The Average Gamer

Why Change = Progress for SoulCalibur V

We have seen it many times as videogame fans. Franchises becoming so repetitive in their sequels they become stagnated, before the ultimate rejuvenation and complete overhaul of the formula. This is highlighted by the recent rough times experienced by the Pro Evolution Soccer and Final Fantasy series.

February 3rd is a big date for fight fans, for it marks the release date of SoulCalibur V, Namco Bandai’s latest entry in The Stage of History. 17 years after the release of Soul Blade, SoulCalibur has been a series which has tended to stick to its conventions. There has never been a drastic change to the fundamentals of SoulCalibur since it first arrived, but more of a process of fine-tuning and tweaks. Fans of the series have become accustomed to the tactical block-counter-attack formula that SoulCalibur delivers. Countering has become an integral part of turning the tide in combat, so you may be surprised to hear that parries have been removed from SoulCalibur V.

Fear not, for while appearing to be a game-breaker at first, it is in fact a game-changer. While parries have been removed, the game has been rebalanced to allow Guard Impacts to deflect unblockable attacks. But this has also been counter-balanced with Guard Impacts costing Critical Meter, another new addition to the SoulCalibur series. There is also the new Just Guard, which is an extremely difficult block which counters your opponent’s hit, providing you can press block just as you are hit. This just shows how much thought has gone into the changes made to SoulCalibur and the layers of depth there are to the game’s fighting mechanics.

Some players may see these changes as a bad thing. Fighters will be able to parry less and therefore have to block more, leading to potentially one-sided fights. But with dramatic changes to the mechanics, there is a great opportunity for new gamers to join the series on a level plane with hardcore fans. We all need to learn the new rules of the arena and adapt our skills for the new features, which will be a true challenge.

That is the beauty of fighting games, discovering the nuances and neat features within the game, even after hours and hours of game-time. These changes add a whole new tactical layer – do you sacrifice meter to implement a guard impact early? Or do you save up the meter and withstand your opponent’s onslaught?

Also gone is the Critical Finish System from SoulCalibur IV. These special moves were rarely seen in matches, as they could only be used when you broke an opponent’s guard through their own excessive blocking. Now, Critical Edges (like Street Fighter IV Ultra Moves), can be used once you fill up enough of your meter, and they look fantastic. These moves have their own miniature cut-scenes, showing more detailed angles of the gorgeous swordplay.

While a lot has changed, there is still plenty that will feel familiar to fans. The roster for instance, while there are some new faces, the characters which have been around since 1995 are still here. Fans will be pleased to hear that the craziest-looking character ever seen in a videogame, Voldo, will of course be in tow, sporting even more gimp-ish looking outfits than ever.

The great thing about SoulCalibur, compared to most other fighting games on the market, is that it offers a deep and interesting story mode and expansive character customisation. If you aren’t a hardcore fight-fan, finding longevity in fighting games can be tough. If you’re not tempted by the thrill of hours of online fighting and infinite rounds of arcade play-throughs, then SoulCalibur V could very likely be the game for you.

From what I’ve seen from SoulCalibur V so far, it seems to have hit the sweet spot by offering enough changes to keep the series feeling fresh and exciting, without completely overhauling the mechanics to the point of alienating the fans. As we have seen, too much change can lead to a huge backlash from fans, particularly the response to Final Fantasy XIII or Resident Evil 5 (the latter being a particular sore point of mine, where was the survival HORROR?). But, in the case of SoulCalibur V, change can be a great thing.

If you want to read more about SoulCalibur V, check out my hands-on preview of Ezio Auditore, the latest special guest character to the series. With the game expected to be released on February 3rd in the UK, stay tuned to The Average Gamer for a review soon.

SoulCalibur V is out now on PS3 and Xbox 360.