Jaxel's Impressions on Soulcalibur V

First lets get some history out of the way... Growing up, I never really liked fighting games; I played them, but very rarely, and often with disapproval. Then Soulcalibur II came out, and all that changed. Suddenly the idea of a fighting game that didn't require physical dexterity to play was apparent. I could use mind games to win matches, instead of muscle memory.

To this day, Soulcalibur II is still one of my favorite games; even though going back to it is often hard because of the lack of "flashiness" we've grown accustom to in more recent games. However, when SC3 came out, I became soured on the series. I very publicly decried the game and hated it with every fiber of my being. Even SC4, which is arguably, an extremely good game, took a long time to grow on me in the aftermath of SC3.

That all being said, let me put this out there: I LOVE SOULCALIBUR V! In my short time playing the game earlier this week, I felt genuinely elated to have my hands on with the game. While the game is still a few months away from release, it feels well polished and you can tell the developers of the game are working hard to take good care of the franchise.

===== GAMEPLAY =====

By now, you have have already seen some older videos of gameplay from Soulcalibur V. Well things have changed significantly since then. Now, it appears that damage output has been decreased across the board from earlier builds of the game. In earlier trailers, a raw critical edge would do over 50% damage, now it appears they do more like 30%. In general, damage output now seems rather low, so I wouldn't be surprised if it changes again.

The game itself is very fast. It appears to be a compromise between those who liked SC2 and those who liked SC3/4. Movement in the game is very fast, with step being buffed up from previously releases. However, at the same time, the game has the fluidity we see in current generation gaming (generally, in order to make animations more fluid, games have to be slowed down). So is the game more like SC2 or SC3/4? Well... neither. This is a new game.

When I got my hands on the game, the first thing I tested were button binds. In earlier versions of SC4, Hilde could have multiple binds by having multiple buttons tied to the same command. There was fear that this could potentially be used to exploit the new "just-guard" system. I can tell you now that these fears are unfounded and input times are linked to the command, not the buttons.

Not only that, but it appears you can't mash just-guards in the first place. When you press guard, while you may be guarding from frame 1, your character goes through a transition animation; you can only just guard during this animation. As well, after you've attempted (and failed) a just-guard, the game seems to "lock out" just-guarding for a small number of frames to prevent you from trying it again.

So yes, while you can technically "full parry" critical edge supers in SC5, it will take a lot of skill and you'll pretty much have to be on point for it to happen. Why "full parry" instead of simply blocking or guard impacting? Because every time you just-guard a move, you gain a little edge meter, and managing your meter seems to be the name of the game.

So just-guarding is powerful right? Then why guard impact; especially when GI-ing takes half a bar of meter? Well, even though just-guarding lessens some frames of recovery, it rarely gives free "major" damage. GI on the other hand leaves the player in a large window of recovery. So large that I was able to get free with Ezio: :B::+::K: :2:*:8: :B:; which is a very slow shoulder rush, into dodge roll stance, into coup de grace gunshot on the ground.

===== STAGES =====

As you may have heard from other reviewers; the stages are beautiful! SC4 introduced "destructable" stages, where a wall could come down mid-match after a player is slammed into it. Namco has expanded on this with multi-tiered stages and between round automatic stage destruction.


One stage in particular, the "Sinking Merchant Ship" is very reminiscent of the pirate ship from previous games. However, this time, the ship is present during an ensuing battle with the cannonade proceeding in the background. The catch is, once you get to the final round, the stage changes. A custscene breaks up the gameplay (which can be skipped), where another ship fires their cannons at the merchant vessel, dropping the players to the lower decks of the ship, thus removing all ring outs.

Another stage, the "Shrine to the Ancient God Palgea" (the replacement for Kunpaetku Shrine?) has multiple tiers. At first, the match starts in a very narrow bridge, very similar in size and shape to SC4's "seesaw", but with ringouts only on one side. When a player gets rung out, we get to see a cutscene where one player falls to the lower level and the other player drops down to follow them.


Besides the stage gimmicks themselves, a lot of work and care was put into the design of the stages themselves. In one stage, the "Grand Festival of Guandi Template", you can see a Chinese New Year celebration, where it appears the current match has become the highlight of the event. Spectators party and dance around with traditional Chinese paper dragons.

===== ATMOSPHERE =====

Characters have personalized entry quotes and victory poses. For instance, when Tira beats Pyrrha, she comments on how no amount of apologies will save her (Pyrrha apoligizes a lot during battle). Or for instance, in a battle between Leixia and Maxi, Leixia greats the match with "Lord Maxi, please be easy on me", but a very respectful bow... and when she wins: "Lord Maxi, you let me win, didn't you?!"

