The rumors are true: Legendary assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze is stepping onto the stage of history in SoulCalibur V. Of course, he's not the only new addition to the roster. The other characters include series veterans Nightmare and Raphael; Leixa, who is Xianghua's daughter; and Lord Geo Dampierre, the goofy knife fighter from SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny on the PSP. Unlike the rest of the new additions, Dampierre is a preorder bonus.
Now, if you don't know your critical edge from your just guard, be sure to check out our previous coverage from the Tokyo Game Show, which breaks all the new mechanics down for you. It's OK, we'll wait. Once you're satisfied, check out our interview below with producer Hisaharu Tago and read on to hear our impressions of Ezio and fellow newcomer Viola.
Ezio played in a similar way to Hilde, insomuch as he had two distinct types of attacks: short and long range. Using his iconic hidden wrist blades, Ezio could execute a series of quick, horizontal strikes up close. At a distance, he could draw his saber for some powerful sweeping vertical attacks and lunging strikes. Compared to the rest of the cast, Ezio seemed slower than most. However, we did notice some players using dive attacks that had the assassin leap toward his opponents, strike them, and then tuck into a roll (sometimes ending with a low-hitting crossbow shot).
Ezio's critical edge saw him drop a smoke bomb and then make a quick strike. If it connected, he would follow up with a flashy combo string, ending with a crossbow headshot. Because the initial hit came out quickly, we found it could be easily integrated at the end of a combo or to interrupt overaggressive opponents, though the range on the initial strike was limited.
We spent the rest of our limited time sampling Viola. For those familiar with the Guilty Gear series, Viola reminded us of Bridget in concept. She fought at close range using Freddy Krueger-style finger claws, as well as a mystical orb that hovered around her. We could lock the orb in one spot, continue the fight, and then command the orb to strike from behind. Viola also had a useful sliding kick that let her get in close and caused a good amount of hit stun (without causing knockdown), which left the opponent open to a follow-up attack.
Her critical edge functioned similarly to Urien's aegis reflector technique from Street Fighter III: Third Strike. It caused the orb to draw opponents in and deal damage to them on contact; we could also strike the opponent while this was happening. However, we found that if Viola was struck while this critical edge was active, it would cancel the technique's effect.
We were also hoping to try out the comedic Dampierre, but unfortunately, he wasn't playable in this version of the game. In general, we did notice that you build your meter very slowly compared with, for instance, Capcom's fighting games. However, in the final round, we noticed the losing player was awarded some free meter at the start of the round. In addition, some stages will transition to new areas if a round ends with a ring out. You're going to need a sharp blade, and sharper wits, when SoulCalibur V hits the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in North America on January 31 and Europe on February 3 of next year.