The highly anticipated fifth entry in the series does a lot right and a few too many things wrong.

User Rating: 9 | SoulCalibur V X360
Soul Calibur is one of the most beloved franchises in video games and has made a name for itself over the years with outstanding visuals, nearly flawless combat and unusual but fun guest characters. SC V continues the story of the Soul Swords, but this time the focus is on a new main character, Patroklos. He, and his sister Pyrrha, are the twin children of long time character Sophitia, and their fates have become entwined with the Soul Swords and a new disease generated by Soul Edge called Malfestation. The game is set 17 years after Soul Calibur IV, so it features several new characters including Xiba (a staff-wielding Kilik clone), Natsu (Taki's hitherto unseen apprentice), and Leixia (Xianghua's daughter). These characters play very closely to their counterparts from previous games and bring only a few differences to their movesets. However, there are also returning characters like Yoshimitsu, Maxi and Astoroth that really help round out the roster and make returning players feel at home. As mentioned above, Soul Calibur has a long history of fun, if bizarre, guest appearances. In Soul Calibur II, each console received an exclusive character: Link from the Legend of Zelda on the GameCube, Todd McFarlane's Spawn for the Xbox and long time Tekken villain Heihachi for the PS2. Things got even weirder the next time guest characters appeared in Soul Calibur IV. The jaws of gamers far and wide dropped when trailers were released showing the likes of Astoroth, Mitsurugi and Cervantes facing off with Yoda, Darth Vader and the Secret Apprentice from the (at the time) unreleased Star Wars game The Force Unleashed. As soon as SC V was announced speculation over a guest character ran rampant, and fans were delighted when Ezio de Auditore from the acclaimed Assassin's Creed series was revealed. Like any good SC guest character he's borderline broken (projectile attacks, naturally) and an absolute joy to play. As far as the combat goes, it's a good as ever. It's been streamlined in this entry to make combos flow better and increase the overall sense of speed in combat. This make also marks the first time that Soul Calibur has featured super moves (as opposed to Critical Finishes, the flashy finishing moves from IV). These moves, called Critical Edges, are flashy and powerful and flow with Soul Calibur's fighting style surprisingly well. Along side Critical Edges we also received special moves called Brave Edges. Each character has numerous unique Brave Edge moves and they're excellent tools for veteran players to spice up their combos. Both Critical and Brave Edges feed off of the revamped Soul Gauge. Like any other fighting game, the Soul Gauge is filled by dealing and receiving damage; however, in the final round of a match the player who is in danger of losing the match gets a substantial chunk of Soul Gauge to aid him in a possible comeback attempt. The gauge has two bars with multiple segments that can be filled. A Critical Edge takes a full bar, and a Brave Edge usually only consumes a segment. These new mechanics are very well designed (if a little cliche) and add a great new level of depth to the game. The multiplayer, as always, is robust. The online continues to improve with new types of lobbies and more consistent matchmaking and good old fashioned couch competition is just as entertaining as ever. The single player is something of a sore spot once again, however. The story mode has returned to a more traditional form in that it's now an actual narrative again as opposed to the shortened arcade oddity from the previous entry. However, the story is still a bit too short and it fails to cover a lot of characters on the roster (most notably Ezio; I was personally quite interested to see what his motivation for getting involved with the Soul Calibur mythos was) as well as not explaining the notable absences of characters from the series' past or the notable changes in the series' returning characters. Still, going back to an actual narrative is a step in the right direction, at least. SC V eschewed IV's intriguing and challenging Tower of Lost Souls for the equally challenging Quick Battle and Legendary Souls modes. In Quick Battle you choose from a group of computer controlled enemies from which you can win a title for your player card if you defeat them. These bots feature a range of difficulty levels and looks as they're creations of the game's dev team. With the huge number of enemies to choose from and a range of difficulties to fit any player's skill level it makes a pretty fun addition to the series. Legendary Souls is definitely for veterans of the series. It pits you against of a series of extremely high level AI enemies. Often these enemies seem difficult to the point of being cheap and can be very frustrating, so I suggest you spend time honing your skills before you take this mode on. Now we come to my favorite part of the game: create-a-character. Since it's introduction in SC III it's only gotten better and SC V continues that trend. Namco elected to remove the armor stats introduced in IV and instead focused on making tools for the detail oriented characters like myself. You now have a range of stickers and patterns that you can put on your characters gear and you can customize everything from the color of a weapon's movement trail to your character's eyebrows. Finally, the visuals are, as we've come to expected, absolutely gorgeous. The animations are fluid, the environments are beautiful and the cut scenes for the Critical Edges are just plain cool. The sound hasn't changed much; it's the same solid musical score and cheesy voice acting that we know and love. The combat, deep customization and further improved online experience really make this game a must for any fighting fan, but the story and frustrating difficulty of the other single player modes will definitely try your patience. On the whole, though, this is a fantastic fighter that most anybody would enjoy.