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Soul Calibur 6



REVIEW
:   A prequel, SoulCalibur VI is a welcomed "reboot" of sorts... aiming to bring back old school players from the glorious arcade days while attracting a new generation of gamers with enticing visuals, characters, and mechanics that all levels of players can enjoy. The timeline of SoulCalibur 6 is set somewhere between the conclusion of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur 2, offering a nostalgic roster of timeless fan-favorites along with some brand new faces, and guest characters, of course! With two unique story modes, SoulCalibur VI will retell the legendary tale of souls and swords for a new generation.

Like TEKKEN 7, Soul Calibur 6 runs on Unreal Engine 4 to provide the sharpest visuals possible. But first things first... the quality gap in graphics between the PS4 Pro / XB1 versions and the PC version is a bridge wider than that of TEKKEN 7. I was slightly worried about SC6's visuals early on, mainly due to the lackluster (and somewhat generic) stage designs, along with some "under-polished" character models. In my opinion, older installments (namely SC4 & SC5) had more atmospheric stages, better lighting, and more artistically inspiring visuals for the time. That said, at a quick glance, SC6 might not impress those who remember the series' groundbreaking graphical achievements of years past. However, when you take in the full presentation, SC6 shines in many areas that other fighting games don't.

This time around... glowing weapon trails, hit sparks, and special effects take visual prominence over stage and character details. These colorful elements vibrantly fill the screen during the most intense moments of battle (and some effects also seem to be cool throwbacks to a few classic games - are those Strider beams I see?). Heavy background blur is present when characters are near one another and takes some getting used to, but also helps focus on the action at hand (and can be removed in the PC version). Closer details such as character clothing, facial expressions, and muscle anatomy are in line with previous installments... but perhaps not "the best" of the series (considering the time of release). These details, in particular, look much sharper in the PC version, especially when the game is running at max settings (or close to). At its core, SC6's graphics engine is beautiful. I only hope Namco will give SC6 its best opportunity to shine by updating it with a greater variety of stages, characters and classic costumes, which alone could vastly improve the overall visual presentation. Ironically enough, we have the guest characters to thank for some of the best-looking stages in the game: Replica Kaer Morhen and City Ruins: Eternal Apocalypse.
 

 Soul Calibur VI's character selection screen as of January 2019.

 
The TEKKEN 7 team let Project Soul copy their homework... AKA their revolutionary in-game "slow motion" camera technology, which Project Soul utilized within SCVI's unique Reversal Edge system. These slow-motion effects mixed with Soul Calibur's trademark fire, lightning, and special move sparks come together to create a very satisfying and "new" visual experience for the franchise. While some visual elements of SCVI are not nearly as polished as previous installments, the new visual style and camera work make up for it. Speaking of camera work, one thing I think needs improvement is the camera during character intros and replays, which seems like it hasn't been upgraded in over a decade. However, the cinematic camera angles during Critical Edge super moves is very impressive.

With Motohiro Okubo at the helm, thankfully Namco was able recreate the fast gameplay responsiveness of the pinnacle of the series, Soul Calibur 2... all while balancing and blending the best current-gen mechanics of fighting games.
Soul Calibur 6 introduces a major new defensive gameplay system called Reversal Edge. This system gives players an opportunity to easily block most incoming attacks and land a powerful counter by simply holding one button. When players release the Reversal Edge button is crucial to their success or failure. Reversal Edge is easily sidestepped and countered, and many attacks will even immediately "break" Reversal Edge, so players must use it wisely. Upon impact, Reversal Edge will initiate a cinematic "rock/paper/scissors" sequence...

All characters have uniquely different options during this slow-motion sequence, including movement options, making it much more complex than a simple "3 choice rock/paper/scissors" guessing game. After a Reversal Edge connects, players can choose either to perform a Horizontal attack, Vertical attack, Kick, Block, Sidestep left/right, or move Forward/Back. The end result can be a guard break, connected attack, a successful sidestep (with a counter-attack opportunity), or even initiate a character-specific and potentially powerful combo for the winning character. Did I mention Reversal Edge looks freakin' awesome? It does. Each fighter also shows off their own unique blocking animations while Reversal Edge is active - which is very appreciated attention to detail, especially for a martial arts-based fighting game. While Reversal Edge might not be everyone's cup of tea... the good news is, the game doesn't force you to use it.
 

