Let’s face it: Soul Calibur IV was the absolute nadir of the series. It was so bad on so many levels, it’s hard to list things the game did right. So I won’t try.
Among its many failings, we saw the introduction of fucking Jedi. The inclusion of instant-kill finishing moves. Then, the practical removal of finishing moves. Terrible netcode, 100% combos, and a paltry Story Mode. And, of course, breasts.
Soul Calibur IV saw an across-the-board increase in every female’s bustline, and a corresponding reduction in the surface area of every female’s clothing. How mature, Namco.
In light of all these… features… it would be pretty difficult to be excited for the next iteration of the once respected weapons-based fighting franchise. By the time of its announcement, most gamers would have expected the game would be played in wheelchairs as its Chelsea Charms-endowed women were too burdened by their boobs to battle. But then, Soul Calibur V was announced and something magical started happening.
The characters weren’t sexual parodies of themselves. The new ninja, Natsu, replacing Taki (pictured above), is still wearing a skin-tight outfit, but she’s not falling out of her clothing. Hell, even Ivy, who is a fucking dominatrix by trade, was toned down from “S&M porno shoot” to “shows less skin than most models in the 1940s.”
Is Ivy still sexualized? Sure, but that’s her goddamn job. Seemingly every other female character has been covered up while simultaneously dropping a cup size or seven. And don’t misunderstand me – plenty of women have large breasts, but they’re rarely the ones jumping into rings and murdering people with their fists. Even so, they’re probably not exposing their softest, most supple tissue to the blades, boots, and magic powers of their opponents.
The gears are turning, but does the soul still burn?
Of course, giving virtual women a meager shred of dignity/clothing does not a good game make. But it’s a start, and it’s a clear sign that Namco is listening to critical feedback. Out of a laundry list of complaints, it probably was a big point to concede, since sex sells, especially to pre-teens who probably shouldn’t be playing Soul Anything to begin with. But there’s more work to do before the Calibur name is once again respectable.
The seemingly plausible rumor that Ezio Auditore of Assassin’s Creed fame will be the first guest character to Soul Calibur V is a heartening revelation, if you will. Why is the master of face-stabbing such a well-placed choice? A few key reasons:
- He’s a contemporary of the series
- He’s not Yoda
- He actually uses weapons
- Those weapons aren’t lightsabers
- Did I mention he’s not Yoda?
All in all, things are looking good. But there is so much yet to learn before optimism can sink in. After all, few gameplay details have surfaced as of this writing, which is worrisome since nearly all the elements added to the last iteration in the series were unforgiveable. They included an anti-blocking mechanism so stupid, it must have been decided by the guy in the fucking mail room. Soul Calibur IV also featured a “Story Mode” that was essentially five fights and a cut scene. They weren’t even good cut scenes.
The redemption of Namco
If Soul Calibur V wants to bring back its user base and attract the large population of fighting game fanatics who’ve surfaced in the wake of a series of excellent entries in other series, it has to do more than Photoshop thicker panties onto its fighters. It has to clean up its net code with a tight, fast system like the one used in Super Street Fighter IV. It has to revamp its story mode in an engaging method that tells a fucking story, like the new Mortal Kombat. It has to feature crisp, responsive controls like BlazBlue.
And most of all, it needs to not be anything like Marvel vs Capcom 3.