Average User Score: 6.7Feb 5, 2012The Soul series of fighting games have always been a breed apart - where other fighting game franchises have focused on fast and frenziedThe Soul series of fighting games have always been a breed apart - where other fighting game franchises have focused on fast and frenzied action, high-count combos and twitch reactions, Soul was different in the sense that it required elements of patience. You never had to worry about your guard breaking, because you were meant to constantly shift your position or quickly intercept an attack with a well-timed block. You never had to worry about one mistake costing you the match (in most cases) because juggles and combos, while present, took a backseat to a more deliberate style of fighting. It wasn't a scrap, it was a duel, and you had to do less outplaying of opponents than you would OUTHINK them, and this was a refreshing change of pace in an era where the Marvels and Guilty Gears of the world were focused on finding ways to use one more gauge. Soul Edge/Blade brought a new idea, SoulCalibur perfected it, and SoulCalibur II immortalized it. SoulCalibur III was released on the PlayStation 2 without an arcade playtest preceding it (for a Japanese fighting game, that's never a good thing) and as such had massive issues that plagued it, and SoulCalibur IV felt like it had an identity crisis - it didn't know exactly what game it wanted to be, and could never find a comfortable place in between trying to remain relevant to the changing tastes of the genre and maintaining its own unique sense of class.
With that said, SoulCalibur V is a descent into full-blown manic schizophrenia, and is easily the most unnecessarily contrived attempt at revitalizing the franchise. Somewhere along the line, I imagine someone at Namco Bandai had to have said "I wonder if we'd do the franchise and its fans justice if we only took the system back it its roots," but I'm sure that genius was ignored or fired for speaking not only a great idea, but the truth. Whoever came up with the conceptual gameplay ideas for this title needs psychological evaluation. Probably rehab from whatever rocks they were smoking, too.
First of all, let's talk gauges. SoulCalibur didn't have a "guard crush" anti-turtle mechanic until SC4, and they connected that to a one-hit-kill system that was almost impossible to initiate because it took forever to whittle down someone's guard. So, they thought up a better idea than half-heartedly stealing a Guilty Gear gameplay trope was to steal a Street Fighter one: enter the new gauge at the side of the health bar, which powers Brave Edge moves (think EX specials), Critical Edge moves (think Ultra Combos in SF4), and Guard Impact. The first two on this list are lame additions to try to add a false sense of complexity, but the last one kills not only me, but I'd be willing to wager 80% of the existing, longstanding fanbase.
Guard Impact is to SoulCalibur as a series what breathing and blinking is to human life. They decided to change the way it's worked for the past 13 years for some reason, whatever reason that may be, it wasn't good enough. In its place is "Just Guard," where you need to block at the exact frame (or nearabouts) to cause a window of counterattack. This has taken a system that caused tense parry wars and impossibly exciting action between friends and foes alike and successfully reduced it to trying to tap guard at just the right moment of any incoming attack. So, they took yet another great 2D mechanic and plastered it into a game where it really didn't belong (you have Garou: Mark Of The Wolves to thank for Just Defense). Again, they have taken the rich complexity of chess at a hundred moves a minute, and reduced it to Connect Four on a PixyStix sugar rush.
Every step isn't backwards, however. The music is fantastic, classic tracks and new alike. The visual fidelity is stunning, backgrounds pop and come to life, characters have ornate clothes, lip-sync is very well done for speaking animations. The online netcode is beyond solid and functions like a dream (X360). The character creation mode, a SC staple since SCIII, is easily the greatest part of the whole game. This is what every character creator should be, and Namco Bandai should carry that proudly. It's just a shame that the game that uses all of these sublimely fantastic elements should perform so underwhelmingly, and I'm not going to even go into the abysmal story mode and complete lack of single-player content, again, something the Soul series is not only known for, but carries high praise and accolades for those very features in past games. Let's do the math: major characters missing, balance issues out the wahzoo, a fighting system that doesn't deserve the name SoulCalibur, a complete and utter lack of meaningful single-player anything, fantastic presentation in which everything shines but the gameplay itself, atrocious storyline...it all equals a five, and it really should be a four, but the rest of it shows such high workmanship that I can't bear to not give credit where it's due.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.5Sep 29, 2011Let me start by stating the facts: not everyone will understand these games, not everyone will enjoy them, and there's nothing wrong withLet me start by stating the facts: not everyone will understand these games, not everyone will enjoy them, and there's nothing wrong with that. Certain people can't watch a movie unless it has explosions, certain people can't watch Public Television because it educates rather than entertains, and certain people will pick this up on the recommendation of another and feel 100% cheated because it doesn't involve wanton killing, busty women, rampant foul language and guns.
If you are one of these types of people, it's okay. I'm not going to judge you or your tastes. I'll just let you know that i feel sorry for you, because whatever "eye of the beholder" thing it takes to truly enjoy these games, you don't have it, and believe me, your life is worse because of that. You don't know what you've missed.
Ico is definitely the harder game to get into, out of the two games in the collection. It will involve you solving puzzles and leading a girl to safety by escaping the castle where the both of you are imprisoned. It will involve her speaking in a language you don't understand, and it will tax the part of the brain that won't help you fire a gun. For those patient enough to brave the journey, you may find yourself with an incredibly emotional experience at the end of the road, and you'll be amazed a video game could make you feel that way. I'm trying to spoil as little as I can for you, and I'm sorry if this sounds a bit paltry, but this is the gist of the experience.
On the other hand, Shadow Of The Colossus is the most beautifully haunting game I've ever played. It too is about solving puzzles, but the goal in this game is not to figure out how you'll escape a castle, it's how to kill sixteen giant beasts that dwarf you in scale. No other game has made me feel so overwhelmingly powerful by making me feel so insignificant throughout the entire process - the expansive overworld with no enemies or even epic travel music, the loneliness between your character and the horse he rides, it all seems so pointless until you find your next enemy. The silence is the calm before the storm, and that storm is the next giant beast you will have to locate, climb and somehow kill. It will give you a sense of wonder, dread and most of all, it will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that video games deserve to be called an artistic medium. As I said, it won't be for everyone. But if you find yourself looking for something that could make you proud to own your PlayStation, and you don't mind not shooting a gun or scoring a goal, then you may find yourself in for the best games that the previous generation had to offer. There's a very good reason why the PlayStation 2 was the home of the best franchise titles of the last hardware generation, and that didn't have as much to to with Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, Madden, Final Fantasy or God Of War as it did games like Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus. Now, these games have been given a 1080p HD facelift, and given trophies for the player to earn as well. Any individual who considers themselves a gamer, in any sense of the term whether broad or niche, needs to try these two games. You may find that you don't like them, and like I said earlier, that's okay. Caviar isn't for everyone, and one man's delicacy can be another's poison. If you're in the mood for something besides controller McDonalds, though, this is your wake-up call.
For those who do pick it up and find themselves lost in the most incredible worlds, your curiosity will be rewarded hundredfold. Then, you'll understand why people like myself are so excited for The Last Guardian...and chances are, you will be too after playing through these two games (and especially SotC). Don't pass this up, whatever you do.… Expand