I’ve been a fan of the Soul Calibur series since I first encountered it in arcades back in 1995 and it was still called Soul Edge. That was before a nasty man named Tim Langdell screwed that up for everyone, forcing Namco to change the second part the name to “Calibur” in future games to make the title unified in all regions again. If you don’t know about that, then look it up, it’s a funny story.
I own every game in the series, so I was obviously going to get this one. It turns out Soulcalibur VI is a prequel, revisiting the events of the original Soulcalibur, the aftermath of the Evil Seed and all that – but who the hell cares about stories in fighting games, right? We’re here for the silky-smooth combat, the exhilarating clang of steel on steel, the over-designed visuals, the controller-squeezing adrenaline rush of a close match and, hopefully, the satisfying relief of victory.
I’ve noticed a fair bit of praise going around for Soulcalibur VI’s single player modes. The arcade mode is decent, I suppose, a slog through eight opponents at your chosen difficulty, which you can do while waiting for online challengers. The story mode, Soul Chronicle, is basically a visual novel broken up by the occasional fight. Terrific. That was sarcasm, in case you have trouble inferring tone from text. The mission mode, Libra of Soul, requires you to create a custom character and go through increasingly tough missions. I tried it a bit, but apparently you don’t get much reward for it, so screw it. Oh, yes, the mandatory character customisation is back, and it looks like ass, like it always has.
The roster is made up largely of returning characters who have all received a few mandatory changes and new moves, and some have changed more than others. Kilik, for instance, my main from the original Soulcalibur, still has a lot of his classic moves, but they’ve been shuffled around on the commands, so it’ll take some time to get used to him again. Siegfried, Nightmare, and Maxi feel familiar and they still have their various stances, but some of their commands have changed and they’ve been given at least one new move each. Ivy, as usual, is vastly different to how she was in the previous game, which is a running theme with her. Cervantes, who was one of the most stable over the years in terms of moves, has received some pretty hefty changes.
There are two entirely new characters this time. The first to be announced was Grøh, a knight in black armour with a double-ended sword that he can split into two blades – a bit like Lady Maria from Bloodborne. He looks like an anime pretty boy, but he’s quite fun to use with plenty of multi-hitting attacks and easy combos, a good choice for beginners or players who favour fast, light characters. The next is Azwel, a robed scientist and Jesus-wannabe who created a pair of gauntlets from fragments of the Soulcalibur and the Soul Edge. He has no innate knowledge of combat, so all of his bad-assery comes from the memories of the the Soul fragments, enabling him to temporarily manifest weapons during his attacks. He’s not as complex as he may at first seem, and can perform powerful special attacks based on which weapon he summoned last. For instance, if he last summoned a spear (whether it hit or missed), the next time he performs his special attack, it will be the spear-based one which launches the opponent; but if his last attack was an axe, then his special move will perform the low-hitting axe special. He’s definitely one of the more interesting Soulcalibur characters, both in terms of his back story and his play mechanics.
It’s become a tradition for Soulcalibur to feature guest characters from other games, which is probably a way of trying to draw in fans of those characters who aren’t necessarily fighting game players. I wonder if it works? This time round, the guest star is none other than the White Wolf himself, Geralt of Rivia, from CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher series. They’ve done a great job of implementing many of his recognisable combat moves from The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt into the game and he’s just plain fun to use.
Collaborations like the one I just mentioned warm my grinchy heart, letting me know that cool things can still happen in the world of gaming. However, I needed to see one more name on the roster to be truly happy – and I got it. Shortly before release Tira, my favourite character, was announced to be in the game. Yay! As launch day DLC. Not so yay, but I’m sorry everyone, I have to do it – they’ve got me by the short ‘n’ curlies here. They held my favourite character ransom and I need her to be in the game. I’ll make it up to you all, I promise. I’ll buy an indie game that really deserves it. Suggestions welcome.
There’s a prominent new play mechanic called the Reversal Edge, which allows your character to absorb a few of their opponent’s attacks and then strike back. If it hits, they enter a rock-paper-scissors-style mini-game in which specific button presses always beat other button presses. Some characters have little combos they can add on to the end of a particular button, increasing the chance that a player will press that button – but it’s still largely a guessing game and I don’t much care for it. The computer uses it like it’s going out of style, too.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the core of Soulcalibur VI. My only real gripes are the single player modes, which I think are overrated, and the Reversal Edge, which I don’t like much – but others might enjoy it. The arcade mode serves its purpose well enough and I played online quite well against my friend who lives a few streets away. Take from that what you will.