Ever since the mid-'90s, Bandai Namco's Project Soul has been delighting fighting fans with their weapons-based 1-on-1 fighters. After years since the previous game, was SoulCalibur VI worth the wait?
Soon after I bought an original PlayStation, I discovered the awesomeness of fighting games. My first one was Tekken 2 and shortly after playing that for dozens of hours, I noticed Soul Blade was also by Namco so I decided to give that a try and it was my next fighting game obsession. Years after that, I bought a Dreamcast primarily to play SoulCalibur which took the basics of Soul Blade and turned it into a phenomenal fighting experience. In fact, it's such a great game that the subsequent SoulCalibur games never quite delivered the same kind of magic. I still played every single sequel and had a great time doing so but the original still stands tall as the most memorable one in the series. Now that SoulCalibur VI is upon us, let's see how it holds up to the past games in the franchise.
For starters, Soul Calibur 6 features familiar gameplay that long-time fans love. Mastering each character's move set in order to string together attacks so your opponent gets knocked out or flies out of the arena is as satisfying as ever. This time around, there are a few additional mechanics that are impressively well-implemented and add a layer of strategy to combat.
First of all, the reversal edge system allows you to hold a button to enter a special stance. While doing so, you can block an incoming attack then counter your opponent's offense. The resulting slow motion effect is not only dramatic; it also helps with ensuring that you carry out the correct attack within the rock-paper-scissors reversal edge clash phase. SoulCalibur V's critical edge mechanic returns where you fill your soul gauge then tap a button to hopefully land a powerful special move. When you factor in lethal hits and guard impacts (both of which can stun your opponent), you're looking at a varied fighting formula that'll keep you on the edge of your seat.
As you can tell, the core gameplay definitely reaches the high level of quality that fans have come to expect. Thankfully, the same can be said about SoulCalibur VI's presentational qualities. The overall historic fantasy tone of its storytelling is ever-present whether you're in the heat of battle or flipping through the menus. One aspect that I thoroughly appreciated was the camera work in mid-battle. It moves much more dramatically than in previous games which adds a level of excitement to combat that you don't usually see in the genre. Of course, the graphics are detailed and the characters look great. However, its visuals aren't as much of a step up as I was hoping they would be. The most disappointing aspect is the stage designs. Whereas previous games featured memorable and intricately rendered arenas, SoulCalibur VI currently only has 11 and most of them are forgettable and, dare I say, bland.
List of characters in SoulCalibur VI
- Tira *
- Seong Mi-na
* available as paid DLC
As you can see, the roster of characters in SoulCalibur VI is rather diverse and contains many familiar fighters. However, I can't help but wish that a few more classic characters were included such as Cassandra, Hilde, Lizardman, and Algol. Heck, Hilde was praised as one of the best characters in the series so her exclusion here is quite puzzling. Plus, Tira being only available via day one paid DLC is pretty shady for Bandai Namco considering she's a much-loved character. On the plus side, being able to play as Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series as well as newcomers Azwel and Grøh is pretty cool albeit rather slim pickings for new combatants.
Aside from the standard arcade, versus, training, and online matches in either ranked or casual variations, SoulCalibur VI features 2 distinct yet equally enjoyable story modes. The first of which is Libra of Soul which has you create a character then go on an adventure throughout an expansive map that's full of quests, shops, and NPCs. At first, I didn't like this mode but as the map and character progression opened up, I began to thoroughly enjoy exploring via the expedition system, customizing and upgrading my character, and using items and mercenaries whenever I was faced with a particularly tough opponent. Next, the Soul Chronicle mode allows you to follow SoulCalibur VI's main story as well as side-stories for each character so it acts as a more traditional story mode. Needless to say, you can spend dozens of hours within these two modes yet you can still enjoy fighting folks online which is great fun on its own.
Although making your character can be rewarding, I found the character creation component of SoulCalibur VI to be lacking in some areas. The most glaring issue is that there aren't many clothing items which made me feel like I could never create the exact character that I wanted to. However, there are different races such as humans, mummies, automatons, shapeshifters, and such which is cool. Anyway, playing as a custom character also never feels as satisfying as playing with the main cast because it comes across as incomplete. For example, your character's weapon can look like it's going through their arm if you create them in a certain way and customizable equipment doesn't break, unlike with the main characters. As a result, I enjoyed playing as the main cast much more.
After all is said and done, there's no denying that SoulCalibur VI's core gameplay is solid while offering some fresh mechanics. However, even though it's been years in the making, it feels like it could have used a couple more.
- + Awesome classic SoulCalibur fighting gameplay with well-implemented additions
- + Great presentation and dramatic camera
- + Lots of content to work through
- - Character customization isn't as satisfying as it was in past games
- - Roster is missing some expected characters
- - Stages are mostly unmemorable and bland