Z.W.E.I. (click image to enlarge)