I Suck At Fighting Games: Soul Calibur V

Part 2 of my ongoing series of trying and failing miserably to get good at any fighting game.

I'm just gonna get straight to the punch here. I love this game. It's my favorite fighting game right now. It might be the best game I've ever played online. Not just for fighters, the best online game I've played in ANY genre.

In my previous blog I detailed my past experience with Soul Calibur. I played a little bit of 1, a LOT of 2, a TON of 3, and some of 4. I'm more familiar with this series than probably any other fighting game series. Maybe that's why I actually feel confident playing this game.

I picked Xiba (aka, Justin Xiba) and jumped into training mode. After some slight problems with button configuration on my arcade stick, I started trying stuff out. I read the move list and HOLY CRAP. There are a billion of them. Moves for if your back is to your opponent. "8 way run" moves. Moves with Guard Impact qualities. Moves for if your front is to your opponent. Stance switches to open up even more moves. Reading this move list was totally overwhelming. So I just closed it and just started hitting the dummy.

Now, I picked Xiba because he basically plays like Kilik in the old Soul Calibur games, who was my main character. I haven't played any Soul Calibur in at least two years, but despite switching to an arcade stick (as opposed to a pad like I used to play) and being rusty as hell, I was figuring things out. The training mode in this game isn't great and it isn't as in-depth and incredible as Skullgirls was, but it has some cool features.

1. The game lists several moves for each character and explains them in depth. It doesn't do this for every move (because there's too many) but it gives you some important tools for each character.

2. There is a video demo available for EVERY move for EVERY character so you can see if you're doing it right.

3. You can set your training dummy to a variety of stances, like Attack, Counterattack, Attack Then Block, Blocking, etc. Much better than Skullgirls in this regard.

They call him Justin Xiba because his hair is so pretty.

So, I jumped into the online mode after spending some time training. I know this sounds like very high praise, but it's 100% true: Soul Calibur V possibly has the best online features out of any game I've ever played.

The Player Match, where I spent most of my time, is a small lobby where two people fight and everyone else spectates and chats. It's so cool to get some sort of insight into your upcoming rival's strategies before facing them, and the social aspect of being able to chat in a lobby is really nice too. Even if no one talked when I was playing...

The Ranked Match is simpler, it just pits you against someone around your level. Not much to say about it. I did appreciate that the characters are blindly picked, so I don't feel like I'm getting maliciously counterpicked by my opponent like I did in Skullgirls.

The Global Colosseo is the most unique. You enter a larger lobby with several other people where you can choose to challenge someone directly, get into a random match, or join a ranked, structured online tournament.

Global Colosseo is a lot simpler than this image makes it look, I promise.

All these features, plus the ability to mark certain players as rivals (which allows you to consistently compare statistics with them whenever you want), plus a pretty good replay feature are why I'm saying that Soul Calibur V's online mode is incredible. Every fighting game should strive to have online features like this.

On a more personal level, I actually felt like I stood a fighting chance against people in this game. In Skullgirls I just lose and lose and lose forever. I know it takes a long time to get good at a new fighting game, but I don't ever feel like I'm improving and it gets discouraging.

The opposite is true for Soul Calibur V. Maybe it's because of my past experience with the series, but I feel confident in every match I play. I know my character well, and there isn't really anybody on the roster who I feel like I'm ALWAYS going to lose against. And I'm actually winning matches consistently as opposed to just losing all the time! Winning once in a while and having a replay feature to analyze why I lost makes me feel more confident in my game. I feel like I could actually get good at Soul Calibur V.

There are some things I don't love about it though. Soul Calibur has always had a fairly good storyline following multiple characters throughout multiple eras. I always appreciated how they gave each character a story with cutscenes and had some kind of fun, replayable single-player modes.

So where the hell is that stuff? Story mode is lazily produced and only follows two characters ever. The timeskip between 4 and 5 got rid of several characters and brought in new ones...but they didn't even give them a back story besides in the art book? Come on! I know the competitive multiplayer is the crux of any fighting game, and Soul Calibur V nails that. But the game always had a well-thought out story and cutscenes for every character and now it's just gone. The single player modes are just a bummer.

I'll wrap this up before it gets as long as the last blog.

What I Liked:

-Absolutely fantastic online experience. Flawless netcode, great replay feature, marking rivals, and a multitude of modes. I love this.

-Easy to pick up and play. Since I'm trying to get good at fighting games, I appreciate this. I feel like I can actually play and win as opposed to just getting stomped into the dust all the time.

-Pretty good training mode. It doesn't fully teach you how to play the game and know all of its systems, but it does teach you a few strong moves per character and has a lot of options for your training dummy.

-Fine character customization. I don't really make characters, but during my first online match I fought a man in a pink pimp coat who used a dildo as a weapon. That made my day.

What I Didn't Like:

-Less, and WORSE single player modes than previous games in the franchise. I know fighting games aren't really about single player stuff, but it's jarring when you got it RIGHT before and just got it so, so WRONG this time. I'd like a story for all these new characters. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

-Training mode could do a better job of explaining systems. I had to look up Guard Impact and Just Guard online to find out how to use them. Don't do that, game. Teach me that stuff in the game.

My experience with Soul Calibur V has kind of changed my perspective on the genre in general. I like this game so much that I think I'd rather be playing 3D games than 2D games. Virtua Fighter 5 just came out on Xbox Live, and I think I'd like to play that. If I hadn't played Soul Calibur V before and gotten that experience with 3D fighting games, I would have completely ignored it.

So my next blog will be about either Virtua Fighter 5 or Persona 4: Arena. I've been looking forward to the latter for a while, but the former is already here and I'm really interested in it. Might be a while because I have no Xbox right now, but I'll get on it as soon as possible.

Play Soul Calibur V! It's great.