Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Project Soul
I am admittedly not the most well versed in the lore of the Soulcalibur series, with Soulcalibur IV being the first I played back on the Xbox 360. I was immediately grabbed by the diverse character roster and the unique, weapons based combat that the game presented. Soulcalibur V fell a bit short of the mark for me, but still held its own among the competition. Again, the unique combat style and the character roster made Soulcalibur something special, and Soulcalibur VI is no different.
The story mode in Soulcalibur VI really makes it stand out, with two separate but incredibly fulfilling ways to play. Soul Chronicle is the standard story mode that you would expect from a Soulcalibur game. You play through the story through the eyes of each of the main playable characters. Each one contributes to the overall tale in a unique way and you can only get the full picture by playing through it with everyone available. It is a different take on the original Soulcalibur story, so fans who have been around from the beginning will get something different out of it. If you are relatively new to the series like me then you will get to experience the building blocks of the franchise for the first time.
This is by no means a remake however, and the Libra of Souls story mode that allows you to play your own custom character through a parallel but unique story to Soul Chronicle proves that. This comes complete with character and weapon upgrades, and serves to really introduce a new player to the mechanics or to shine a light on some under used mechanics to a veteran player. Even having played a lot of Soulcalibur IV and V I found myself learning new and effective ways to play the game through the Libra of Souls mode. The story in Libra of Souls does not reach the same quality that Soul Chronicle does, and feels like a very structured tutorial at the beginning but it gets more interesting as you get into it.
The 20 character roster is plenty, although may feel a bit short when compared to Mortal Kombat X and Dragon Ball FighterZ, both coming in with more than 30 fighters in their current rosters. In those examples however, many fighters play the same or feel like reskins or a reshaping of other characters. The roster of characters in Soulcalibur VI feels much more in depth, with every character bringing something wholly new and unique with either their weapons, playstyle or moveset. In true Soulcalibur fashion, there is a bonus character from outside the Soulcalibur universe, with Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series making his fighting game debut. Sometimes crossover characters can feel out of place or like an afterthought, but Geralt feels right at home in Soulcalibur. His diverse moveset and aggressive playstyle make him a viable character in any fight.
Mechanically, Soulcalibur VI plays very much like the older games in the series, with multidirectional combat being the bread and butter of the gameplay. However, the new Reversal Edge mechanic adds a layer of depth to an already deep combat system. Triggering Reversal Edge triggers a mini-game between yourself and your opponent and the winner basically comes out ahead, with the tide of the fight turned. Knowing how and when to use this offensively defensive mechanic can mean the difference between winning and losing a fight.
One of the biggest draws to the Soulcalibur games in a time when there are so many outstanding fighting games on the market is the ease with which new players can jump in and win. My wife is not a gamer by any means, but she loved The Witcher and wanted to try Geralt on Soulcalibur. I am no professional, but I am pretty good when it comes to fighting games, but she managed to take me out with aggressive button mashing and a basic understanding of guard mechanics. This is a game that newcomers to both Soulcalibur and fighting games can get into with relative ease.
While Soul Chronicle feels a bit too short, and Libra of Souls is a bit lacking in story content, Soulcalibur VI shines among its competition with its continuing trend of satisfying mechanics, unique character options and outstanding guest appearances. Online play was smooth, with very little time between matches and decent skill level matching. Fans and newcomers alike can find something to draw them in to Soulcalibur VI and I would definitely recommend checking it out.
Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a Soulcalibur VI PS4 code for review purposes.