When you think of a fighting game guide, you don't normally think it should be anywhere close to being this big. And even more than that, you don't generally tend to think that the guide is really all that necessary. Soul Calibur V isn't a too terribly complex game, yet this guide is extremely in depth in a lot of areas, covering every nook and cranny of Soul Calibur V. It's in depth. Sometimes a little too much.
So let's get this out of the way. The guide is big. It's also a hardback. It's so big that if you threw at someone on the street you'd probably kill them (or at the very least, incapacitate them for several days). Generally speaking a lot of guides that are so big usually get that way because there's a lot of unused space on a page or there are unusually large screenshots (or it's double spaced) Bradygames has an enormous habit of inflating their guides. So naturally upon looking at this guide it was hard to discern what was fluff and what wasn't. Turns out, nothing here is. This is truly a guide that has so much info in it you'll be suffering from an overload. It's amazing that the guide is as well organized as it is.
The guide begins with the "How to Play" section where it shows you just about everything you need to know about the game system. Here it'll help you understand all the basic concepts of Soul Calibur V as well. But it doesn't stop there. It pretty much tells you how to exploit some of the games mechanics as well as even going so far as to explain why the training mode might be a good place for beginners to start, and demonstrating what it can actually teach the player. It's mostly about explaining how to take control of the game's various mechanics. Newcomers, especially, should definitely start here.
The system guide expands on the "How to Play," by going a little deeper. Where as the How to Play chapter was concerned with teaching you the mechanics and how to exploit them, the System Guide explains each and every mechanic to you. The How to Play mostly talks about things such as how to crouch and that sort of thing. But the system guide is much more likely to explain to you the actual terms used in Soul Calibur V. Things like guard impacts, critical edge and brave edge are things you'll find explained in great detail here. The guide will also do it's best to teach you how to use them. If the "How to Play" chapter is about introducing one to some of these mechanics, then this chapter is definitely about showing the player how to really apply them and exploit them. Here it'll also tell you things about how to control the ring you're in or explaining the significance of the hit box. Again, a lot of this stuff isn't likely to be new to returning players. Yet it's immensely helpful for the newcomer.
After that the guide gets into the game modes where it begins to give off some strategy. It can go a little too deep at times here. Explaining to use what "Offline Play," is (however briefly) just doesn't seem that necessary in this day and age. But a lot of strategy is present here. You'll learn about the Legendary Souls mode and the guide will give strategies for everything you'll face within it. These are not simple, "Hit him until he dies," strategies. These are players who seemed to really be taking their fighting quite seriously. And all that info is presented with some crisp, clear, screenshots. It'll then give a brief explanation of Arcade Mode and Quick Battle. With Arcade Mode it doesn't really tell you a whole lot. There's not much it can. It will, however, provide you with strategies for every fighter in the game (more on that later) which can easily be used for Arcade Mode. In this chapter the Arcade mode is primarily given an interview. On the other hand, the Quick Battle charts are nice.
When it gets to the story mode the guide tries to avoid all the spoilers (though I'm not sure it makes much of a difference). It gives a synopsis of each episode and gives you battle tactics. It takes all the episodes and goes through them very quickly. Most of the basic tactics amount to a paragraph or so. Again, it might be better to just look in every character's section if you're really that curious on how to beat them. They also show some of the storyboards (if you're that interested, anyway). Lastly, it talks about character creation. It mostly just explains it but that's about it. Again, a section of the guide that seems a little too long for something so simple. Given that the depth isn't quite as meaningful here as it was in previous Soul Calibur games, they probably didn't have to take quite as much time to explain this to the player.
Once we get beyond that, we've come to the meet and bones of the guide. A very in depth look at each and every character. This isn't just simple moves lists, but actually gives a lot of detailed strategies on how to pull off the moves and why. It shows you what the best range to pull off moves is, why the move is effective when it is and tells you just how you're opponent is apt to react... or when it might be a better idea to use a particular move. It's all accompanied by excellent screenshots. It'll also list combos you can do, some of which is not actually in the moves list in the actual game. The guide also explains how to use each character offensively and defensively. Before each character section ends, it'll also tell you how you should go about fighting against the character. It might've been nice had the guide actually gone a step further and talked about good match ups against a particular character. It might've helped the "Fighting Against ___" be slightly easier.
Beyond that we get into the secrets and we learn about the unlockable characters and the style. It also shows all the clothing you can unlock for character creation. There is also a trophy/achievement guide in the back for those looking to master the game. It also has small, short, character bios for those curious as to the relationships to other characters... it might even help you learn what happened to some.
If there was anything to be upset about it would be that there is so much info in this guide you'll be page flipping for a while. The organization is fine, but you're likely to feel like you've got way too much info. And when you find something that really doesn't require too much talking to get the gist of, you'll find some of that is hard to find in the guide itself. This includes, at one point, a couple of secrets that were comprised to a table on a single page. Because of how huge the guide is... it was easy to overlook. All the info you're going to need is there, but you're likely to get lost in the pages of the guide trying to find it.
The Soul Calibur V guide is actually a good guide. Whether or not you need it is debatable. But one thing is for sure, the guide is HUGE and more exhaustive than most every other guide out there. As a result you might not actually be able to learn everything this guide throws out there. It's just that big. When you finally get around to absorbing what it has, you'll be amazed at the depth.