The original Soul Calibur is my absolute favorite fighting game ever created, but somewhere along the way it became a disturbing teenage masturbatory fantasy. It feels like my beloved fighting game came back to me covered in body piercings and leopard-print tattoos. Sure, there’s still a little of the old game I love hidden away in Soul Calibur IV, but damn… leopard-print tattoos are hard to overlook.
The balance of the characters feels off somehow, but deep down this is a vaguely familiar, somewhat enjoyable fighter. You just have to get past the ridiculous costumes, ridiculous bust sizes, ridiculous dialogue, and ridiculous moves in order to get to that enjoyable fighter. I won’t lie—not everyone will be able to get past all of those things. It’s so fan-service-y that even the most shameless of fan parades the costumes of Soul Calibur characters around whenever they need an example of shameless fan service. The whole thing seems like little more than an excuse to have a bunch of women running around and making full use of jiggle physics while they beat each other to death. It’s sad, because the series could be so much more.
But it isn’t. While there are alternate game modes much like in previous titles, they’re so uninteresting that I’m not even going to mention them. What you’re left with is the local/online multiplayer, the story mode, and the arcade mode. Arcade mode is pretty straightforward. Story mode is like Arcade mode, but you only have to beat an opponent once to progress and there are some cutscenes that you probably won’t care about unless you’re easily won over by shiny things. Multiplayer is fun for awhile, and being able to play multiplayer online is fairly interesting while it lasts. Just don’t expect it to hold your interest for too long, because if you’ve ever played another fighting game, this won’t be the best fighting game you’ve played. It just won’t.
“Story” is an interesting name for a mode in Soul Calibur, when you think about it. The games have a story much in the same way that tween fantasy novels have a story; it’s technically there, but entirely meaningless since it’s little more than an excuse to throw in tons of fan service. Is there any kind of canon for the series? I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Everyone finds the sword when you beat each Soul Calibur iteration with them, but then they’re all chasing after it again in the next game. None of it makes any sense and no canon seems to ever be established, but it’s not that big of a deal seeing as how this is a fighting game and not a story-based game. It just seems to be trying a bit too hard to focus on the story when it’s clearly one of the weakest parts of the game (and series, really).
The game is pretty, though. Character design isn’t all horrible fan service, to be fair: Seong Mi-Na (my favorite character) is dressed much the same as in the original game and doesn’t seem to have undergone any elective plastic surgery between games. The many stages you can fight on are beautiful, as well. Whoever’s job that was did some amazing work.
What makes this game so frustrating is that occasionally you’ll see shades of the brilliant fighter Soul Calibur IV could have been. It’s incredibly frustrating to be hit with that brilliance, only to have it suddenly overshadowed by some completely unnecessary pandering.
Here’s what you should do: