A fantastic springboard for first-time fighters
Fighting games aren’t known for being single-player friendly – why would they be? Surely the aim is to find someone to pulverise with your superior thumb dexterity? But that also makes the genre quite limiting. How can anyone new to that type of game get a look in against those that have been playing the likes of Street Fighter and Tekken for years? Enter the Soulcalibur series: full of stylish and frenetic swordplay, it’s a great place to start if you want to give fighting games a try thanks to how much it offers newbies and hardcore players alike.
This sixth entry in the series is proving to be a particular highlight as the game is rammed full of modes for solo players, on top of the standard arcade and Vs options. First up is the Soul Chronicle story mode where you can pick one of the existing roster members and follow their version of events with the cursed blade Soul Edge. The whole thing is set between the first and second games in the series so involves a lot of classic, fan-favourite characters such as Sophitia, Taki and Mitsurugi as well as newcomers Grøh and Azwel. It’s all very melodramatic no matter which path you take, broken up by intense bouts that increase in difficulty the closer you get to the final showdown for each scenario.
There’s also a far more involved, custom version of the story called Libra Of Souls where you design your own character and take them out on an almost RPG-like adventure. It’s absolutely massive with loads of text to read through and alternate paths to choose from. You can also buy and eat food to give you stat boosts in a fight as well as weapons that can boost your strength or health. It’s a lot more involved than any story-based offering we’ve seen in other fighting games and helps add to that sense of this being a newcomer-friendly game. With so much for lone fighters to do that even if you don’t get on with competitive play there’s still a lot here to enjoy.
However, for those that are into the finer intricacies of battle there’s a lot of depth under a very approachable umbrella of three main type of offensive strikes: horizontal, vertical and kicks. You can get by just utilising these with good timing, but there are also a few easy combos you can do just hitting the same attack button a few times. Delve deeper though and combos get more complicated with slight movement variations having vastly different results. Mastering guarding and guard breaks to counter opponents will be your next step to becoming a Soulcalibur pro.
On top of the basic moveset there are several bigger mechanics to
weave in. Reversal Edge is a great equaliser, used to force a break into a fight to slow things down for a rockpaper-scissors-style game of chance where you try to trump your foe’s attack. It’s great for those who might not be as used to fighters as a chance to rally back from feeling flustered, while pros will no doubt find ways to use it to out-psyche whoever they’re playing. If you’re really in a bind then you can also break out your Critical Edge – a super move unique to each character that does loads of damage if you can get it to connect.
Fights have a much faster pace than those in Tekken or Street Fighter so duels can feel like they’ve got a flowing, dance-like element to them as you side-step around the arena and outmanoeuvre your opponent. Some characters, such as the giant sword-wielding Siegfried, are slower and heavier but they never feel at odds with the quick combat – there’s just as much merit in waiting and reacting to the right opening as there is to darting around. That layering of simple moves branching into more complex ones and extra opportunities gives all bouts a sense of tension and tightness even if in reality you’re horribly outclassed by the person you’re fighting. There are enough chances to feel like you could win with a basic skillset and that little adrenalin rush will be what gets you to keep at it as your skills improve over time.
It’s a blur
While the fighting is super smooth, the visuals have been compromised a bit on Xbox One – close-ups on character models in the select screen look smudged, and trees in backgrounds become a jagged mess as the camera swings past them. It’s not a game breaker, but seeing it run on friends’ PCs you can’t help but feel a little jealous at how much prettier it looks. Loading times are also an issue when selecting things in character creation and elsewhere, but you never need to worry about anything dropping when it matters most: when you’re trying to slice up that weirdo Voldo before he starts thrusting menacingly at you.
While not quite as intense as the likes of Street Fighter, Soulcalibur VI has so much to offer gamers and is a worthwhile investment even if you don’t plan on playing with others. There is enough of a solo game to keep you entertained for hours.
“Even if you don’t get on with competitive play there’s still a lot here to enjoy”
left New character Azwel uses magic attacks, his weapons created out of thin air.
far left Series stalwarts like the pirate Cervantes and nunchuck loving Maxi return.
above The character customisation is deep. And, if you like, really silly.