Let me start by saying that I'm as thrilled as ever that SoulCalibur V
came out. I bought it day one, and I'm in love with the game as much as I have been with all of the series' prior installments. The overhaul given to the multiplayer aspects of the game was amazing, and it's great to be totally free of duplicate or near-duplicate weapon styles amongst the cast of characters. However, there were a few things left to be desired this time around. If there happens to be a SoulCalibur VI[i] in the works, there's a few things that really need to happen.
Every Soul Has A Tale
The shift in story focus this time around to actually trying to explain the interrelation between Soul Edge and Soul Calibur was a nice change of pace. However, in the process of laying everything on the shoulders of Pyrrha and Patroklos, pretty much every other character in the game, old and new, got short-shrifted. Characters with long-running backstories were cast as mere accessories to the main storyline, with little or no development of their own, and the slew of new characters introduced were left complete mysteries to anyone who couldn't be bothered to check out the game's website.
Granted, the old way of going about things was cumbersome; learning the backstories of everyone in previous SoulCalibur games (and, typically, unlocking everyone with a story) required playing through the entire arcade mode with everyone in the roster. Not the most exciting prospect, especially for those more interested in multiplayer, and that many runs through the game could prove quite the time sink.
So, how to include everyone without taking forever to do so? I'd like to see a story mode that incorporates every character's interaction with the two swords, handled in a sort of relay fashion that hands the player a new character to control every few fights. Not only would this keep the entire cast involved, but it would give players a chance to get a feel for every fighting style. It wouldn't have to be a straight sequence, either; using a character once or twice, and then jumping back to them later on down the line would be absolutely doable.
The whole idea would be to intertwine everyone's stories and maintain some sort of interesting canon while still working around a core plotline. If trying to wrap everything up into one mode proved too overwhelming, splitting it into separate, smaller storylines based on locations of origin (Asia and Europe) or which of the blades the characters are more aligned with would probably solve the problem.
A Learning Experience
My favorite tutorial mode of all time, at least in a fighting game, would have to be the system in the Dead or Alive games, wherein you can watch videos of the moves for all the different characters, and you can actually play through the entire movesets, with the game telling you what move to complete and not letting you progress to the next move until you successfully pull off the current one.
SoulCalibur has half the equation down, in that there's a video mode in the training sessions that lets you see how moves are supposed to look in action, while showing the command prompt to do them, but I think it'd be a much more effective way to build new players' skill, especially given how many new characters have been introduced, to implement the whole "do it 'til you get it right" aspect.
I'd also like to see the return of a challenge mode that helps instruct players in the use of some of the more involved systems, such as Guard Impacts and Brave Edge attacks, to help even the battlefield between newcomers and veteran players. I believe they did such a thing in SCIII or SCIV, but it hasn't seen a return in this latest iteration.
DLC Should Be Exactly That
I learned a bit too late (i.e. when I went to pick up my copy of the game) that GameStop was not one of the retailers participating in the Dampierre preorder program. While it was annoying enough to see the blank slot where he should be staring back at me, it was downright infuriating to find Dampierre and custom characters with his combat style were available to fight in Quick Battle mode.
While it was a bit ridiculous, the implementation of system-exclusive characters meant to be DLC further down the line worked pretty well in [i]SoulCalibur IV[/b]. Sure, it was a bit irritating knowing you you had to wait to fill out your entire roster with Yoda or Darth Vader, depending on which system you were playing the game, but the opposite system's exclusives were never encountered in gameplay until they were available for purchase.
Taunting your customers like they did with Dampierre, just because they may not have preordered or picked the wrong outlet with which to reserve the game, isn't cool. If you're going to make something like that available after a wait, keep it unavailable until that wait is over.
Bring Back My Bonnie To Me
This last item's a bit of a personal preference, but if you think about it, the series' continuity somewhat demands it. Seong Mi-na's been around as far back as the original Soul Edge/Soul Blade days, up through SCIV, and leaving her out of V after having come so far was practically criminal. Sure, Rock's MIA, but he got dropped years ago in favor of keeping Astaroth around (and, in all honesty, should've seen Bangoo take up his axe at some point down the line). Sophitia and Taki, while pretty much out of the picture, have clear successors in Pyrrha (who also carries shades of Cassandra) and Natsu, respectively, and Li Long's replacement, Maxi, has kept on trucking through the series despite having been killed off in SoulCalibur II. Even Kilik manages to worm his way back in as an Edge-Master-style character, which is doubly inexplicable considering Edge Master is back, and Elysia fills the role of his Inferno-esque boss fight and counterpart.
Those who've left the limelight in the seventeen in-game years between SoulCalibur IV and now at least find some sort of side mention in the plot, but Seong Mi-na's nowhere to be found, in any form, and I think it's unacceptable. Even with the huge time gap, she'd still only be 40 by the time SoulCalibur V happens, and judging by Ivy's persistent hotness at perma-32, I think she'd still be pretty fine and pretty capable. Whether or not Project Soul neglects the opportunity to provide her as DLC in the current title, I would be more than happy to see her return as a badass MILF in the next SoulCalibur.
All in all, SoulCalibur V took some great strides toward rejuvenating the series and keeping it potentially viable for a few more games, but I think with a bit more polish and some revisitation of some of the elements the series left behind this time around, [i}SoulCalibur
could be fully reborn in a form with nearly as much impact as the first SoulCalibur
had back in arcades and on the Sega Dreamcast.