It’s a tale of souls and swords, eternally retold. And on January 31st, 2012, that tale comes full circle on the PS3 with Soulcalibur V. Set 17 years after the events of Soulcalibur IV, Soulcalibur V is a return to the fast, furious feel that marked earlier entries in the series. I was able to put a pre-release version of Soulcalibur V through its paces to get a feel for the new gameplay tweaks and refinements. After a few intense bouts, I noticed that Soulcalibur V moves at a slightly faster clip than SCIV, and that the Soul Gauge gem has evolved into a full-blown Edge meter that powers Brave Edge attack enhancers and the ultra-damaging Critical Edge finisher. I also spotted new defensive maneuvers, such as the Quick Step evasion and a Just Guard parry. The fighter roster is getting a shakeup as well, with a core group of classic characters being supplemented by a large cast of mysterious new combatants (read more here), headlined by guest character Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed.
After going hands-on with the game, I discussed Soulcalibur V’s gameplay evolution with “Filthy” Rich Bantegui, community manager for Namco Bandai Games and a serious fighting game competitor in his own right. Read on for deeper details on how SCV is carving out its own niche in the crowded console fighting area.
And remember: Leave your questions in the comments!
PlayStation.Blog: How did Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed find his way into the Soulcalibur universe?
Rich Bantegui: As far as the story goes, we haven’t revealed anything yet. In terms of his fighting style, his flow, and his weapons, Ezio fits in perfectly. Ezio should’ve been in this series a long, long time ago! In general, I think that guest characters have taken a bit longer to evolve in terms of gameplay; Darth Vader and Yoda took a little more time for players to master in a competitive setting. I don’t think you’ll see that with Ezio. He’s straightforward. You’ll be able to hop right into it, and he’s got one of the easier Brave Edges. And hey, he’s got a crossbow. You can’t beat that!
Our relationship with Ubisoft has been good; I’ve heard that they’re very happy with how he’s turned out. You’ve never seen him at this close a range with this many moves. Controlling him in Soulcalibur V lets you see him in a new light.
PSB: If you had to compare Ezio’s fighting style to an existing Soulcalibur character, who would it be?
RB: He’s very much his own character, but his closest comparison is probably Mitsurugi in terms of his range and his damage. He hits like a dump truck! He’s not a super fast character, though, so he’s not going to stand toe-to-toe with his opponents — you’ll want to space him out. He’s got cool techniques that enable him to sidestep around incoming attacks and manipulate 3D movement to evade his opponents. His ranged crossbow attacks are quite powerful as well.
PSB: Since Soulcalibur IV came out in 2008, there’s been something of a fighting game renaissance. Has SCV taken any cues or inspirations from the new generation of fighters?
RB: Absolutely. Things like Brave Edge and Critical Edge, the comeback system – these are really appealing to people who play fighting games. The fact that Soulcalibur is set on a 3D arena and it’s a weapon-based fighter…Soulcalibur is a game that everybody knows, but now they have all these new tools and more people to play with. We’re trying to keep our hardcore fans happy but also balance it for people who have never played Soulcalibur.
PSB: Speaking of Critical Edge, it seems to have a big impact on the flow of gameplay. How does this uber-attack change your tactics in a fight?
RB: You’re managing all these different things: Your life bar, your opponents’ life bar, and now your Critical Edge meter. You can divvy it up however you want: you can rush in and use half your bar to perform a Brave Edge attack, or save it up for one Critical Edge finisher. Everything that affects the Edge Meter is completely dependent on the player: The Guard Impact, Brave Edge, and Critical Edge all take away from it.
The Critical Edge and Brave Edge add to the diversity of the game. They let you develop habitual defensive patterns for when your opponent notices you’re conserving your Edge meter [in preparation for a Critical Edge or Brave Edge]. I think it’s really healthy for this series, even though it’s different from what Soulcalibur players are used to. But I know they’ll enjoy it because the depth of the game is going to be taken to a new level.
PSB: I noticed a major shift in Guard Impact from Soulcalibur V – the command has changed and it’s harder to perform. What sparked this change?
RB: We really want to test the guys who play these games in and out. You mentioned earlier that you were able to use Guard Impact in Soulcalibur III and SCIV to effortlessly parry blows. The more you play SCV, the more you’ll understand how to use Guard Impact and Just Guard. When you use Just Guard, you just tap block right before you get hit and you’ll parry the attack and you can interrupt your opponent.
The Guard Impact is more intended for somebody who’s newer to Soulcalibur. It’s the same concept, and you get guaranteed damage but it costs a bit of your Edge Meter. I think Guard Impact will help newcomers will work like a stepping stone to get them into the world of Just Guard.
PSB: Soulcalibur V is said to be the fastest game in the series. What inspired the faster speed?
RB: The EVO crowd and hardcore fans tend to prefer the faster pacing of the earlier games, which forced you to play at close range. SCIV played well, but we wanted to turn it up. Speed is only one element: you need to use your brain, too. There’s been a desire to return the pacing to the series’ roots and, with SCV, I’d say that the speed and pacing is closest to Soulcalibur II. But with the new Quick Step maneuvers, it’s its own beast. The Quick Step lets you sneak behind your opponent if you time it correctly, even moves that you can’t normally dodge using the sidestep or eight-way run.
PSB: I’m hearing that the Character Creator has gotten a massive overhaul for SCV. How does it enhance what we’ve seen before?
RB: You start by choosing which existing character’s move list you want to work with. You’re able to adjust a ton of new variables, including the size of your character’s limbs, physical height, voice, and gender. But those are just the base configurations in SCV. You can layer details on your character, and even completely change the appearance of items you’ve earned. You can really make your character your own. Even if you and your buddy both used “Pants Type B,” there’s absolutely no way that your pants will look alike.
The character creator is a great way to reach new fans, too, players who want to expand their creative mindset. According to the development team, we’ve increased the character creation options by 130% percent. We hope to see tons of crazy creations online when SCV hits this January!
PSB: There are an awful lot of empty slots on the current character select screen. Can you give us any hints?
RB: Absolutely…not! [laughs] It hurts to see the character list that we have internally and not be able to share. I’m so excited for the character roster that we’ll be releasing as time goes on. There are fan favorites in there but also characters that I don’t think anyone will expect. Stay with us! There’s always a lot of excitement over who will make the final character roster, and we don’t want to detract from that.
That said, we’re all about listening to our community. If you like or don’t like a particular character, we want to hear about it. Don’t push your thoughts under the rug. We’re working hard and we listen to our fans. If you have any suggestions, just let us know!