s oulcalibur VI
The White Wolf joins the fray in Soulcalibur VI Daniella Lucas
With the stage of history being set to return later this year for lots of fisticuff funtimes we expected some classic characters such as Sophitia and Killik to return, and maybe even a few new challengers to keep things fresh. But we never expected Geralt of Riviera from the hugely successful Witcher series to join Soulcalibur VI. And yet when we got to go hands on with him in a recent demo, we left feeling like it was the most natural fit in the world.
But how do you go about taking a character from one game and stick it in another while making them fit? We’ve spoken to both the teams at CD Projekt Red and at Bandai Namco to find out how this history-making crossover has come to be.
Marcin Momot, community lead at CD Projekt Red, tells us how the collaboration came about. “The Soulcalibur series is known for featuring awesome guest characters, it’s one of the series’ staples,” he tells us. “As a fan myself, and someone who’s involved with The Witcher games, I always thought Geralt would be an awesome addition to Soulcalibur’s fighter roster. And then Bandai Namco reached out with the idea – we worked together on previous Witcher games – of having Geralt in Soulcalibur VI, which, at
the time, wasn’t announced yet. We have a lot of fans of the Soulcalibur series in the studio, myself included – it was a great opportunity for folks on the team to contribute to something they’re passionate about. Most importantly, we thought this is something that The Witcher community would really enjoy.”
Of course transplanting a character from one game into another isn’t as easy as it sounds, there’s a lot more to it than you’d expect, as animation director Sebastian Kalemba tells us. “Our role was making sure that the Geralt in Soulcalibur VI moves, feels and – ultimately – plays like Geralt from The Witcher 3. And it’s not as simple as one might think. It’s not copy-pasting something from one game to the other. Timings, perspectives, responsiveness – these work very differently in a fighting game and in an open world RPG. Basically, in order to make this work, it boils down to having to go back to the drawing board on many things. We decided to start with a detailed brief on the character – who he is, what he’s like, why he moves the way he does and so on.”
Character art director Paweł Mielniczuk was also on hand to make sure his appearance is true to both games: “We also shared dozens of The Witcher 3 assets with creators of Soulcalibur VI as part of that briefing. We wanted artists at Bandai Namco to have ample source material to use as reference when working on Geralt’s model – his weapons, animations etc. Everything needed to be perfect. It’s the little things that sometimes make all the difference. We’ve helped with the hair, face and body – little tweaks here and there. I think they really did an outstanding job transitioning Geralt into the world of Soulcalibur.”
“From there, we started setting up core silhouettes and establishing the character’s centre of gravity – the latter is especially important,” Sebastian adds. “Geralt is always confident in battle – no unnecessary movements, very steady. When he fights, he’s always 100% focused on the here and now, very determined. That’s who he is as a warrior and it’s also something I wanted gamers to feel when controlling him in Soulcalibur. Maciej Kwiatkowski, our stuntman for Geralt in The Witcher 3, even made the trip to the HQ in Japan, to supervise motion capture for Geralt’s appearance.”
From what we’ve played, all of that attention to detail has really paid off – Geralt moves and feels exactly as you’d expect him to without feeling at odds in the Soulcalibur universe. His slightly bent, primed stance as he faces down an opponent is reminiscent of him facing countless
horrible beasts in The Witcher 3. He can even use Signs like Aard and Igni in battle to pin whoever he’s facing, before following with a sword strike. His movements definitely feel a little faster to help keep him balanced against the other denizens of SC, but once you spend some time with him you’ll be forgiven for briefly forgetting that you’re not playing The Witcher 3.
But it’s not just Geralt’s appearance and movement that got lots of attention during the process – his appearance also had to feel at home in the lore of both worlds, as director of English adaptations Borys PugaczMuraszkiewicz explains: “Aside from providing art and assets and reviewing those, there’s more that went into the process. We worked on polishing proposed battle barks and dialogue in cutscenes, oversaw remotely the recording of Geralt’s voice for these lines, and generally acted as ‘lore keepers’ for Geralt’s appearance in Soulcalibur. I was thrilled to hear Geralt would be travelling to a new plain and embarking on an adventure there. It seems a nice extension and a fuller fleshing out of the kind of travel through time and space he did with Avallac’h for a brief spell in The Witcher 3. And from what I’ve seen, I must say that Geralt seems very much himself and not at all out of his element in this world. Kudos to the developers for the idea and its subsequent implementation.”
Of course, to really make sure he feels like the White Wolf he needs the voice to match, and, while we played a Japanese-voiced demo, Doug Cockle will be back to reprise his role as Geralt for his appearance. “How could we not go to Doug for the English version?” Borys says excitedly. “Had we recast, gone for different talent, I daresay we would not have heard the end of it. And for those faithful fans of the Soulcalibur franchise who have yet to try The Witcher, perhaps Geralt’s presence, his voice, his characteristic grumpiness and the associated lore will encourage them to visit him in his home world.”
With The Witcher series having
“We thought this is something that The Witcher community would enjoy”
such a huge fanbase, there’s a lot of expectations to fulfil so there’s surprise that CD Projekt Red are feeling the pressure, as Marcin explains: “Introducing a brand new character into a very well established series is always a difficult task. In this case, it’s even more challenging because there are two audiences you need to keep in mind: Soulcalibur fans and The Witcher community. The former don’t necessarily have to be familiar with Geralt or know anything about our games, but should still feel comfortable with the addition of a new character. The latter have certain expectations that must be met and we really want to deliver.