Younger, but better. . . The Soul Calibur veterans have returned in all their glory.

 
Worry not, old school players... Guard Impacts are back and do NOT cost meter like in SCV (perhaps the prequel's most notable gameplay flaw). The streamlined GI now connects against Highs, Mids, and Lows... as the high/low system of SC2 has been simplified (both a good thing and a bad thing, I'd say). The timing window for GI has also been toned down, but not to the point where it could be called "easy" (yes, GI still requires skill). On the other hand, Reversal Edge doesn't require the strict timing of a Guard Impact, and can prove useful for both beginner and higher-level players. At its core, Reversal Edge aims to give beginner/intermediate players a "chance" against the fearsome offense of the practiced high-level warriors, "resetting" their momentum. Reversal Edge can be a smart play during a match when being overwhelmed... as it literally "slows down" the fundamentals of a 3D fighting game, allowing each player to try to guess their opponent's next move. Depending on your opponent's position on the stage, their aggression level, and their motive... one can definitely predict (not guess) their opponent's decision in Reversal Edge. THE MINDGAMES ARE REAL.

Soul Charge also makes its return, but is a completely revamped system for SoulCalibur 6. Costing 1 meter of the Soul Gauge, Soul Charge is a temporary power-up (not unlike V-Trigger from Street Fighter V, but lest we forget SoulCalibur introduced this concept first). Upon initiation, Soul Charge pushes the opponent back with a shockwave and unlocks a variety of unique & powered-up attacks / abilities for each fighter. Comparatively to what Soul Charge offered back in the SC2 days, the new Soul Charge gives characters waaaay more offensive options than ever before. Characters such as Kilik, Grh, and Azwel are also given a dramatic visual overhaul during their Soul Charge activation.

Also costing 1 meter, each fighter has a hard-hitting Critical Edge super move. Against an attacking opponent, Critical Edge attacks are very easy to connect, but can be blocked, sidestepped, Guard Impacted, and defended with Reversal Edge and immediately punished! When a character wins with Critical Edge, they will finish the round with a special cinematic animation. Lethal Hit is a special counter-attack which initiates when fulfilling specific conditions of the move (depending on what the opponent is doing). Lethal Hit will also destroy the corresponding part of the opponent's armor. Certain high damage combos also become possible after a Lethal Hit connects - the most damaging combos in the game, in fact. SC6 also features a successor to SCV's Just Guard defense system called Perfect Guard (tapping block at the perfect time an attack lands) which negates chip damage and builds meter for the Soul Gauge. Armor Breaks from SC4/SC5 also occur in various situations and visually alter characters' attire during gameplay.
 

Yeah, Cervantes looks kinda like Rugal Bernstein. That's because Hiroaki drew him. ;)

 
Soul Calibur VI's Soul Chronicle story mode, based on the ongoing struggle for the two swords, features a variety of "paths" for each character, retelling their original motive and storyline with new plot elements. Players will run into generic opponents in succession until eventually confronting their character's main rival (or rivals). This mode features an over-the-shoulder camera angle option and fully-voiced cutscenes (in English, too)! Story mode is complimented with beautiful hand-drawn 2D illustrations from legendary fighting game artist, Hiroaki. While Soul Chronicle surely isn't the epic Soul Calibur "Hollywood-style" interactive movie that certain hardcore fans might want (and play once), it does offer a sort of "preview" of each character's personality and motivation in the storyline. However, Soul Chronicle is the perfect way for beginner players to try out each fighter's playstyle and moveset, as any fighting game story mode should be. Overall, some characters got sleepier story segments than others (and most aren't particularly great), but overall it's a cool "bonus" for a fighting game and worth a playthrough.

