Thanks to the magic of the GeForce Now program, I’m now able to run AAA games on my mid-end laptop. While I already have the game on PlayStation 4, I decided to pick up a copy of Bandai Namco’s SoulCalibur VI on PC, especially after it was announced that the game would be represented at EVO 2020. While its release in 2018 was a part of the new era of fighting games (with titles like Tekken 7 and Mortal Kombat 11 being released in the past few years), I still hold this game as a great title that revitalized the SoulCalibur franchise. 2020 is here, and it’s time to pick up SoulCalibur VI if you haven’t already.
It’s time to run 8-way
Put simply, I place SoulCalibur VI in the “easy to learn, hard to master” category; this game is a weapons-based 3D fighter where you and your opponent duke it out on a battlefield. There’s an emphasis on movement due to the 8-way run system, where you can run… well, 8 ways. While it does require more attention to where you’re positioned, this also means your characters can do some crazy combos in conjunction with the face buttons, and you can even dodge some deadly moves with some quick thinking. The speed in this game, especially compared to its predecessor, highlights quick combos but also encourages you to be careful due to counters and other defensive techniques.
In addition, you have mechanics such as guard impact (parries), critical edge (a killer finishing move), and armor break (where hitting someone with certain attacks will cause their armor to shatter). New to this title is the reversal edge, where the action pauses while you and your opponent execute a single attack rock-paper-scissors style, with the victor landing a successful strike. While it may take a while to wrap your head around some of the more technical aspects, as long as you can exploit the advantages of 8-way run, you should be good at the intermediate level. In addition, the online modes are beginner-friendly, and it’s still populated enough that you can enter a room in casual mode to get a feel of which opponents you’ll face in ranked play.
Meaty single-player content
Story isn’t something for which fighting games are known. That said, if you can have a serviceable campaign (like Street Fighter V’s A Shadow Falls or even Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary Mode), it will be remembered at least for a little while. SoulCalibur VI ups the ante by having two huge single-player campaigns, Soul Chronicle and Libra of the Soul. While the modes mostly consist of fighting matches interspersed with cutscenes, the fact that the first story mode includes campaigns for every character in the base roster (as well as returning DLC characters) is pretty exciting.
As this title is a reboot/retelling of the events of the first game, it’s interesting to see how different each character ends up from their previous incarnations. The main story revolves around Kilik and his quest to destroy Soul Edge as he journeys alongside a couple other characters, while every playable character will have their motivations and conflicts detailed in their routes. It’s something that was sorely missing in SoulCalibur V, and reintroducing some characters that haven’t been in the franchise for a while will help out those who haven’t picked up a SoulCalibur title before. This is a great starting point to the franchise in terms of gameplay and story, and if you need a refresher on events, the included library feature has more than enough backstory to keep you company.
…Oh right, you also have a whole campaign based around a custom character (as well as newcomers Grøh and Azwel), which feels like an RPG-lite at times. Libra of the Soul includes mechanics like leveling, equipment and item usage, as well as having the ability to fight alongside the game’s characters while using other fighters as mercenaries. It feels like an extra mode, but the way that both story campaigns are represented in length equally, is great for a fighting game. This also has the added advantage of making you practice with a character while playing in offline mode, so you can think of this as a glorified playable tutorial that forces you to “git gud” in order to brave it out in online matches.
Which brings me to my next point…
Can’t find your fighter? Make your own!
The biggest draw that SoulCalibur has against its competitors is the inclusion of a character customization system. There are hundreds of accessories from which to choose, and you can change literally everything about your character, from body type and species to clothes. I would say this customization feature rivals that of something like The Sims, and it’s totally fine to just buy a SoulCalibur game for the custom characters.
When I say you can create anyone… you basically can create anyone, and a quick look online reveals some creative choices. Personally for me, however, I just like putting my fighter in the weirdest clashing outfits, slapping a silly voice and heading out. While your fighter has to adhere to the style of an existing character, aesthetics and other physical traits are totally up to you. This customization feature also means that the game can throw literally hundreds of opponents as you, all pretty unique in their own way thanks to how the game handles clothing and accessories. A lot of the DLC includes more ways to customize your character, so the potential to make literally anyone you know is basically an update away.
A tried and true roster
One of the bigger complaints during the initial release of the game was the fact that there were only 21 characters in the base roster, and three of those characters were newcomers. However, as this is a reboot, it seems the developers decided on quality over quantity when they decided who comes back. The base roster included most characters from the first two games of the series (Soul Edge and the original SoulCalibur). It also included Talim and Raphael from II and Zasalamel from III, the latter of which has some story events that hint at this game still following continuity of the original series rather than a true reboot; it’s confusing, but still entertaining. Each character in the base game controls wildly differently, however, to the point where bringing them up on the customization screen pulls up a skill level and fighter parameters. That said, thanks to season pass DLC, we’re slowly getting fan-favorite characters from previous games back, like Hilde and (my personal main) Amy.
Be our guest (characters)
What do The Witcher 3, Nier: Automata, and Samurai Shodown have in common? They all have characters in SoulCalibur VI, with Geralt in the base game, 2B in season 1, and Haohmaru in season 2. (Can’t say the devs aren’t people of culture, eh?) Like those in the base game, each of these characters are wildly different and feature mechanics that pay homage to their respective titles.
While I can’t vouch for Haohmaru (which at the time of writing has not been released yet, though he’s shaping up to rival Mitsurugi considering the new trailer), Geralt brings his trademark wit and swordplay while 2B has an arsenal of weapons at her disposal. He also gets the distinction of having his own campaign in the Soul Chronicle mode, so that’s awesome in itself. They feel distinct and oddly appropriate for the game (even if 2B would have been from the far distant future during this game’s timeline). While the season passes so far have been highlighting the return of classic characters, I wouldn’t mind one more surprise fighter in the mix (and considering all of the guests hail from M-rated games, maybe an addition from something less family-friendly would be cool!)
Quite honestly, SoulCalibur VI is a treat to casual fans and veterans alike. Even if you haven’t picked up a SoulCalibur title before, with comprehensive single-player content as well as great online play, this is a tale that deserves to be experienced.