Let the official announcement commence: Ezio Auditore da Firenze, of Assassin’s Creed fame, is Soulcalibur V’s special guest character. Some of you may have already seen a screen that was leaked -- thanks to (I can only assume) a fellow “journalist” of the highest, moralistic integrity -- but it didn't convey just how well the master assassin fits into the world of Soulcalibur that a good old-fashioned written preview can do.
I’ll save my diatribe on embargoes and videogame journalism for a later date, because frankly I’d rather share my recent hands-on time with Ezio in Soulcalibur V. With that said, now that the proverbial cat is officially out of the bag, the question I’m sure many have been wondering can finally be answered: How does Ezio stack up amongst Soulcalibur's cast of eclectic characters?
Soulcalibur V (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Project Soul
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release: January 31, 2012 (NA) / February 3, 2012 (EU)
Simply put, the Italian stallion is a beast. While the full roster has not been completely revealed, he holds his own respectively amongst those who are playable. He’s quick, strong, balanced and most importantly prepared for every situation. Then again, he is the master assassin and having an answer for any odds he might face is kind of his thing.
Not since Link, in Soul Calibur II, has a character had such a wide range of options. At Ezio’s disposal are his Roman longsword, stiletto, crossbow, hidden gun, and hidden blade; making him Soulcalibur V’s most resourceful combatant.
“One thing the team really wanted to play with is the fact that Ezio has so many different weapons,” explained brand manager of Soulcalibur Dennis Le. “In Soulcalibur all the characters basically have one weapon … The team wanted that challenge of really implementing him, getting a lot of the same cool moves and attacks to really get that feeling of Ezio into Soulcalibur.”
Depending on the situation Ezio can be played as either a long or short-ranged character. His crossbow can be fired across the length of the screen, but it’s easily avoidable by players familiar with the eight-way run system. It’s blockable, but can hit high or low to help mix things up. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel as cheap as Link’s bow did. Where I found the crossbow most useful though was when paired with certain combos. For example, double tapping forward, followed by vertical strike and then kick has Ezio perform a sword strike followed by a lightning quick crossbow shot.
His other projectile, the hidden gun, is by far his most intricate weapon. It’s slow, highly telegraphed, and hard to connect with. But if your prey is foolish enough to stand in its way is a guaranteed strike as it’s one of Ezio’s unblockable attacks. Success with this weapon generally came on accident for me, unless I was executing Ezio’s Critical Edge attack, in which ever part of the assassin’s deadly repertoire is implemented.
In similar fashion to Hilde, Ezio’s two swords offer him a strong mid-range game. His assassin’s blade on the other hand -- no pun intended -- gives him that in your face tactic similar to Taki or Natsu, albeit minus the speed for which these ladies are known. Having such a multitude of weapons makes him a perfect character for players of many styles. He’s a culmination of many of the series past and present warriors, but at the same time feels very fresh.
“The team wanted to do a very balanced character with Ezio,” says Le. “Which gives him a bit of speed, but also some strong power attacks.”
With five staples of his arsenal ready to use at a moment’s notice, I found my time playing as one of gaming’s newest iconic characters quite enjoyable. I’ve been a fan of Namco’s weapon-based fighter way before the Calibur days and have had my fun playing with the myriad guest characters that have graced the series, but regardless of how cool some of them have been, none have felt as home as Ezio.
The decision to bring Ezion into the roster was no small undertaking for the folks at Namco. I had known for some time that Soulcalibur V’s special guest character was going to fit well into the series, so naturally thoughts of Jack Sparrow or perhaps Ned Stark -- of Game of Thrones fame -- going tête-à-tête with the likes of Mitsurugi and crossed my mind. But seeing Ubisoft’s poster boy, as elated as I am, caught me off-guard considering Namco’s recent love affair with Capcom.
“The development team was looking at kinds of brands that we wanted to partner with for Soulcalibur V,” explained Le. ”It’s a mix of wanting to bring a notable gaming brand back as the guest for Soulcalibur V and looking at what characters really fit in the world of Soulcalibur and would make sense. With Assassin’s Creed and Ezio it was almost too natural of a fit. There are a lot of similarities between the time of Assassin’s Creed and Soulcalibur V and we thought that Ezio as the character, as the master assassin, would be a great character to face off against a lot of the heroes and characters we have in Soulcalibur.”
How Ezio comes to be in the world of Soulcalibur is still a mystery that Namco was not ready to share, but I have my speculations. One thing for sure, it sounds like that the collaboration with Ubisoft has brought forth a more cognitive narrative connecting the two -- something that couldn’t really be said about Soulcalibur IV’s Star Wars ensemble.
“In the timing when he comes in there is actually a block of time in Ezio’s life, his timeline, where it’s not documented,” shares Le. “That is the time when he was brought into the Soulcalibur world.”
Whether it is from a glitch in the Animus or perhaps a side effect from using the piece of Eden that brings Ezio into the thick of things, fans of both Assassin’s Creed and Soulcalibur have much to be excited for. To think we still don’t even know about roughly half the cast, character creation, downloadable content, and whatever RPG-esque mode the game is sure to incorporate. Hopefully Namco sheds the light soon, as January 31 has never seemed farther away.