SoCal Regionals was definitely a fun place to be at. You get to play against some of the best fighting game players in the state, chat with other people about your favorite titles, and even watch some pretty good matches. It’s also the perfect place for companies to promote upcoming titles.
So, it wasn’t a real surprise that Namco Bandai was in the house with early builds of Soul Calibur V, and was letting those in attendance try it out. I managed to sneak in some playtime myself in between watching matches, and, I have to say, it’s looking pretty good so far.
Those who played SCIV will probably remember that it had its fair share of issues. Some of these included the lack of a story, missing customization options, guest characters that didn’t fit in the game world, Hilde being god tier, and others. It’s these things and more that the company is looking to rectify, and the new time period and setting for SCV can be seen as a chance for a fresh start in the eternal tale of souls and swords.
The first, and probably the part of which everyone is curious of, is the inclusion of Assassins Creed’s Ezio Auditore. Needless to say, the master assassin fits right in with the rest of the cast, and comes with all of his classic tools. His hidden blade can be used for insanely fast attack strings, and his crossbow makes him one of the few characters in the game with a projectile, which gives him a huge edge in battle. He also has several moves that cause him to sidestep, allowing him to avoid attacks and counter appropriately. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that he seemed to have a fairly low health pool, or at least takes more damage than normal, which is a good way to balance him out. Users will have to be quick on their feet to avoid getting hit and utilize his various crossbow attacks to zone out and frustrate power characters like Nightmare.
As for the returning characters, they’ve been retooled once again, and while they lost some of their other moves, they also have some new techniques to utilize. My main man, Yoshimitsu, for the most part, plays similar to his previous incarnation, though he lost some of his setups, including his dfA->B launcher that I used to go into Spinning Backhands with for an easy combo (the move instead does a knockdown). It’s a bummer, but he still has his regular launcher that serves the same purpose. And, of course, he’s still as random as ever.
As for the rest of the roster, all of the characters serving as replacements such as Natsu and Xiba have elements of their predecessor, so if you were a favorite of them before, then these new incarnations should make you feel right at home. That’s not to say that they play exactly the same, however. Xiba, for example, is a lot more agile than Kilik ever was, and has even more mixup potential to frustrate the opposition. He also doesn’t have as many ring out options, though the classic dbA+B near an edge still works like a charm. One the main advantages he has, though, is that his Critical Edge also has Guard Impact properties, essentially serving as a major counter to heavy offensive characters.
Unfortunately, a lot of the people I chatted with agree that Pyrrha is a bit too good right now. Specifically, she’s way too fast, and has way too many safe moves. Her forward thrust attack in particular can snuff out most anything the way it is right now, simply because it comes out that fast, and does so much damage. Lest she becomes the next Hilde, it might be wise for Namco to adjust her a bit to be more manageable.
And speaking of Guard Impacts, the new GI system is one that’s gotten a mixed reception from myself and others trying it out. Since it takes meter to use now, it’s not as readily available as before for punishing attacks. On the one hand, it makes it less spammable, allowing for characters with more limited movesets to be more viable, and allowing slower attacks to be applied without fear of getting parried and feeling bad about yourself. On the other hand, it also limits the number of ways to counter predictable opponents, and especially makes characters like Maxi a lot more difficult to deal with.
It is worth mentioning, however, that many characters have some form of command GI to compensate for this. For example, Xiba and Yoshimitsu have GIs that are available via their stances, and Z.W.E.I.’s fB+K is a command GI done by his familiar, all of which cost no meter to use. Determining what the actual differences are between the standard GI and the various command ones is going to be crucial in how well the new system works, but hopefully said differences are noticeable.
Overall, the new system that have going is making for an overall solid build. Namco has a lot of ground to make up, but it seems that they are at least trying to take things in a proper direction. The title is set to be released at the end of January, so we should hopefully be able to see how the final product shapes up then.