Soulcalibur VI returns to tell a tale of souls and swords
A look At the return of the swashbuckling 16th century fighting game
“PROJECT SOUL CLEARLY WANTS TO REVIVE THE SERIES FOR A NEW GENERATION BY REFINING THE EXPERIENCE WITHOUT REINVENTING THE WHEEL”
After a five-year hiatus, Bandai Namco has announced a sequel to its seemingly forgotten weaponbased fighter. On first impressions Soulcalibur VI looks like a solid return to form, and with the impending 20th anniversary for the series, it’s been missed. Following the positive response to Tekken 7, Bandai Namco has given its other fighter another chance, heralding the return of a series that had steadily declined following Soulcalibur II. That game was the first to feature guest characters, and introduced Zelda’s Link, Tekken’s Heihachi Mishima, and even Image Comics’ Spawn (but we’ll pretend that didn’t happen). Later games saw the inclusion of the likes of Star Wars’ Darth Vader, Yoda and even Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio Auditore. But it was clear by Soulcalibur V that the series had lost its way.
The weapon-based brawler has always prioritised the visual spectacle over the technical aspects of fighting, and while few would deny that the series has some of the most colourful and enjoyable bouts in gaming, such extravagance came at the expense of gameplay depth. The simplicity of Soulcalibur’s combat and exploitable mechanics were part of the reason why it hasn’t remained as a competitive fighting scene mainstay.
That role has been filled by Tekken over the years, allowing Soulcalibur to luxuriate in the ridiculous and sometimes sublime nonsense of its clashing warriors. While few would deny that Soulcalibur had some of the most colourful and enjoyable bouts in gaming, such extravagance came at the expense of gameplay depth. The simplicity of Soulcalibur’s combat and exploitable mechanics were part of the reason why it wasn’t a competitive fighting scene mainstay. This wasn’t helped by Bandai Namco’s lack of interaction with the fighting communities outside Japan and South Korea. Leaning into its strengths in the spectable stakes, Soulcalibur VI features an all-new gameplay system, Reversal Edge, that is inspired by the epic battles between skilled fighters in the movies with a slow-motion effect – a bullet time of sorts. Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and you’re there. This will enable skilled fighters to utilise the slowing action to defend an onslaught while preparing for a counter attack.
Hopefully Soulcalibur VI eradicates much-maligned exploits like the guard-step glitch which cheapened the experience in Soulcalibur IV. The combat in Soulcalibur VI is built on a three power system, where one move can overpower another, which is kind of like a rock, paper, scissors affair.
From what we’ve seen so far in an intense battle between series mainstays Mitsurugi and Sophitia – in a time-lapsed stage resembling ancient Greece – the combat looks to retain the swift and fluid style the series is known for. As each fighter trades blows with their opponent, their armour is steadily destroyed, emphasising the impact of each strike and addind to the drama of the battle.
The game’s producer, Motohiro Okubo, has stated that Project Soul wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Soulcalibur, feeling that the best way to achieve this would be with a series refresh. He has indicated that the sequel will implement the speed and responsiveness of Soulcalibur II, combining this with the balanced characters and gameplay mechanics of Soulcalibur V. The game has been quietly in development for the past three years, and it’s clear that Project Soul clearly wants to revive the series for a new generation by refining the experience without reinventing the wheel. Sadly it seems that any chance of a Nintendo Switch port may be off the cards due to development on Soulcalibur VI beginning before the console’s announcement. However, Okubo remains hopeful that a future port could happen, providing the Switch can handle Unreal 4 without issue.
It’s good to see the series is still alive, and visually it looks just how we would expect on today’s technology. The game is powered by Unreal 4, and it looks to be working well with the developers able to recreate the series’ signature tone to fantastic effects. This is evident throughout the footage shown, covering the surroundings in realistic shadows set against the saturated yellow of the setting sun. Everything looks wonderful, shimmering waterfalls cascade down the side of brilliant white limestone rocks, and seeing the coruscating of the gold detailing on Sophitia’s armour is a sight to behold.
By taking the character balance improvements from Soulcalibur V, enhancing the visuals tenfold with Unreal 4, and combining the movement speed and responsiveness of Soulcalibur II, all signs are pointing towards a sequel that aims to capture the magic of the early games.
VI will be looking to introduce new players to the core concepts of how the game works, like how certain moves are perfect counters to others.
Below: the development team has said that it will be looking to Soulcalibur II and Soulcalibur V as its key touchstones for the feel and flow of the game.