A reader reaches the penultimate part of his review of the generation’s best fighters, as he puts Soulcalibur VI under the microscope.
It was a nice surprise to be welcomed back to the stage of history. It is a slight shame that not even new Soulcalibur can be as good as old Soulcalibur. There are glimmers of the series’ former glory though. That’s in spite of some corner cutting when it came to the presentation, as it is clearly not Namco’s favourite child of the moment. It achieves the very least of what it had to do: be a sincere apology for Soulcalibur V. Which, while no Rise Of The Robots or anything, was something of… a mistake, shall we say.
But Soulcalibur VI has erased that mistake! As Dick Jones might say. And it did so by doing what I thought needed to happen: wipe the slate clean like Mortal Kombat 9 did and reboot the series.
Better than last time. And better than the third and fourth instalments. But only about as good as Soul Blade, the ground zero for this franchise way back on the first PlayStation in 1996. Which is still enjoyable, and far superior to the usual standard this genre typically manages, but nowhere near the standard of the first two Soulcalibur games.
The story mode is fine, almost up to NetherRealm fare actually, although some of the individual campaigns for each character do seem to drag on somewhat. Newcomer Groh is very guilty of this, as he fights the same opponent about four times in a row. An opponent who is basically just a character creator doppelgänger of himself.
Libra Of Souls is the meat of the single-player, a substantial campaign that will take 20+ hours to beat. It’s good. For the most part. Despite Project Soul doing their level best to disrupt the flow of the game. As the game interrupts the action, very frequently, with talking head cut scenes that spread themselves over multiple screens. Remember, neither Soulcalibur nor Soulcalibur II did this. There was a text description that could be read entirely at your leisure and you got on with it. And all they did was give you the set-up. Like, floating weapons hover above you so the enemy will be invisible or you’re chained together so you’ll be pulled towards the opponent like a magnet attracts iron filings, and so on.
There’s also far less of that sort of zaniness. It’s still there, most notably in slippery stages which are still enormous fun and should really be in all fighting games. But much less creative than it has been. Which is the biggest disappointment and I wonder just who Project Soul were listening to during the production.
It looks almost exactly like the previous game. From the last generation of consoles. So, still pretty but not jaw-droppingly so. They’ve been especially lazy when it comes to hair, but more on that when I go into detail on the character creator. However, in the sound department they’ve really gone all out to include all the tracks from the first Soulcalibur game, meaning you get to hear some great themes that were tailored to each character.
Happily, this is as good as it has ever been. It’s back to being as fast and fluid as Soulcalibur II, all the slow stodginess of the fifth game wiped away. We just didn’t notice so much at the time, as the series had been gradually slowing down. Using the eight-way run system now has value again, as circling to flank opponents will give you a tactical advantage. And it is still so rare to be able to fight with weapons. Just by looking at a few videos on YouTube it would appear that Samurai Shodown has a more advanced parrying and counter-attack system. But if you want the speed of a real duel then this is the game you want.
Soulcalibur VI doesn’t have much in the way of unlockables, bar Inferno when you beat the main story and some music tracks. Customisation options for the Character Creation mode are all available from the start, only some need to be paid for using the in-game currency that you accumulate in Libra Of Souls. As far as I can tell, beating the entirety of that mode gets you nothing except a trophy and the satisfaction of having done it.
In fairness, you got very little for beating the equivalent in Soulcalibur I and II, but the journey was far more important than the destination. For example, it’s easy to bemoan that all you get is a brief chat with Yoshi and lives you no longer need if you get all 120 stars in Super Mario 64. But that was hardly the point when gathering them all was so much fun in the first place.
Here, things are never as fun as the campaigns of yesteryear – but they will kill a week or two of your time adequately enough.
While it is fair to criticise the fact that there are only two new characters, this is still a reboot more than a sequel. As such, most of the old favourites are here. Only Li Long, Hwang, and Rock are unaccounted so far from the earliest days and Maxi was always meant to be Li Long’s replacement anyway. Setsuka, from Soulcalibur III hasn’t shown up yet either – the best new character from that game. But that is likely to change, now that we know Soulcalibur VI will be getting a second season along with some new crossover characters.
My feelings on this as a business practice are decidedly mixed, but so far I would say that the first season pass has been worth it. Tira, Amy, and Cassandra have all been good – but 2B from NieR:Automata has stolen the show. She is even more spectacular here than she is in her native game, if you can believe that.
Geralt, from The Witcher series, is very good too. He plays as you imagine he should and not just a slightly more competent version of the Dragonborn. He still comes packaged with his awful personality and absurd voice but, hey, I guess that’s what the Character Creation is for. Don’t argue with me, he’s a swaggering, self-righteous thug and he’s the worst. Like Jaime Lannister from season one of Game Of Thrones.
As I mentioned earlier, this is excellent. There have also been additions to the pieces you get in Character Creation mode. But, despite being able to make a half-recognisable version of your favourite anime waifu or comic book hero, I feel that this is the most limited it has been. And purposefully so in order that Namco can carve them out only to sell them back to you, which is fairly egregious. Not as much so as Dead Or Alive 6, which is like opening a tap that pours out nothing but salt upon a gaping, bloody wound. Soulcalibur VI is more like eating a packet of crisps when you have a paper cut. You’re still going to eat those crisps, it just stings a little.
And what’s with there being no curly or wavy hair? Have they never seen it or something? Don’t even get me started on the atrocious beards…
Now, with a second season on the way, headed by Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown, things could get even more exciting. Haohmaru feels like he’ll be very similar to Mitsurugi so I’m hoping that he’ll be able to stand out. But who else could be added? Cassandra liked to put on an opera mask not at all unlike the one Joker wears in Persona 5. They even go so far as to call it a ‘Prayerful Persona!’ Will the leader of the Phantom Thieves steal the show on the stage of history? As well as Smash Bros. Ultimate? Possible. Or maybe another member of the gang?
The only other gang members with as much visibility as Joker would be Ann and Morgana. Morgana might be too chibi to translate well and while all the DLC characters have been girls so far, that might be due to change, just to balance things out. So Ann could happen, I just wouldn’t bet money on it. Myself, I’m hoping for Dante. He would be such a perfect inclusion to the roster that I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet.
Excellent, I’m very happy to say. While not as good as the options afforded to you in Soulcalibur II, you do get ‘Slip Out’ and ‘Blow Up’. Slip Out are slippery, ice-like stages, while I’m not actually sure what Blow Up does. It’s not pass the bomb, so maybe the ring edge is explosive? I just had the computer fight as two of my created characters the other day using the mode, but I didn’t see anything different occur. You don’t get a weapon select that confers different boons and handicaps like you did in the second and third game – but it’s still a lot more effort than most games in this genre bother with.
Ha ha. Funny.
Finally, next time we crown ourselves a king. And it won’t be bloody Bran Stark! ‘Who has a better story,’ my left buttock! Roz had a better story than him and she ended up Joffrey’s macabre pincushion!
By reader DMR
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