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Soul Calibur 5: A necessary reinvention?

First look: Namco tells us about its new fighter

The worst kept secret of the month, Soul Calibur V is finally out in the open. And we know nothing about it.

Well, almost nothing; Namco Bandai described the game this morning as a "true sequel" in the Soul series, and it'll be arriving on PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012. Various elements of the battle system have been improved, it said, and new elements added to make the game "more exciting".

"Soul Calibur V is set to advance the series' legacy of white-knuckled weapon-based combat, beautiful graphics and groundbreaking features, entrancing newcomers and long-time fans alike," the publisher noted in its announcement.

In a behind closed doors meeting this afternoon, producer Hisaharu Tago gave us a bit more info on the fifth instalment. Speaking in the world's most air conditioned room at Namco's Dubai Level Up event, he told us the fifth game in the series represents a new era for Soul Calibur - a fresh story arc kicking off 17 years after the fourth instalment.

The generational shift sees the introduction of new characters - and the return of old ones - starting with Patroklos, son of Sophitia Alexandra.

Brandishing one of the Soul swords, which are now one-handed weapons rather than the two-handed beasts we're used to (this will be explained in the story, we're told), Patroklos embarks on a journey that sees his family's destiny "intertwine with the Soul swords".

But as you'd expect, there are reasons beyond just narrative for this jump forward in time; Tago told us he wants Soul Calibur V to focus on "quicker and sharper gameplay", and moving the cast around is the best way to do it.

Holding aloft a big plastic Soul sword, he tells us he feels the gameplay in IV was a bit too heavy ("especially online") and players didn't feel an instant reaction to their weapon swings and killer blows.

As well as improving the online system and adding new network features, Soul Calibur V's gameplay is going to be "much lighter, sharper and more elegant" than before, Tago-san says with an enthusiastic sword swing.

The producer admits there will likely be fans troubled by the sound of this rather large shift in the feel of fighting, but he insists they shouldn't worry; it's more pleasant removing the sluggish gaps between moves found in previous instalments, and creating a smoother, more fluid style of combat, he promises.

As mentioned both new and old characters will return in the sequel, and Tago-san hinted that we could even see the sons and daughters of more classic Soul Calibur fighters battling out.

Patroklos as you'd expect is said to feel a lot like his mother and fan favourite Sophitia, and he'll even blag a few moves "inspired" by the old dear.

Main protagonist Siegfried will also return in V, except he's now 39 years old and no longer in possession of the Soul Calibur sword.

For the good or bad, he also confirmed to CVG that the new instalment will feature guest characters from other companies, such as Soul Calibur Star Wars fighters or Nintendo's Link from even further back. "Please stay tuned for more information on that," he said.

Real gameplay will be revealed at E3 in June, but for now the return of all of the series' major features (including the last game's powerful character creator) and finally a move to inject a feeling of freshness to the series suggests this could be a promising contender in 2012.