Which is worse? Her flying skirt? Or whatever is going on in the other one's crotch region?

It has been a long time since I felt like I wasted 60 bucks. You pretty much know what to expect from a Soul Calibur title, and its usually a variety of options based around a very basic battle system. Soul Calibur V offers up some throw backs alongside experimental systems in disappointing combinations.

Some good things before the bad news: I renewed my permanent Soul-Calibur-induced case of sweaty palm without having to look at an unbearable amount of masturbation-fodder. It seems like a little less time was put into getting all that jiggle right, and more into making the fights more fluid. Never fear, pervs, you can still put your characters’ heaping flesh-mounds into tiny amounts of cloth. The game’s sliding-bar character design system means you can get pretty detailed.

Character customization, and the hope for awesome online play is definitely the highlight of this title. While I love the body-covering armor options, and the fact that male and female have the same pieces available, the lack of stat bonuses is a mixed blessing. The developer, Project Soul, has opted for a simpler format when presenting their characters, over the numbers and invisible play styles of previous game. Each character selection stream demonstrates a sort of line graph with 5 points of interest: Ease of use, power, reach, speed, attack rate. This system clears up a lot of questions on the direct purpose of those stat points from previous games. The excitement of leveling and balancing your character is now non-existent, however. Also, it means that mediocre players (like me) can no longer compensate for poor logic when it comes to button-mashing by overpowering characters stat-wise.

It seems like the designers had a little too much fun, themselves. While many of the outfits cover more ground (and cleavage) than previous titles, a lot of the character designs are Final Fantasy silly. It’s almost as if they didn’t know what to do with all that extra cloth.

In previous years, Project Soul has relied on their fans to come for the babes, suffer through the story, and stay for the versus play. It’s been a pretty successful system. Soul Calibur V is trying for something new. Instead of adding characters, they replaced several of the classics with less impressive progeny of one sort or another. It’s attempting to be a more story-driven game, and failing hard. They went back to a more classic story progression, but you can no longer choose which characters progress through that story.

Our story is set in 1607 A.D., and progresses across several region in episodes. Each episode contains some boring voice acting, bad visuals, and a battle you play through sandwiched in there somewhere. Whether learning to trust, finding one’s sister, or proving yourself to new friends, violence is the answer to every problem, as is classic to Soul Edge. In the beginning you play as the annoying and blonde-haired Patroklos, Sophitia’s disappointing son. There is no mention of Cassandra. Sophitia-Cassandra was one of the driving storylines of Soul Calibur. For whatever reason, the writers opted to kill one of the only multi-character female legacies in video games, yet keep the familial bond theme. The replacement’s pretty gross. While Partoklos is supposed to grow up throughout the story, he remains fairly whiney, and his sister remains just as weak.

Yeah, this guy is totally an upgrade.

Pyrrha, the child actually mentioned in previous games, cries her way through a couple of battles, and doesn’t even get the mama-spirit-guide-treatment they male-privilege onto Patroklos. Remember that time Sophitia killed her sister, fought for evil, then died for her daughter? I’m not even going to get into how many piles of crap it is that Pyrrha’s emotional weakness turned her evil, while her head-strong, arrogant twit of a brother gets to go on the coming-of-age story of the century. Then save his sister.

The main annoyance with the story are the characters you have to play. Patroklos is a good character for beginners, but we get too much time with him. When Pyrrha’s turn at the bat happens, she plays more like Cassandra, and less like Sophitia. While it was always questionable to have two sword-and-shield users in a game with limited character choices, I have long preferred Sophitia’s power-combos to Cassandra’s speedy light hits. Oh, and the skirts still fly up when you fall down.

The other characters the story line plays through are simply difficult to use, and presentation is obnoxious. Cut scene one is a battle sequence that goes on way too long, then the sketchy drawing-board style fair we’re used to at the end of the game. Except now it’s voice-acted. And the bulk of the narration. When you finally get to fight it’s beautiful, but not 60-more-dollars-out-of-your-pocket beautiful. Playing Patroklos is a lot like playing a rage-gamer. If you die in the first half of the game, he screams “DAMN IT,” in the best impersonation of a rage-quit I’ve ever heard. Pyrrha stops apologizing for everything after she goes evil so that’s a plus, I guess.

While we’re at one-liner highlights: Patroklos screams “You bitch!” at Tira after she kicks his sister a couple of feet. The entire scene made me extremely uncomfortable. Depending on what voice options characters are set to, some of the women start battles by saying “No means no!” What’s going on, Project Soul?

The Arcade, Versus, and Quick Battle are all standard. There are more characters focusing on ranged attacks that aren’t as cheap as Soul Calibur 2’s Bombflower flinging guest star (link). Disappointingly, this game’s cameo plays pretty much like Algol from the last title, with some moves that just don’t make sense for Ezio Auditore.

Where IV promised us more thoughtful storylines, with alternate endings, V gives us a flat, uninteresting narrative. In the previous title, we were forced to think a little bit more about what the swords meant. Some pointed out that both were too powerful and therefore evil, some took sides, and others were simply about greed, with a few shades of gray. This new story, while classic, is a boring play through. While I think online and hang-out versus play will be revisited often, the rest of the game seems half-baked and rather souless.

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