A second story mode... Libra of Soul takes inspiration from fan-favorite 1-player modes of past titles, such as Weapon Master and Chronicle of the Sword. Libra of Soul has players create and fully customize their own unique warrior who will appear in a cinematic storyline alongside Soul Calibur veterans (and Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series).
In this mode, players take their character through a quest to stop an evil mastermind at work (Azwel) to gather Soul Edge shards. Along the way, players square off against both characters from the main storyline, as well as warriors created by the community. Battles offer a variety of rule-specific situations and hazards which shape their path. I haven't had time to fully play through this mode (since I'm enjoying playing the actual game so much), but I will definitely update this part of the review once I do.

Fans of Character Creation mode will be happy to know that Soul Calibur 6's version of the mode is easily the deepest and most customizable to date. Players have an entire 100 slots to create and edit a seemingly endless number of unique characters (or the main roster) using 1000's of clothing combinations, layers, stickers, and a full Color Edit feature. 16 races are available for custom characters, including human, lizard, living skeleton, orc, and several other strange oddities. Height, anatomy, facial features, hairstyle, clothes, armor and, of course, weapons & fighting style are also fully customizable. Creation also features a screen where you can view community creations and even save them for your own use! Obviously, for some... this mode might be worth the price of admission, alone.

You've probably seen the insanely imaginative community creations all over the internet by now, as Creation Mode "wizards" have already recreated countless recognizable characters from other series, and then some... indescribable abominations. Bandai Namco also plans to add 100's of new (and classic) customization items to the game in the future updates (included in the Season Pass). To state the obvious, fighting game fans who might not have the attention span to actually learn how to play SoulCalibur VI will likely get lost having fun in Creation, which is fine... I guess. I only hope these casual fans realize that however imaginative and creative they can possibly be in Creation Mode, actual players are being just as creative (if not more) by utilizing the incredibly vast and dynamic character movesets in very creative ways... in actual gameplay. Play. The. Game.

 

 Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series joins Soul Calibur... and it's canon!

 
While Soul Calibur VI offers an impressive amount of single-player content at launch, the title was first and foremost designed to be a balanced and competitive fighting game. Project Soul stated on numerous occasions that they want to make a game that competitive players will love to play for years. Thankfully, Bandai Namco has already updated SC6 with timely bug fixes and balance updates, aiming to provide the best experience possible. The all-important Online mode doesn't have many bells or whistles, besides letting players conveniently wait for an online opponent in the full Training Mode, with their choice of any stage (which is actually a great thing). Most importantly, the netcode is just as solid as TEKKEN 7's, offering silky smooth fights at 4 and 5 bars. It would be nice if Training mode had a few more/better training options (closer to T7's) but it mostly gets the job done. (And I'm proud to say I've spent much more time in Training than Creation mode.)

Alongside the return of iconic tried-and-true mechanics like 8-Way-Run, Ring Outs, and Wall Combos... experienced Soul Calibur players will be happy to know that returning characters, amazingly, have a plethora of their classic moves, stance transitions, and cancels from prior installments. In my experience, most veteran characters play closest to their SC2 counterparts, which is the best possible decision, if you ask me.
Over the years, a major quirk of the series is that characters were heavily changed, losing many of their previous attacks and special moves. SC6 retools nearly all of your favorite moves for each character, which is an amazing achievement by Bandai Namco. Of course, characters received some great-looking brand new attacks as well; and as you'd expect from Soul Calibur, the animation is silky smooth. Also worth mentioning, damage animations are more off-the-wall than ever, with specific attacks launching characters high into the air or flung across the stage during a K.O. (Fighting Vipers style).

 

SC6's Character Creation Mode is ambitious and fun... but playing the game is better!

  
A GAME STILL IN TOUCH WITH 2D ARTWORK.

While certain other fighting developers are "playing down" the role of 2D artwork in fighting games of this era... Namco's 2D illustrators have clearly been busy. Bandai Namco still cares about 2D artwork in your fighting games, as they already demonstrated in TEKKEN 7, and we should still appreciate them for it here in 2019. Fighting game artwork legends: Hiroaki Hashimoto and Takuji Kawano deserve our admiration and respect for these amazing Soul Calibur VI character illustrations, and you should show your appreciation by supporting and buying this game (and actually learning a character or two, or three).
 

 
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Click Here for all character art!

