Bandai Namco’s well-timed release of SoulCalibur VI (there isn’t too much competition in the genre this holiday season) is upon us. Out now for PS4, Xbox and PC, another classic series returns. We playtested on an Xbox One for this review.
With Tekken not doing much more than adding another Season Pass for Tekken 7, Capcom still riding the Street Fighter V train and Dead or Alive 6 not due until next year, SoulCalibur is what fighting game fans had to look forward to this season. Luckily for them, it doesn’t disappoint – the aging series (SoulCalibur is 20 years old already, and older if you count Soul Edge) comes back with a bang this year.
The game’s story mode (Soul Chronicle) seems to realize that it’s been a while, as it revisits the events of the original game and even includes Soul Edge elements. As someone with literally zero recollection of the storyline in these games (even though I played them), I’m happy to report that they’re delivered in such a way that a newcomer can make sense of everything just as well. There is also a “libra of souls” mode that allows you to craft you own character and experience the story from that perspective as well, which adds a bit of longevity to the story mode in a game that will mostly be played in its arcade and versus modes.
SoulCalibur’s always been different from Street Fighter, Tekken and Injustice as it heavily emphasizes melee combat with weapons over long range attacks. This also makes it a title that’s easy to get into and enjoy for newcomers, since its hack and slash mentality is relatively compatible with button mashing.
Switching between characters in SoulCalibur VI is also rather intuitive, since a lot of tactical changes comes from a basic understanding of what makes characters and weapons different rather than learning a complex new set of moves. Taller characters have more range, heavier characters are stronger but usually not as fast – learning how to make use of these differences goes a long way. There are intricacies and complex moves and combos to pull off as well, but part of SoulCalibur’s strength lies in its accessibility.
The same accessibility also more or less translated to the new fighting mechanics, which includes a reversal mode (called Reversal Edge) and Soul Charge, both of which are designed to turn the tide of battle. The success of a Reversal Edge move also relies more on luck than on pure skill, which helps a worse player get back into a bout but might also frustrate a skilled fighter. Despite all this, you’ll still have to adapt your strategies depending on who you’re facing, as I didn’t discover a go-to strategy that worked for me every single time (except for button mashing at the easiest of settings).
SoulCalibur V experimented a bit with its roster of fighters, which not everyone enjoyed. SoulCalibur VI takes this to heart with a roster that features plenty of familiar faces – out of the 20+ characters only three are new to the franchise and one of those three is a guest character. Geralt of Rivia’s appearance was announced quite a while ago, and he blends well into the mix with his fantasy background and mix of melee and magic combat.
One staple of the entire genre these days is post-launch DLC, and SoulCalibur VI doesn’t escape this practice either. They’re even releasing the first one on launch day, effectively raising the launch price a bit if you want the complete package right away. There’s a season pass as well, which entitles you to upcoming DLC as well. Careful though – the day one DLC (Tira) is also part of the season pass, so be careful you don’t spend your money twice.
Introducing SoulCalibur to a new generation, SoulCalibur VI succeeds in rebooting the franchise and providing a fun fighting experience. Since there aren’t a lot of fighting games coming out this season, it’s good to know Bandai Namco put out a good one.