Fighting games tend to skimp on story, and for good reason. It can't be easy to come up with plausible reasons why every character would want to fight the other characters in a roster. However, last year's Mortal Kombat
proved that it was indeed possible to give a fighting game a pretty good story. Soul Calibur V
's Story Mode attempts to emulate that success with forehead-slapping, hilariously awful results. Set almost two decades after Soul Calibur IV
, it centers on the plight of Patroklos, the son of now-deceased franchise veteran Sophitia Alexandra. He starts off as a hired sword for some powerful douche named Graf Dumas, and his sole purpose in life seems to be the destruction of all malfested (people cursed by Soul Edge). Why? Don't know; our hero is a one-dimensional idiot. Through a series of silly and contrived events, Patroklos sets out to rescue his sister from the malfested Tira, who also murdered his mother. And of course, the goofiness surrounding the demonic blade Soul Edge and the blessed sword Soul Calibur is ever-present. While the cutscenes look decent, the writing starts at "so bad it's good" and goes downhill from there. The last few chapters in particular will have you in stitches.
Not so amusing is the Story Mode's structure. Save for the terrible storytelling moments, it's no different from a standard series of battles. Earlier games featured special conditions you had to deal with; whether it was fulfilling some strange criteria or dealing with some sort of statistical setback, surprises seemed in abundant supply. Not so with Soul Calibur V. Each of the encounters is a straight-up fight with no surprises.
Outside of Story Mode, we've got our standard spread when it comes to fighters. An Arcade Mode (along with Legendary Souls, its harder and more competitive alternative), a Versus Mode, and an online component that lets you play with others over the PlayStation Network. There's a leveling system, as well as a title system that looks completely ripped off of Street Fighter IV.
Soul Calibur V's roster of fighters culls out some old blood and infuses some new blood. Most of the fighters left behind will be missed by longtime fans, but the new characters are interesting in their own ways. I particularly like Z.W.E.I., who can summon a wolf demon through a strange-looking interdimensional portal. And of course, let's not forget that Soul Calibur has made a habit of bringing in guest characters. The flavor of the week is Assassin Creed II's Ezio Auditore. As far as guest characters go, he fits in decently, at least compared to the shamelessly shoehorned-in Star Wars characters in Soul Calibur IV.