The soul burns brighter in multiplayer and character creation, but the rest could have been better.

It's been about 3 and a half years since the last SoulCalibur game. While it was a beautiful and incredibly fun fighter, its multiplayer suffered from lag that forced players to be punished for having a bad connection. While the series has stuck to what it does, SoulCalibur V brings about the most changes to the series, but still manages to feel like its precursors.

One of the biggest additions to this game is a Story Mode, but it suffers from poor storytelling that even my friend and I could do better with (And we should know because we do fan fiction), tells most of it through poorly-done painting-style cutscenes, only lasts about an hour and doesn't even allows you to go through every character in the roster. While the inclusion of separate character stories would have the saving grace, it is ultimately reduced to a 6-fight setup that doesn't offer any story at all.

That's not to say that SoulCalibur V lacks options. While not as feature-rich or offer sufficient tutorial options like Mortal Kombat and BlazBlue, there's plenty to unlock for completionists. As you play in any of the games modes, you gain points and level up, which is necessary to unlock most of the games titles, hidden characters and equipment for one of my favorite features in the game, Character Creation.

Yes, Character Creation has returned and it's better than ever. You can create just about any character provided you have unlocked the necessary equipment and character styles. You want to create a big-chested kunoichi who uses Ivy's Snake Sword style? You got it! You want to create a man using spears and has the head of a horse? You got that, too! Just about the only limits are your imagination and unlocked equipment. And you can use this character in all of the other modes except story mode.

What was somewhat unfinished in SoulCalinur IV has been refined to a fine sheen in SoulCalibur V with a few new additions. SoulCalibur V features ranked matches and casual player matches along with the new Replay and Battle Colosseo features. The former is exactly what it sounds like, allowing you to view and save replays of your matches, while the latter is a giant lobby with up to 50 players that you can chat and set up matches with. You can search matches under certain criteria including latency levels and most of the matches I've had went smoothly without any noticable lag that's experience-damaging. You can also spectate matches in casual lobbies.

At first glance, it might appear not much has changed since the last game. There's the addition of 2D-fighter-style energy meter and super moves called Critical Edge. If a Critical Edge hits, it takes out about 40% of your opponent's health. The energy meter can not only be used to execute these Critical Edge techniques, but you can also use it to power up your other special attacks, use Guard Impact or Just Guard.

While these don't really change up the formula, they do offer a way to extend your onslaught of attacks. With a 17 year gap between this game and the last, only about half of the series veterans have made it into the roster, while the rest are either descendents and apprentices of those characters (I miss u Taki!). However, two new interesting styles are introduced in SCV. Z.W.E.I. can occassionally summon a familiar to assist him in battle, while Viola can bounce a magic ball around the stage to mess with her opponents. THe game's guest character, Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the Assassin's Creed series is the best guest character the series has had and a fine balance between speed and power (Although my friend says he doesn't fit because Ezio was born in the 1400s and died sometime in the 1500s, he's an Assassin's Creed fan).

Even with the numerous characters, gameplay additions and the lack of a proper tutorial mode, the fighting remains just as accessible, complex and responsive as ever. The game is at it best when testing your skill, trying to pull off a combo you're trying to learn in training mode or just having fun with Character Creation. Regardless of whether you're playing with others on the couch or online, you'll have plenty of satisfying fun in SoulCalibur V.

If you've seen the game in action, SoulCalibur V is absolutely beautiful. Charaacters, lighting and effects are detailed and well-designed without a single hit to performance. Toying around with a custom female character's chest size or trying to make any custom fighter scary or weird will definitely put a smile on your face. The game's sound is highlighted by a gorgeous soundtrack, excellent sound effects and a narrator (Paul St. Peter) that pulls off his lines with satisfying results.

Closing Comments:

While SoulCalibur V might not reinvent the fighting game wheel, it doesn't need to. SoulCalibur V manages to improve its online play and character creation while sticking to what it does best, namely its deep and responsive gameplay. While the single-player modes leave a bit to be desired, if you value competition or fun character creation, SoulCalibur V is sure to please you for months.

Lasting Appeal-8.5

OVERALL-9.0 Outstanding