The music in the game also seems to be a lot more "aloof" than recent entries into the franchise. In that mind, it bears far more resemblance to SC2 than SC3/4. SC3/4 had been deep and moody scores, while SC2 was a bit more upbeat and "synthy". SC5 appears to focus very heavily on trumpets and drums in it's music; which may remind players more of a marching band.

===== CHARACTERS =====

Before we get to the good part; I want to make it a point to say that I did not have the game in a tournament setting. For the most part, I only had the computer to play against. While the computer AI in SC5 seems to be excellent (I was told that the developers actually had to tune down the CPU because at first it was too good), I never got the chance to sit down and do anything technical like testing frames, or play against other tournament players.

These impressions are my initial impressions based on a limited playtime. Lots of characters have been discussed previously in other playtests, so I will limit myself to only new playable characters. Namco also reiterated to me many times that characters are constantly changing in an effort to balance the game; so they may change significantly from now till release.


Of course, everyone wants to know about Ezio. Ezio was definately fun to play; short range attacks tend to use of single directions, while his mid range attacks are generally out of multiple directions (such as 8-way-run or quarter circles). His long range attacks all come from uses of the input :B::+::K:; which could make use of a crossbow or hidden gun. You can see a video of me playing Ezio against the CPU.
As much fun as he is to play, right now he felt "incomplete". Maybe its because we were not given move lists and we had to figure out moves on our own, but he felt very limited in his options. Not to mention, his fast moves have such short range that he has to pretty much be on top of you to get any sort of advantage. His mid/long range moves are so slow that he probably doesn't have much in the way of pressure. I'm sure he's still being worked on, so hopefully he'll be a bit more viable on release.


I didn't play Raphael at all in SC4; my experience with him is based sorely on SC2. Because of this, I had no idea what I was doing with him. All in all, he seems to be Raphael. Very linear, but at the same time very fast. I was hoping that the computer would be able to show me something, but even on very hard, the computer couldn't put up much of a fight. You can watch the video above and try to analyze things if you wish, I know people on the Raphael forum have already begun so.


Just like with Raphael, I have very limited experience with Nightmare. I never played him in SC2, let alone SC4. However, with my limited playtime in SC5, he looks pretty much exactly the same was the previous iteration. Of course, I can't comment whether or not his inputs have changed, since I never knew them to begin with. I can say however, that his soul charge moves are gone... and he is FAST. Yes, Nightmare is FAST... and I mean FAST.


I imagine Viola will be a tough contender during the early days after SC5's launch. While, you can't technically have cross-ups in a fighting game with a block button, often against Viola, you'll feel like you're getting hit with one. Normally in a fighting game, the opponent attacks, and you block; once their attacks are over, you stop blocking and start your retaliation. With Viola, when you start your retaliation, you get hit in the back of the head with her orb.

Viola has two major stances, Holding Orb, and Orb-less. As she plays, she starts with the orb in her hands, and has the ability to place it out as she wants; which is usually an attack in itself. Once the orb is out on the battlefield, she can summon it back as she wishes; which is usually another attack. Orb placement can be high as well as low; not only that, she can attack with it from above as a mid.
Often you will feel like you are fighting against Urien in Third Strike with his Aegis Reflector, or Litchi Faye-ling in BlazBlue with her staff. However, to balance it out, Viola has an extremely low damage output. She appears to be designed for players accustom to 2D fighting games, where a 5 second long 10 hit combo only does 30% damage. But her constant pressure seems to give her many opportunities to reset the opponent.

Her critical edge super unlike anyone else's in the game. While most critical finishes are simple animated attacks, hers stays out in the battlefield and sucks the opponent in like a black hole. It does low damage, but it keeps the opponent standing, and Viola is free to move around the continue to combo from it. If the opponent blocks, she is able to walk up and force a mixup.


I had the most experience with Leixia, as I've played Xianghua in both SC2 and SC4. First things first, let me get this out there... Someone is crushing hard at Namco, because Leixia is Kayane. You may not see it in screenshots, or low quality videos, but when you sit down with the actual game, her image is undeniable. Of course, this isn't the first time Kayane has been featured, as her play-style and name were replicated in Broken Destiny.

Moving on... Xianghua players will be disappointed if she remains unchanged before release. Not only have many of her inputs inexplicably changed, Leixia is slow and appears to have many of her basic tools from previous games missing. Most notably, she is missing :3::A:, which was one of her staple lows in previous games. In fact, speaking with MarkMan at the event, we couldn't even think of a single good low besides her WR :A::+::B:.