 

Page Updated: February 18th, 2019
Developer(s): Bandai Namco (Project Soul)
Publisher(s): Bandai Namco
Designer(s): Motohiro Okubo      (Producer)
Artwork by: Takuji Kawano          (Character Art)
Hiroaki                          (Story Artwork)
Junny                             (Special Illustrations)
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date(s): October 19th, 2018
Characters: Mitsurugi, Sophitia, Grh, Nightmare, Kilik, Ivy, Xianghua, Zasalamel, Siegfried, Taki, Yoshimitsu, Maxi, Talim, Voldo, Astaroth, Seong Mi-Na, Tira, Cervantes, Raphael Sorel, Geralt of Rivia, Azwel, Inferno, 2B, Amy

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Featured Video:

Related Games: Soul Edge, Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur 2, Soul Calibur 2: HD Online, Soul Calibur 3, Soul Calibur 3: Arcade Edition, Soul Calibur 4, Soul Calibur 5, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, Soul Calibur Legends, Soul Calibur: Lost Swords, Tekken 7, Blade Strangers, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Samurai Shodown (2019)
 

Gameplay Engine     9.5 / 10
Story / Theme     7.0 / 10
Overall Graphics     8.5 / 10
Animation     9.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects     9.0 / 10
Innovation      9.0 / 10 
Art Direction     9.0 / 10
Customization     9.5 / 10
Options / Extras      9.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation      6.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun      10 / 10
"Ouch" Factor      9.0 / 10
Characters      9.5 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

     9.1 / 10

 Review based on Steam / PS4 Pro version 

 

Early Review:

I love SoulCalbur 6. I've already spent 100+ hours with the game, loving every second. I should also mention that in those 100+ hours, I still haven't finished either of the story modes. That should tell you something. It was clear to me in the first few hours of playing the beta that Namco made a great fighting game. As someone who played SC2 competitively for 15+ years (and preferred it over all other sequels), I can tell you that SC6 is just as good (dare I say better, in some ways) as my beloved SC2. This is where SC6 is a true love letter to dedicated players of the game. If you can understand the frustration of being "disappointed" by gameplay aspects of SC3, SC4, and SC5, then you can take comfort in the fact that the remedy has arrived... and it's called SoulCalibur 6. Buy it.

The game is already fun and packed with content at launch, and it should only get better with time. SC6 has no reason not to become a fighting game success story. Knowing Namco will only be building upon what's already great in SC6 is a positive outlook on the future (us old school kids didn't always have such a convenient thing back in the Arcade/PS1/PS2 days). This is what makes things like DLC and "Season Passes" a very very good thing for a fighting game in 2019 that's worth putting time into. Tell your whiny friends.

For "casuals" and fans of single-player content, SoulCalibur VI already offers far more than the typical fighting game. Two story modes, a robust Creation mode, Color Edit, Gallery, etc. Once you stop wasting time enjoying the hell out of Creation mode and making ugly (or pretty) characters, get your ass into Practice Mode and learn how good Soul Calibur 6 actually is.

I try to be a simple man, when I can. I don't need too many things in life. But one thing I need are great fighting games that take years to master. Games that are fun and rewarding to play for years (not just to look at). I don't like wasting time with games that aren't built to last. Thanks to the amazing combat mechanics, deep movesets, and balance of SCVI... I already know that I'll most likely be adding SCVI to my list of "all time" favorite fighting games. Yep, it's actually that good. How do I know? Because I'm not good enough at the game, even after my 150+ hours of playing, and it will take years to master. A game like Soul Calibur 6 is why I still play fighting games.

In an era where balance patches and free content can arrive at any time, which extended TEKKEN 7's lifespan by several years already, one would think SoulCalibur 6 will follow a similar path, if Bandai Namco plays their cards right. (I promise not to forget about you, TEKKEN 7.) I guess it's a good thing when my current "biggest problem" in life is time management between playing TEKKEN 7 and Soul Calibur 6. Don't I have a website to run, too? Good thing I'm not single.

I must be one with time. And thank you for reading, btw.

