Soulcalibur is back and in its best form in quite a while with its seventh official installment. As someone who grew up with the original Soul Edge and Soulcalibur games in the arcade, I was ecstatic to discover that Soulcalibur VI was returning to its roots with a reboot of the latter.
Of course, Soulcalibur VI isn’t just an old game with a fresh coat of paint. We’ve got multiple story modes, tons of character customization, side stories for every character, an updated combat system and much more.
An Evil Blade
In the late 16th century, the evil blade known as Soul Edge was stolen by the pirate Cervantes who used it to slaughter countless lives and feed their souls to the sword. Eventually, Cervantes was stopped through the combined efforts of Sophitia and the ninja Taki.
However, the sword was claimed by the knight Siegfried and once again corrupted its host with power. Upon claiming the sword, a ray of light ascended into the sky and scattered across the world spreading the Evil Seed.
This is where the Soul Chronicle story mode begins. In traditional Soulcalibur fashion, the story is mostly told through a series of 2D cutscenes. However, unlike the original games, there are a few 3D cutscenes and the story follows specific characters instead of letting the player choose who to fight with. For the most part, Soul Chronicle follows Kilik from his time at the Ling Sheng Su Temple and later on Maxi and Xianghua.
After playing through the initial 20 chapters of the Soul Chronicle, side quests for each character in the game become available that typically explain their backstory and involvement with Soul Edge. This is a great new addition to the series as it allows players to learn a little more about their favorite characters and the world of Soulcalibur in general.
For those who aren’t interested in grinding through the entire story right away, the traditional Arcade, Versus, and Training modes are still available. There are also Casual and Ranked online matches that can be queued for while practicing in the Arcade and Training modes. That being said, if the official launch is anything like the beta, or early release of Dragon Ball Fighterz, we can expect a couple of hiccups in the network connectivity for the first few days.
A Different Perspective
In additional to the main story, side story, and arcade modes, there’s also the Libra of Soul mode where players can create their own unique character that follows the story along a different path. The character creator in Soulcalibur VI is quite strong, but it still only lets you pick fighting styles from the current roster.
Currently, there are 16 different races, with male and female options available for most, and 20 fighting styles. Nearly every physical attribute can be customized, equipment added, special attack animations implemented, and colors modified.
Once finished with your creation, you can share it with others over the network or take it into the Libra of Soul mode. Currently, accounts are limited to 100 customized characters, and there are already a few unique creations being shared. One issue with the sharing feature, however, is there doesn’t appear to be a search function and scrolling through each character can take a while. An option to at least search for certain fighting styles or player identifications would be a huge benefit.
The Libra of Soul mode presents players with a map of the world that they can explore at their leisure. There is a main story that runs parallel to the Soul Chronicle story, but there are tons of side quests to access as well. As players progress, they unlock powerful weapons, improve the infrastructure of towns, and can hire mercenaries to fight in their place. There many new characters are also introduced, but the main story heroes and villains will pop in from time to time.
Geralt of Rivia, Witcher
Guest characters have always been a source of controversy for Soulcalibur fans. Often times, the visitors simply don’t fit the theme of the game. The series has always focused on melee weapons with very little use of actual magic. Therefore, characters like Heihachi, KOS-MOS, and Darth Vader don’t really feel like they belong.
This time, however, Bandai Namco got it right. Geralt fits perfectly into the theme of Soulcalibur with his gritty looks, dual swords and use of magic as complementary tool to his fighting style (instead of being a focus). As you would expect, Geralt’s steel sword works best against most opponents, but the silver sword deals heavy damage to opponents under the effect of a Soul Charge. The witcher also receives his own playable backstory, which explains his involvement in the world of Soulcalibur.
Gameplay – 9/10
Soulcalibur VI could have all the game modes and customization options in the world, but none of that matters if the fighting isn’t good. Thankfully, Soulcalibur VI doesn’t pull any punches this time around and delivers stellar combat in addition to all of the other extras. As with previous installments, there is a wide variety of cast members with their own unique weapons and fighting styles. The controls are smooth and responsive, the attacks have weight to them, and mastering your favorite character is incredibly rewarding.
Unlike most other fighting games, Soulcalibur doesn’t focus on memorizing massive strings of combos or require players to beat through nearly impenetrable defensive stances. It’s more like a dance where characters weave in and out of different angled attacks. Each move is assigned as horizontal, vertical, high, medium, or low and can be countered in a variety of methods.
