Welcome Back To The Stage Of History
When I think of timeless fighting games, four names come to mind. You can consider the brutality and gore of Mortal Kombat. Perhaps it’s the fast-paced methodical chaos of Street Fighter, or the steady-pace brawling of Tekken. Or maybe it's the weapon duelist styling of Soul Calibur.
Soul Calibur's focus on weapons combat has long set it apart from other fighting games out there, adding on a different layer of combat and making each and every fighter feel distinctly unique as the weapons they hold are an extension of themselves. The way they move, whether it be a lumbering Astaroth with his massive axe, or the jumpy-flighty movements of Maxi and his nunchucks, or anyone else on the cast. Each character feels incredibly different, and that's been my big draw to the series over time. It's been six years since Soul Calibur V, and now we finally get the long-awaited sequel. But does the formula hold up after such a long absence?
What We Know And Love, Plus Extra
Six years and it doesn't feel like the formula has missed a beat. Each and every match brings on a different outlook, a different approach to take down your opponent. Since every fighter comes equipped with different weapons, the moves intensely. Despite the fact that you are using the same buttons for combat as any other fighter, each person has a uniqueness to them that gives them clear and present pros and cons. This encourages the player to learn the ins and outs of multiple fighters before they settle in and pick a favorite.
A great example of this is Astaroth. At first glance, this massive behemoth is a slow, lumbering target that is likely going to get smacked around by the quicker moving fighters. But after practice, Astaroth becomes a true force to be reckoned with as a few quick blows of his massive battle axe can end a fight quickly. How do you counter a skilled Astaroth player? Simple; you "get good". I found my over-confident win streak ended when I encountered a seemingly unassuming Yoshimitsu player, who quickly turned my world upside down with a few quick ring-outs. It was during this encounter, however, when I learned the true usefulness of the series' newest mechanic called Edge Reversal.
Essentially, Edge Reversal is a parry/counter minigame in which the winner will pull off an attack that will often inflict some major damage on the enemy. At first I was wary of it, but after seeing it in action (even in a losing match) I'm very much in favor of this new addition.
I'm also happy to say the movement about the stage feels more fluid than ever, finally getting to a point where it feels natural to move forward and backward on a platform instead of clunky and off beat in comparison to the rest of the movement and combat.
Great Fighting, With Extra Baggage
Outside of the combat online, you have a variety of game modes you can check out including two story modes. If you just want to hop in and fight some computer controlled characters, you can jump into Battle Mode and check out the Arcade, Versus or Training modes. Those are relatively self-explanatory.
What I want to focus on here is the game's biggest weaknesses: the Libra of Souls, and the Chronicle of Souls. There is an interesting story to be told here for sure, especially considering that Soul Calibur 6's story can be seen as a 'reboot' of the plot that was getting a little out of hand. It goes along the same path as the first few games, and you'd think that would be something worth checking out. For a fighting game, the story is pretty in depth and long, and at times it’s entertaining. The way it's presented however, often bogs it down.
Chronicle of Souls follows the full roster of characters over various points of a timeline, switching the character that you're playing as out as you progress. It's a good way to get a basic feel of the characters if you don't plan on playing a lot of Arcade, but also don't want to get slaughtered online trying a new character. Libra of Souls follows an alternate perspective of the events of Chronicle of Souls, from the shoes of a player made character and is more of a loot grind for unlockables than a real story mode.
Most often, story exposition is presented on stagnant screens featuring only a still background and stills of the characters speaking. Voice acting is all over the place in terms of quality, and before too long you will more than likely be smashing the button to just skip to whenever the next fight will actually come around. When you get to a fight, usually there is a mini-cutscene that goes along with it and those are entertaining but it's a small light in what comes off as a bland, lacking attempt to give us a story to care about. You have to have a good way to portray the story, or people are just going to go to the online mode or to Arcade mode.
Despite the shortcomings of the story modes, overall Soul Calibur is exactly what you want out of a fighting game. Solid mechanics, fluid motion, a unique and varied cast of characters, and even a decent character creator thrown on top of everything. If you're into fighting games solely for single player, you may find yourself wanting more out of what you get here. But, if you're in it for online fighting you'd be hard pressed to find a more rewarding experience than trying to best each opponent that comes your way and a more humbling one when you are defeated.
Solid and fluid combat and movement mechanics, varied roster of characters, intense online play based around learning individual characters on top of base mechanics.
Incredibly weak story exposition makes a compelling story more of a chore than a thrill ride.