Before online gaming on consoles became commonplace, fighting game developers had their work cut out for them. Playing at home wasn’t like playing at a booming arcade; there was no never-ending line of opponents to test your mettle against and keep things exciting and varying. This meant that fans had to be kept happy with what was on the game disc out of the box. One particular fighting series that has never had even the smallest issue with this is the lauded SoulCalibur series.
Numbered series installments always pack in tons of offline content for fans to enjoy. From galleries and museums that house treasure troves of concept art, exhibitional videos and character profiles to full on campaigns seperate from the main story with their very own narratives, Namco has always left me feeling perfectly content after purchasing a new SC title. Unfortunately, after plopping down the whole $85 for the collector’s edition of SoulCalibur V and playing it for several hours, I can comfortably say that this game is lacking in comparison to previous entries, and that is putting it quite lightly.
Now, before I go any further, I must make it perfectly clear that SoulCalibur V is indeed worth the purchase price. Don’t just take my word for; check out Alexa’s positive review of the game here. It has superb game-play and production, and it is easily the prettiest 3D fighting game on the market right now. However, as a long time series fan, the game honestly falls a few bars short of it’s older siblings.
The main thing lacking from SCV is a surplus of single player content. In the past, the console versions of the SC games were loaded with offline content, so much so that years could go by before you tired of everything. Let’s compare SoulCalibur V to SoulCalibur III, which is perhaps the most fully featured title in the series. The only single player modes in SoulCalibur V are: arcade, legendary souls, quick battle, training, story and character creation. This might seem like a fair suite of modes, and while it certainly is in comparison to other current titles in the genre, it is is flat out modest in comparison to other games in the series.
Now observe SoulCalibur III‘s largesse of content: arcade, quick battle, training, story, character creation, museum, tutorial, chronicles of the sword, mission, shop and that’s just what I can remember. Now this alone makes SCV look much weaker, but it doesn’t stop here. Arcade modes almost always end with some sort of specially created ending for the character you cleared it with. This has been standard since Street Fighter II on the damned SNES. Beat Arcade mode in SCV and you get…nothing.
But wait, there’s more. Past game’s actually rewarded you for playing. Here, it seems the only incentive to even touch arcade or the other single player modes is because they are there and you feel obligated to play with them considering you smacked down three (or four, in my case) twenties for the priviledge. Or if they want a controller smashingly difficult challenge in legendary souls, and because of its cheapness they probably don’t.
More content like what was in the older games also could have helped the development team with the new emphasis on the game’s story. It’s obvious that Namco wanted to craft a serious and relevant story for this entry, which is all fine and dandy considering this component hasn’t been particularly strong in the last few games. However, it falls short here in various areas. SoulCalibur V‘s story mode focuses almost entirely on Sophitia’s offspring: Patroklos and Pyrrha. These characters, as well as the small handful of ‘new’ characters are the only characters ever so much as mentioned in the story. This leaves much of the game’s roster feeling tacked-on and unimportant to the SCV experience as a whole, unlike Z.W.E.I, Viola, Patroklos, etc.
In past SC games, each and every character had their own story, their own set of events that wove them into the game world. Now, saying that this approach is better than what they did with SCV is only a matter of opinion, but there is no denying that the other games have a lot more story. The galleries present in past titles also helped to fully flesh out the characters. So, since they clearly wanted to create a relevant, understandable story that only focused on the few new characters, a gallery feature could have done worlds of good for explaining the ‘other’ characters and not making the series staples like Kilik, Raphael and Mitsurigi seem completely and utterly irrelevant. Besides, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to see something like this with SCV‘s jaw-dropping graphics?
This makes the absence of a gallery mode stick out like a sore thumb. Even the majority of the new characters only recieve short spotlights in the main story. Why is Natsu here instead of Taki? Did Taki die or something? And what the hell happened to Kilik? Fans will have to go out of their way to watch developer diaries and read around on the internet to find out. Couple all of this with a roster size that most other new fighters would laugh at (with multiple random characters and ‘clones’) and a new found focus on the character creation and online modes and it shouldn’t be too hard to understand my sentiment.
What Namco did with all the wonderful ideas that went into previous series games is beyond me, but I know they didn’t put them in SoulCalibur V. The whole bare bones attitude is just the complete opposite of what we expect from a franchise so inclined to giving fans more than their money’s worth. Booting up SCIII I had to stare at all of the options for several minutes and go into various submenus before deciding what I’d do that play session. Booting up SCV I can go online, I can create a character or I can find a different game to play.
I’ll reiterate that SCV‘s airtight game-play, character variety, sky-high production value and flawless online suite make it worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, if you load up the game with expectations based on the value the SC games usually posess like I did, you will be very disappointed.