But it isn't all bad! As with other characters, for everything bad, there is always something good. Leixia does not have her mother's Silent Xia Sheng stance and charges. But wait, "isn't that a bad thing?" you may be thinking. Nope! With the loss of SXS, Leixia no longer requires charges to be good. In fact, any place where Xianghua would have transitioned into SXS, she instead has a built in guard crush. So, she has a LOT of guard crushes. Now if only she had the speed to match it...

===== FINAL NOTES =====

SC5 seems very focused on character knowledge, very much like Virtua Fighter. Every character operates differently, so if you don't know what your opponent has at their disposal, I wouldn't expect you to make it very far in tournaments. You can't simply rely on basics and eek out wins anymore.

All things considered, the game looks great, plays great, sounds great. Its clearly the "flashiest" of all the Soulcalibur games with it's constant assault on your senses. At the same time, it also appears that Namco knows who they need to attract. As members of 8WayRun, you already know you plan on getting the game, and you'll probably love it; Namco already has our commitment. It's clear they are trying to directly attract players from the likes of Shoryuken and the 2D community.
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Jason Axelrod


I want to get the game so badly now :(

The stage custscens sound really epic,it's like an actual fight.
It really does show that they're trying the best that they can do to make Soul Calibur 5 the best Soul Calibur game,and by now i think it is going to be the best Soul calibur game.

Even though old time favorite characters may be leaving, i guess it's time to see new faces....
i still think sc5 could be better if they would take their time and wait at least until april or may, i believe the game hasent even been in development a whole year, although the game looks polished and great, i hope they can balance it well and have a more complete offline story mode like chronic of the sword, excuse my mispelling, as you can see by my username, english is not my first language, its spanish
i still think sc5 could be better if they would take their time and wait at least until april or may, i believe the game hasent even been in development a whole year, although the game looks polished and great, i hope they can balance it well and have a more complete offline story mode like chronic of the sword, excuse my mispelling, as you can see by my username, english is not my first language, its spanish
You know,when they first announced SCV,they mentioned that they've been working on it for a year,so by the end of January 2011 it'll probably be 2 and a half,or 3 years in development.
Thanks Jaxel, much love : )
I'm actually excited for Kayane to get some play time with Leixia, see if she picks up on the resemblance you mentioned. So much SCV news in such a short space of time...MOAR
Wow i didn't know that about the stages but all in all that was very informative and thanks Jaxel
They've had more than a year in development.
Don't worry about the story, they've already said many times that they have it covered.
Very pleased with this read. It's shocking to me how many things I pushed for in the fan feed backstage actually converted to the game (such as multi-tiered stages, step buff, dynamic fighting styles, RO nerfs, meter-esque systems). I feel the devs are doing a very great job with implementing these new mechanics as well. I'm even revoking my initial dislike of SC music as with each track I feel they have made a dramatic improvement from SC4's drab playlist.

There were a lot of people crying over just guard and other mechanics early on, and now that we finally get more info I hope this puts an end to a lot of people questioning the devs decisions on how they were handled. (what did we learn?)

Can't wait to PAY Viola (I mean Amy... <3 fanfic), it's gonna be a fierce decision over her or Ivy that gets more of my love this game.
Dissappointed about the loss of SXS and the seeming loss of speed for leixia (Great Wall looks like it's very easy to see, but I really hope it maintains its priority over verts in negative; in SC4, i could (emergency) sidestep i15 B's with Great Wall all the way from -12, I think! If I'm not mistaken, that's pretty much the fastest of verts), but she still looks good to me. I'm not worried about her lows either, because her lows in 4 definitely sucked, so it can't be much worse than that.

I really hope they keep tweaking her though, and I REALLY hope they don't get rid of her auto-GIs and tech crouches. Though most top players didn't use them in SC4, I would argue that they never really learned Xianghua properly either -- they play her in a VERY boring style (except for Serge, who was totally awesome, but wasn't very good at staying safe). The auto-GIs, tech crouches and sidestep moves in her SC4 game are pretty much valuable undiscovered tech in SC4 (which I hope to take full advantage of at NEC >:D ), and even moreso, they are what makes her style special and beautiful. Hou Lee (A+K low spin, seen in the Viola vid) is still in, good moves still seem good, and bad moves like Tao Wu Kick (7_8_9K) seem useful now, and Leixia just looks like alot of fun overall, so I'm very confident that Project Soul knows what they are doing.

SO HYPE for SC5! I'm going to take a week off for this game when it comes out...
Nice write up, Jaxel. Thanks. The game sounds like an absolute blast to play. I love that Chinese stage, it looks really beautiful. Also Viola seems very interesting gameplay wise. She'll make a nice addition to Kin's Angels.