The Soul Still Burns
It’s hard to believe it, but it’s already been over two decades since Bandai Namco’s flagship weapons-based fighter series began with Soul Edge. Last week at E3, I had the chance to meet with the team and go hands-on with the latest entry, SoulCalibur VI. And I have to say, even this early sample of the game proved to be everything this longtime fan of the series had hoped it would be. Featuring lush Unreal Engine 4-powered visuals, silky-smooth combat, and a few interesting new and returning mechanics from previous games in the franchise, it was plain to see the that the soul still burns.
Bigger, Badder, Better
The E3 demo featured a number of returning characters including Ivy Valentine, Taki, Mitsurugi, Zasalamel, Chai Xianghua, and, of course, the lumbering knight Nightmare. Additionally, the exciting addition of the Witcher himself, Geralt of Rivia, was also available in this build.
Everything felt fast and responsive. Whether I was slapping and slashing away at my foes with the buxom femme fatale Ivy or unleashing devastating Sign magic and impaling my opponents with Geralt, the battles felt incredibly fluid and satisfying. Series staples, like well-timed sidesteps, blocks, and throws are still the name of the game here. However, SoulCalibur VI still has a few new tricks up its sleeve to keep things exciting.
Firstly, SoulCalibur V’s Critical Edge attacks make the jump to the latest game. Executed when your Critical Gauge is filled, these flashy attacks are executed with a single button press and can inflict incredible damage on their targets. Additionally, the Soul Charge mechanic (last seen in SoulCalibur 3) has returned. And now in addition to boosting your attack power, a well-timed Soul Charge can unleash a wave of energy that knocks your adversaries off their feet if they’re standing nearby to give you some welcome breathing room.
These returning features are fine and well and do a nice job of keeping the action varied. However, the new features are also pretty intriguing updates to the game’s already rock-solid formula. Though I have to admit, I’m not entirely sold on one of them just yet. The Reversal Edge is a new technique that is meant to help novice players get a bit of an extra edge in the arena. By tapping one of the shoulder buttons, the action will cut to a slow-motion sequence where you’ll have to guess whether your opponent chose to attack, dodge, or block, with the outcome being determined in a rock, paper, scissors fashion. Personally, I feel like this adds a bit too much luck to the proceedings for my tastes. While the Bandai Namco rep assured us that it’ll have minimal impact when two skilled players are going toe-to-toe, I’m still not entirely convinced.
While I’m not exactly sold on Reversal Edges, one new element I quite enjoyed was the addition of Lethal Hits. These are powerful, character-specific attacks that deal considerable damage. Not only that, they’re also capable of completely shattering your opponent’s armor. That said, I’m not exactly sure how a combatant like Ivy or Astaroth could possibly be wearing less armor. But I’ll be damned if I’m not excited to find out!
A Story For The Ages
While I wasn’t able to hands-on with it during our meeting with Bandai Namco, the studio also revealed that the single-player component of SoulCalibur VI will feature an in-depth story mode dubbed the “Soul Chronicle.” In it, each character has their own story that’s set between the years 1583 and 1590 A.D. told through a mix of visual novel style storyboards, cinematic cutscenes, and actual battles.
Given all of the complex relationships between the burgeoning cast of the series, it’s safe to say this should be pretty interesting to see in action when SoulCalibur VI releases this fall.
Here Comes A New Challenger
While I only got to spend about a half-hour with the game, SoulCalibur VI has already made a very strong case for itself in that period. It’s beautiful. The combat is weighty and satisfying. And the new and returning mechanics are mostly really impressive – save for those Reversal Edges. We may only be halfway through a year that’s been ripe with hard-hitting fighting games, but SoulCalibur VI is already shaping up to potentially be one of the most memorable of 2018.
SoulCalibur VI is slated to release for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam on October 19, 2018. Be sure to stay tuned for the latest news on this exciting weapons-based brawler as it becomes available.