s oul­cal­ibur VI

The White Wolf joins the fray in Soul­cal­ibur VI Daniella Lu­cas

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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.”

Be­witch­ing

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.”

Un­der Pres­sure

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.”

Ring out

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.

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