There's a new entry in the long-running Soulcalibur series, Namco's weapons-based fighter, a game that its creators say is a "lighter, faster, more elegant" battle of swords and souls. It's also a game with "more dynamic" battles, one drawing some influence from Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat.
Soulcalibur V, says producer Hisaharu Toga, will place a bigger emphasis on big, dramatic moves, the kind one might see in a Street Fighter game. You might call them EX moves, or just recognise them as the action-pausing super attacks that can be charged up in battle, then unleashed upon an unlucky for who lets his guard down.
I saw Soulcalibur V in action at E3 2011, watching as Namco folks played battles between new characters Patroklos and Pyrrah. They're the brother-sister team with Greek heritage, the son and daughter of Soulcalibur fighter Sophitia. They're just two of the 20 to 30 characters planned to be in the game, which is said to feature a cast that's about 50 per cent new, 50 per cent returning.
Patroklos and Pyrrah both had EX-style super moves in the game, moves that made the screen darken before each fighter unleashed a fantastical combo attack of stabs and uppercutting moves. An EX-style meter next to each fighter's health bar filled up to three times, then could be unleashed in a double-hadouken joystick motion upon an opponent.
In the demo I saw, which the game's producers said was an early prototype and used a good portion of Soulcalibur IV's assets and animations, two other fighters were available: Japanese swordsman Mitsurugi and German knight Siegfried. The former looked like he was the 17 years older that he should have been in V, sporting long grey hair, the latter less so. Both looked good, both were visually slightly more impressive, thanks to the new game's new engine, which now sports visual tricks like image based lighting and ambient occlusion.
I only saw battles occur on two stages, one on a floating ship, the other in a cage dubbed the "Torture Chamber" that prevented ring outs.
While I saw a dozen or so single-player fights, Soulcalibur V's producer said the game is a more story-driven fighter than its peers and predecessors. And when I asked him about the developer's approach to telling that story, specifically whether they'd paid attention to the smart singleplayer campaign of this year's Mortal Kombat, he sort of said "yes."
Tago said the team is "aware of the trend" of that game's cinematic, plot-driven approach to telling a fighting game story. He added that Soulcalibur V's campaign mode would benefit the player with a set of new features, adding some new tutorial-like aspects to help players learn the its fighting systems.
The new Soulcalibur looks promising, even at this early stage. It sounds like there are many improvements, changes and tweaks to come, so expect things to change over the next year. Soulcalibur V is currently planned for release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 sometime next year.