Obviously, I'm beyond ecstatic to finally have one of my all-time favorite fighting game franchises back in the spotlight. Us Soul Calibur players had to wait a good 6 years for a proper new installment (much longer if you count from SC2), but the wait was worth it. One of my most enjoyable EVO '18 moments was watching the SC6 exhibition... and the full game wasn't even out yet. Shoutout to the epic commentary by Aris and Markman, too. (Love those guys.) I truly hope SC6 catches on with the current climate of the FGC and remains a major competitive title for years into the future, because quite honestly, this game deserves it. Unfortunately, most "gamers" of this generation are too lazy to learn a 3D fighting game as complex as SoulCalibur 6, but Bandai Namco has done everything conceivably in their power to make this game attractive to all types of fighting game players.

Even though "1-button" super moves are now a thing in Soul Calibur, the game still has a steep learning curve. By far, SC6 is the most accessible installment in years, while locking down a pretty high skill ceiling for players striving to master the mechanics & match-ups. Once you learn the ropes and fully understand how the "beginner-friendly" mechanics work, you'll discover a mountain of new possibilities and depth... if you're a "creative" type of player. If for some reason you don't see or feel the amazing depth... either you're lacking fundamentals, you're using the wrong character, you're stuck in the "2D fighting game-based flowchart" mentality, or you're relying too much on beginner's mechanics (which are good, by the way... for beginners).

When all is said and done... high-level SoulCalibur players still get to play high-level SoulCalibur in SC6. What that means is you'll see smart Guard Impacting, more Soul Gauge activations than super moves, badass combo setups, fast-paced movement & spacing, and a healthy balance of offense and defense (not just running up and attacking). FUN FACT: "Yolo wake-up supermoves" only works in noob play (most of the time). Don't fall for simple stuff and blame the game (it's actually your fault... so as they say... "git gud"). Reversal Edge and Critical Edge can still prove to be very useful at a high level, but SC6 offers deeper mind-games and far more dynamic gameplay than most fighting games of this era come close to. All the reasons I love SoulCalibur are back. I only hope today's generation of FG players are capable and creative enough to discover how special and complex of a game Soul Calibur 6 actually is.

SC6 being a prequel / reboot is an intriguing and smart direction for the franchise, and has opened the door for one of the best character rosters to date. More importantly than the "names" of characters you see above, each fighter's most iconic moves have been reimagined and repurposed in SC6. Overall, SC6 character movesets are a healthy mix of new and old. It almost seems like Namco made each character's moveset as a "GREATEST HITS" love letter for dedicated players and fans of the series. I can't think of another fighting game that has done this so seamlessly, besides TEKKEN 7 of course. Naturally, of course many players (including myself) still have some gripes about how certain moves have changed or are missing, but if you do your homework, adapt, and experiment, you'll find that each fighter now has "better" options than the ones you might've been looking for.

MY WISH LIST:

  • #1: More Stages. This game needs more stages. Badly. Classic stages: Pirate Ship, Clock Tower, Raft stage, any Japan stage, more Asia-themed stages, etc. More stages with unique wall breaks would be welcomed as well.
  • #2. More Guest Characters. Geralt & 2B were excellent choices. With Geese Howard now a TEKKEN character, this old school fighting gamer is hoping for some more SNK love with the addition of Samurai Shodown and/or Last Blade characters. SC6's mechanics and visuals are more than perfect for the addition of such vibrant characters. If we get more characters and stages, SC6's 9.1 rating could easily move up a few notches. 

    Also throw in Cloud Strife, Sephiroth, a Bloodborne Hunter, and to bring up a totally obvious one: Game of Thrones characters. Then we can call it the best weapon-based fighting game roster of all time and call it a day. I never thought I'd say something positive about "Negan" as a guest character in TEKKEN 7, but maybe this AMC collaboration is a stepping stone towards getting HBO on board with a Game of Thrones character in SC6. Something this big would only be possible if the game sells well enough. This is why you buy DLC and Season Passes, so we can have nice things.

 
If you appreciate dynamic and complex fighting mechanics over the simpler "dumbed-down" ideas that certain fighting games of this era are becoming known for, buy Soul Calibur VI. If you appreciate fighting games that advertise themselves with beautiful 2D hand-drawn artwork of brilliantly designed characters who deserve more attention and respect... Buy Soul Calibur VI. And don't just buy it, PLAY IT! 
~TFG Webmaster
 

  
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