The Soul Calibur franchise and I have an interesting relationship.
The first entry dominated the evenings of my roommates and I in college, where we ran “first to 99” head to head rounds using Edge Master on our Dreamcast. It was our multiplayer before Xbox Live and the PlayStation network, and it was glorious. the second and third entries added guest characters and made vast improvements in gameplay and additional single player / create a character mode.
But 5… 5 hurt me personally as far as a story or story mode went. You can read that rant here. Gameplay was good, but we were given nothing as far as a story mode, a high collector’s edition price tag, with (at least for me), no payout. The 20 episode single player campaign was stunted, and all that remained was create-a-soul and online play. The devs later admitted that what came with the game was only one-fourth of what they had planned. So i boxed it up and put it away.
Thus it was with cautious optimism and some trepidation that I took a look at Soul Calibur VI last week at PAX East. Given the playable character options, I picked my boy Mitsurugi, who looked almost younger than his previous Dreamcast incarnation as opposed to the old man Mitsurugi I expected. Playing against Sophitia, who also looked like her fresh-faced Soul Edge version, the gameplay was fast and smooth, with most of the old mechanics still able to be used for those picking up the controller after a long time. The visuals of course were incredible, as was to be expected being on this generation of hardware, and I was glad to see that armor damage left me and ol’ Mitsurugi in his skivvies trying to eke out a skinny win. The familiar feel of the game made me feel right at home picking the game up for the first time. The critical edge mechanic remains but guard impact has been altered slightly – not enough to take away from the gameplay though. It still kept its slickness.
Mechanics aside, the game does feel like a reboot of the series, taking us back to the beginning. It would explain the super-young looking characters instead of Mitsurugi and Sophitia having grey hair and only being able to survive for a couple rounds. “History hides away more than one truth,” said Mark Religioso, the brand manager for the game. “We haven’t released any story content yet, there’s more details on that to come. But you can tell by a lot of the character designs that the look like the way they looked in the first Soul Calibur.”
I was also able to talk to Mark more about how VI would contrast to other franchise entries. As of yet there are more details to come on story, and the focus right now is on gameplay – which as I experienced in the demo, was quite good. “Just from a pure gameplay standpoint, because that’s what we’re focusing on right now, the development team did a really good job listening to fans, specifically on gameplay in terms of speed. We really wanted to replicate the speed from Soul Calibur II and III, so a lot more faster pace.”
That’s great news, because the game speed of II and III made those games peak Soul Calibur, if such a thing can be said.
“Then in terms of the balancing,” he went on, “and a lot of the systems in the game, a lot of that is from Soul Calibur V as well. But there are some new mechanics in the game like reversal edge.”
In my demo this was indeed the most interesting addition to the mechanics. Reversal edge lets a player gamble taking a hit to gain a counter stroke, putting the match into a slow motion dice roll. This really adds some drama to the matches and does add a bit of suspense before the fight continues, and it will serve to heighten excitement for when this inevitably hits the esports circuit. But to me, it’ll be the bragging rights and “in your face”s with other people in the room playing pass-the-controller round robin.
So what about the characters and other story? “As far as we’ve announced so far, we’ve announced most of the characters as well as the most recent announcement, which was obviously Geralt from Witcher. We’re very very excited, obviously he’s a huge character and he fits perfectly in the Soul Calibur franchise. There’s a lot more details, there’s lots more news to come, including characters. There’s only been about 8 characters revealed so far. A lot of people are excited because there’s a lot of fan favorites in there as well as totally new characters to the franchise too.”
And what about any teasers for other guest characters aside from Geralt? “More news to come on that, no current details for more guest characters in the game, but that’s all I can really say on that.”
So we don’t have a ton of information of the game as far as story and additional character development, but what we do have is so far solid gameplay which is a fantastic start. My sincere hopes is that it will contrast sharply with Soul Calibur V, and deliver a back-to-basics weapons fighting romp that the franchise is known for – and not just in online multiplayer.
Soul Calibur VI will be out “in 2018,” for the PS4, Xbox One, and for the first time, PC.