Video game review: ‘SoulCalibur’ fighting series back for round 5

The evil sword Soul Edge has found a new host to become its wielder, Nightmare, in ‘Soul Calibur V.’
The evil sword Soul Edge has found a new host to become its wielder, Nightmare, in ‘Soul Calibur V.’ NAMCO BANDAI

The “SoulCalibur” series of fighting games has long offered one-on-one combat that is easy to pick up and play but not without a degree of depth.

That aspect of the series remains intact in “Soul- Calibur V.” But the games have also been notable for their robust single-player modes, and here the latest installment disappoints. But while its solo modes are lacking, “SCV” is a solid fighting game that builds upon and tweaks the formula laid down by its predecessors.

This being a fighting game, two players can compete using the game’s VS. Battle mode, and those who wish to challenge other players over the Internet can do so as well.

For the solo player, “SCV” offers quick battles against single opponents; arcade mode and Legendary Souls mode, each featuring several consecutive battles against a variety of foes; and a story mode.

Where previous “Soul- Calibur” titles usually featured a separate story mode for each character, this one focuses mostly on the new characters Patroklos and Pyrrha, children of longtime character Sophitia, with occasional bouts as a handful of other fighters out of a total roster of 28.

That’s a letdown in itself, because the past foundation of a unique series of challenges for each character is an entertaining way to structure a fighting game’s solo mode. But it’s doubly disappointing because neither the two main characters nor their story is interesting, and the other fighters are rarely controlled.

The key focus of the fighting remains the unique weapons and combat styles each character brings into each fight.

The knight Siegfried and his onetime alter ego Nightmare carry enormous swords, the samurai Mitsutugi is master of the katana, and the huge golem Astaroth swings a massive ax, and the disturbingly flexible Voldo wields twin katara daggers.

Like Patroklos and Pyrrha, several of the new characters are children or proteges of fighters from the earlier games, and emulate their parents’ fighting styles to various degrees.

A few characters are totally new and different from what’s come before — Z.W.E.I. carries a short sword and can summon a bizarre wolflike being to aid him, and Viola wears a clawed glove and controls a mystical orb that can float in midair and be recalled to her for quick, unpredictable hits from unusual directions.

Several of the previous “SoulCalibur” games have included guest characters — the fourth featured Yoda in the Xbox 360 version, Darth Vader on PS3, and the Apprentice from “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” in both. Their lightsabers were fun, but the characters didn’t fit with the rest of the game’s cast.

This game’s guest star, Ezio Auditore from Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” games, is a much better fit with his hidden blades, crossbow and Renaissance stylings.

If you tire of playing as the game’s official cast, you may tweak a character’s appearance to your liking or assign their fighting skills to characters of your own design in the game’s Creation mode.