Soul Calibur games used to be all the rage at sleepovers and late-night hangouts with friends. You guys would spend up to an hour at a time creating your perfect character and playing homemade tournaments until you all passed out sometime between 4 and 5 AM. Or you would become entranced in the quickly paced semi-campaigns and before you know it, have all the moves mastered with your favorite character, such as video game legends, Kilik or Maxi. While the last couple Soul Calibur games did relatively well in sales, they kind of flew under the radar in terms of what mainstream gamers were after; this was probably because of the sudden surge of online shooters around 10 years ago, where a strong trend clearly focused on games like those of the Call of Duty or Battlefield variety. However, as gamers have matured and now demand real quality gaming experiences from longtime franchises, titles like Soul Calibur have been forced to, and have successfully, stepped up to the plate and delivered a fresh entry into its series.
With all of the emphasis games have been putting on their multiplayer aspects lately, I was curious about where Soul Calibur 6’s strengths would lie; would they focus on creating a seamless multiplayer experience, or would they try and make a compelling campaign—and other offline modes? As it turns out, neither really seem to be the case; the multiplayer modes are fun and engaging, but not nearly as engaging as I’d wish they were, and the two different story modes introduced both fall short of what they were aiming to be. All this being said, Soul Calibur 6 is still a quality fighting and its gameplay (amongst a few other redeeming factors) almost makes all of its faults irrelevant.
Like previous Soul Calibur games, you control one of two weapon-wielding combatants in a 3D fighting arena. Rather than directional and button-mashing combos like in Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur’s gameplay style is much simpler, and is much easier to pick up. These controls are very responsive, and the movements of the characters are captivatingly fluid in this entry. Clearly, this is the best looking Soul Calibur game to date as well. The franchise has always been known for its extensive use of vibrant colors that accentuated its global and multicultural setting, but Soul Calibur 6, as expected, really showed what these next-gen consoles can give us in terms of visuals. While I was hoping for the graphics to be a little sharper, the bright color spectrum and beautiful backgrounds were plenty eye candy for a console gamer like me.
The matches themselves are as fun as ever; with the fights having a perfect balance of simplicity and skill, to where even if you suck, you’ll probably still have plenty of fun. As stated before, the combos aren’t like Mortal Kombat’s, and you shouldn’t have to study moves like old school cheat codes, or break your joysticks trying to perform a particular combo. While timing and knowing how to fight against a certain opponent’s style is important, a lot of Soul Calibur fighting has always been a bit of a gamble. Better players will usually beat unskilled players, but the unskilled can at least find some ways to do some damage to their opponent; very rarely will a high-ranked player be able to spam a newb into submission by mashing a certain combo. To add to the franchise’s already high level of accessibility, Soul Calibur 6 now has what it calls the “Reversal Edge” feature, which slows down time, and initiates a rock-paper-scissors showdown, that can quickly turn the tide of any fight.
With this new feature, combat is pretty unpredictable, which makes its multiplayer quite fun. Soul Calibur 6 offers local play, casual matchmaking, and ranked matchmaking; and in all of which, you fight others using any of the game’s playable characters or any created characters. While local play is just as addicting as it was in childhood, the online matchmaking is a tad frustrating. While the ranked server matches you with an opponent of similar stats, it takes way too long to find a match, and more often than not, I would find myself waiting for at least a minute (which may not be that long to someone else) and then leaving to another game mode. The casual matchmaking mode is a little different—not better in my opinion—and features actual server rooms, with up to 8 players max in a single room. The problem with this mode is that while 2 out of the (up to) 8 people fight, the others just have to spectate, or chat. While watching a fight isn’t the worst, especially since they are quite entertaining and over quickly, it just adds far more time in between our own fights and, is not what some people want in a fighting game.
Soul Calibur offers a simple arcade mode, where you fight through matches with 8 different characters, and 2 different campaign modes. The first is called Libra of Soul, and gives you control of a created character as he or she travels the world, completing a great number of missions, which are just individual duals that may have special rules like slippery floor, increased enemy health, or decreased weapon damage, etc. In this semi-RPG (with not one cutscene), you are faced with choices that impact the narrative, as well as a good-evil meter. While the plot and writing are subpar and forgettable, the variety of fights, and adventurous tone, are enough to keep players hooked. The second story mode, Chronicle of Souls, is a little better; and allows you to play as all of your favorite characters in a large and interconnecting saga. While there are still no cutscenes in this mode either, there is solid voice acting and sound mixing that accompanies profile cards of whoever’s talking.
The star of the show, however, is Soul Calibur 6’s character creation mode. Since Soul Calibur 3, the character creation feature has been a fan favorite, and comes back this time around better than ever. The amount of detail and customization you can input is incredible, and already, players around the world are sharing their unique, and elegantly copied, characters. People have created Soul Caliber versions of Spiderman, Thanos, and even Ronald McDonald; I too have invested hours at a time into this mode, perfecting my rendition of a badass medieval warrior.
While the Soul Calibur series has been a bit of an afterthought of late, this latest entry will not doubt put the franchise back on the map. Soul Calibur 6 is a vibrant, beautiful, and well-polished game that can confidently stand tall in the fighting game genre. All your favorite characters from previous titles are back, with Geralt of Rivia joining the fray as this entry’s guest character. There are more than enough modes, and things to do in said modes, to keep players busy with this game for a long time. While the multiplayer modes could use a patch to make matchmaking a little more seamless, and the story modes don’t really have much “story” to them, the effort put into making the gameplay mechanics and graphics as fun and appealing as they are more than makes up for any of its shortcomings. Personally, I will be playing Soul Calibur 6 with my friends for a long, long time.
Review Score: 8.5/10
Images courtesy of: https://www.bandainamcoent.com
& Screenshotted from PS4 system