Different types of moves can be dodged or blocked certain ways but it’s impossible to protect yourself from everything all at once. For example, standing block negates high and mid attacks but is susceptible to low attacks while low block dodges high attacks but is vulnerable to mid attacks. Furthermore, blocking too often can make a player vulnerable to throws or have their guard crushed and become outright stunned.
Finally, there are two new additions to combat in Soulcalibur VI: Reversal Edge and Soul Charge. The Reversal Edge technique will block normal high, medium, and low attacks and then counter into a Reversal Clash, which is basically a rock, paper, scissors mini-game. Vertical attacks will beat horizontal attacks, horizontal attacks will beat kicks, and kicks will beat vertical attacks. Of course, there’s also the option to dodge or block during a Reversal Clash. In practice, it’s a little awkward to use and being punished for guessing wrong during a clash never feels good, but it is another option to use against hyper-aggressive opponents.
Soul Charges are an alternative use for the Soul Gauge. Instead of unleashing a single, powerful attack like the Critical Edge, Soul Charge gives characters a temporary boost to power, unlocks alternative attack options, and freezes the round timer. Additionally, each attack while charged will cause chip damage and drain the opponent’s life. This is an excellent strategy for finishing off an overly defensive opponent or prolonging the end of a match by a few extra seconds.
The strategic nature of Soulcalibur VI makes it the ideal game for players more interested in the neutral game and outwitting their opponents than racking up huge combos.
Graphics / Sound – 9.5/10
The aesthetics and beautifully orchestrated soundtrack of Soulcalibur VI are second to none. Each of the 11 stages is well-crafted with its own music track, and the character models are gorgeous with explosive attack animations.
The inclusion of a nearly perfect replica of Geralt complete with a Kaer Morhen stage and Hunt or Be Hunted soundtrack wraps this section up with a neat little bow. If you’re looking for a visually stunning fighter then this is your game.
Innovation – 8/10
Despite being a reboot, Soulcalibur VI has a lot to offer in terms of innovation with its lengthy story modes and character creation tools. There are technically only two new fighting mechanics, which might be hit or miss, but the foundation was already great to begin with. After the relatively disappointing Soulcalibur V, revisiting what initially made the series good doesn’t seem like all that bad of an idea.
Learning Curve – 8.5/10
Soulcalibur VI is the definition of easy to learn and difficult to master. However, mastering the game is less able learning complex button inputs and skill combinations and more about reading your opponent and knowing when to execute certain attacks. One of the best things about this game is that you can actually learn to play it by button mashing and slowly realizing what works and what doesn’t. This makes it much easier to get into than something like Street Fighter or Killer Instinct where you can’t even remotely begin to play until you’ve spent hours in the dojo.
The downside, however, is that the game lacks a high-quality training mode. Many fighting games during this console generation have released with incredibly detailed training modes that show the player what to do step by step. The tutorial in Soulcalibur VI is actually buried in the Libra of Soul mode, so players who start with the story mode might miss out on learning a few essential skills. Moreover, there’s no specific training mode for each character, but there are a few tips and tricks located in the text guides.
Value – 9/10
For a fighting game, there is a lot of value to unpack in Soulcalibur VI. The Soul Chronicle main and side stories are easily a few hours of content, and the Libra of Soul mode appears to be even longer. Then there are the traditional arcade and online modes, which is what most people show up for anyways.
There is one cloud of negativity looming overhead, however, and that is the already confirmed season pass. For an additional $29.99, players can access 4 more characters, including Tira, and 2 armor packs.
I’m not necessarily opposed to offering DLC for fighting games, but announcing DLC characters before the game has even launched in a little rough, especially when it’s a popular character like Tira. Furthermore, the price per character is also a little high as it breaks down to $7.50 each.
Despite the season pass, the cast of 21 characters and all the other content included in the base game is pretty solid.
Overall – 9/10
It’s been more than six years since the last Soulcalibur game released, and it’s clear that Bandai Namco took its time to make sure a stellar product was delivered. It’s apparent that a huge amount of detail went into creating Soulcalibur VI and it’s bursting at the seams with content. If you’re looking for a different take on the 3D fighting genre then I heavily recommend this one.
- Beautiful visuals and soundtrack
- Tons of single-player content
- Diverse fighting styles that can be learned quickly
- Pricey season pass
- Potentially unstable network play
Related: 3d fighting game, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Playstation 4, Review, SoulCalibur VI