“Like I already said, I really love fighting games — I’ve been playing them since the early ‘90s and Soulcalibur has been one of my favourite series. I can’t wait to be able to play as Geralt. I won’t venture into spoiler territory, but I love the way his appearance has been woven into the game. Geralt really feels right at home in Soulcalibur.”
SoulCalibur VI’s producer Motohiro Okubo is feeling a completely different kind of expectation: “We have not felt pressure, but more so a sense of mission,” he tells us. “There are many fans of Witcher and it’s the best game featuring a Middle Age-style world. It’s just natural for gamers to think ‘I’d like Geralt to fight in a weapon action game.’ We have to meet their expectation.”
Of course Geralt isn’t the only piece of The Witcher that will be appearing in Soulcalibur VI, you’ll also be able to knock people off the edge of Kaer Morhen. “There’s a lot of history to the place,” Marcin tells us. “It’s where Geralt trained to become a witcher, the keep played host to a lot of important events throughout the series. The stage is also complemented by ‘Hunt Or Be Hunted’ from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt soundtrack playing in the background, adding that extra layer of The Witcher feel to it.”
The rest of Soulcalibur VI’s cast seems to have been given the same level of attention as Geralt, each of the characters we’ve played so far feels
“Introducing a brand new character into a very well established series is always a difficult task”
distinct yet familiar – from Killik’s pole skills to the simplicity of Sophitia’s sword and shield combos. Newcomer Groh is particularly fun to play with: he’s incredibly fast and has a moody streak that gives a lot of his moves an edgy flourish. He mostly uses a pole with a blade at either end for big, arching attacks, but he can also split it into two daggers to quickly get behind opponents.
Nightmare is still a pain in the butt to fight, with his giant sword that whacks off huge chunks of health. He’s not very nimble so you can outmanoeuvre him, but if you get caught by even just the tip of his blade it’s absolutely devastating. Returning BDSM fan Ivy does look absolutely insane, but within the context of the game her outfit is thankfully a lot less ridiculous. You never feel like the camera is leering at her or that she’s vulnerable – she owns it and will crush you. She also doesn’t lose it when breaking her armour (not that there’s a whole lot to lose) – her arm coverings break instead. However, samurai Mitsurugi will give you quite the show, his armour being cut away until he’s hopping around the stage in nothing but his pants.
Combat is very quick and combos don’t last as long as in games such as Tekken, which can leave you frustratingly locked in if you get struck by one. There’s a lot more back and forth and more chances to slide in for a counterattack. It’s also much more approachable compared to other fighters, with as much focus on your positioning and movement as there is on your ability to pull off flashy moves. If you find yourself backed into a corner, you’ve got a Reversal Edge to help you break out of it – a move that slows things down a little and sees you enter a rock-paper-scissorsesque face-off where you and your opponent choose an attack or guard to see who prevails. Used smartly it can turn a match around, but can can devastate if you guess incorrectly when it’s used against you. It keeps the fights exciting, but it’s not the only way the energy is maintained.
Over time you can fill up a gauge that will let you use a ‘Critical Edge’ – basically a super powerful, cinematic move that will do a ton of damage.
If you lose a few rounds you’ll find that this gauge is automatically filled up at the start of a round giving you a chance to turn things around. It helps make fights exciting – you can never take it easy as your opponent has a number of different ways to turn things around. Ringouts are still very much a thing, so even if you have full health you can still potentially lose if your opponent manages to knock you off the edge of an arena. It can make some fights more frantic, especially if you’re the one who’s been pushed to the edge and are desperately trying to manoeuvre to a safer position.
Everything we’ve seen so far of SCVI has got us excited for its release later this year, and despite it still being in a demo state with a lot of finessing to go, it already feels great to play. Wonderfully flashy and quick to pick up, it’s set to be the best entry in the series so far, and adding Geralt is the perfect way to tempt new players in. Borys from the team sums it up best: “I think those faithful to The Witcher franchise, who have already put in countless hours helping Geralt spin, roll and slash his way through his own world, will really enjoy what they can do with him in Soulcalibur VI. It’ll be awesome and epic, and at the same time it’ll all be very familiar, but in the grandest of ways.”
Soulcalibur VI will be out later this year, with more characters still to be revealed. Stay tuned to OXM.
“Despite it still being in a demo state with a lot of finessing to go, it feels great to play”
Above Fun fact: Xianghua’s sword is one of the three sacred treasures of Ling-Sheng Su, Krita-Yuga. below The team worked hard to recreate Geralt in an authentic way that fans would recognise.
above It might not look super comfortable, but Ivy’s armour makes sense in context.
below There are still plenty of spectacular moves on show.
below It certainly seems like two blades is the way to go this time.
above Geralt’s Signs allow him to unleash magical fire on his enemies. Surprise! opposite Well that’s just a fire hazard. Quick, someone call 999!
below The design of the Soulcalibur in SCVI is almost identical to the titular sword in the first game of the series.