Among all of the fighting game series to ever be released in arcades and home consoles, Soulcalibur has the most interesting and unique legacy. Its weapon-based combat and diverse cast of characters is appealing to everyone, but deep enough to attract fighting game fans who want to go pro with their skills against the rest of the world. Soulcalibur VI continues to build upon the continuing series with new characters, updated and finely tuned combat, and a fresh look that is polished and beautiful. But while Soulcalibur VI takes a few steps backward with its attempts at creating a story and single player content worthy of its universe, its weapon-based combat and multiplayer competition remain the foundation of what makes the series so special.
Soulcalibur VI looks great and is the best the series has looked to date. The entire cast of fighters gets new looks, complementary to the timeline it takes place in, and offer wild designs that ooze personality. Mitsurugi may still be just a samurai, but every detail in his armor, his rugged beard, and the flashes of his sword swipes project how much he isn’t your typical every day Japanese warrior. The same can be said for the rest of the cast who also make a return from previous games, getting mild changes to their look but maintaining a lot of familiarities that long-time fans of Soulcalibur will no doubt love.
Unfortunately the stages you fight on don’t stand out as much and can still be viewed as generic, despite being incredibly polished and great to look at. Though Soulcalibur always had stages that were colorful or grim to match the timeframe the games take place, very few remain memorable, and the same is said for the ones in Soulcalibur VI.
But what about the fighting? A lot of inspiration for how quick and smooth combat can come from earlier games like Soulcalibur II and III, even though there are new abilities for everyone to use this time around. Critical Edge moves make a return for the entire cast, which deals out massive damage when they land and look fantastically epic in many ways.
This is complemented by Soul Charge, which uses up some of the meter used for Critical Edge moves to power up a fighter and changes the properties of some moves, including giving them guard break abilities and more damage. Knowing when and how to use these can give players an edge to victory, but it also leads to some very exciting matches both online and offline.
The Reversal Edge is the mechanic that will be the most divisive amongst players since it breaks up and evens out the momentum of a fight suddenly and with dire results. Reversal Edges can be used to easily guard/parry against incoming attacks and push back opponents into a rock-paper-scissors like struggle, where the winner can deal big damage and knock someone back pretty far.
The issue with it arises when players can overly use it to guard against just about any attack (except a few guard breaking moves) and gain an easy opportunity for counterattacks. Many players will relate this to the Guard impact from throughout the series, but it is an entirely different mechanic that can shift a fight with much less risk. This might get adjusted with future patches and updates but fighting against some computer opponents can lead to struggles against trying to avoid this.
The single player game modes are what many Soulcalibur fans enjoy in later entries of the series, but to its detriment, Soulcalibur VI takes a few steps backwards. The Chronicle of Souls is the main story mode that follows a plot about Kilik set between the time of Soulcalibur and Soulcalibur II. Because it’s set within this time frame, some of the events that happen feel a bit underwhelming. The presentation of the story mode starts off looking very promising, with a motion graphic comic type of look, but shortly afterward changes its format to something less extravagant and puts a damper on what could’ve otherwise been an amazingly done story mode.
The various side stories for other characters happen parallel to the events of the main plot, but they also have underwhelming conclusions. Every fighter has about six chapters to their story, but not every chapter has you fighting. Some side stories don’t even include combat at all but only voice over with very little happening on screen, which will be disappointing to some. They give a lot of insight into the much of what is happening within the Soulcalibur lore but can be very inconsistent with how it’s presented.
The Libra of Soul is the story mode made specifically for custom characters you create. The events of this story happen parallel to all the other side stories and the main plot in Chronicle of Souls but is vastly different from it. There’s significantly more fighting that you can do with your created character, but small RPG elements (like a good and evil balance) and some exploration on a world map take up a bulk of what makes this mode unique. But these differences cause Libra of Souls vastly bloated and can sometimes be a little boring.
There’s a lot of text dialogue to follow that doesn’t always contribute much to the plot, and many of the decisions you make either feel irrelevant or mundane. You might find yourself skipping through lines and lines of dialogue just to get to the next fight and do something that is far more exciting.
The world map that you traverse get populated with many side missions and points of interest, but the exploration ability included feels forced and unneeded. It costs money you gather from winning fights to move around the map, which leads to random battles along the way but can uselessly take up time when you can travel between most areas easily through the menus.
For those that just want to get into the ring and duke it out, the arcade mode and multiplayer is where they’ll spend the most time with Soulcalibur VI. There are a number of arcade modes with leaderboards and variation settings, as well as a great training mode that has many options to utilize and tinker with. Multiplayer offline and online is exactly what it needs to be, with ranked and friendly matchmaking and lobbies can be created with ease.
Fighting on a solid connection will depend on your own internet, but the majority of battles will be stable since you have options to filter out unwanted connections. Playing in any game mode, online or offline, can give Soul Points to spend on Gallery items, new multiplayer titles, and even items to give custom fighters in the character creation. Though the Gallery can be meager with extras, there are a lot of multiplayer titles and custom fighter weapons/items to obtain that will keep players busy for a good long while.
If you were hoping for another great Soulcalibur game, then you’ll be happy to learn that Soulcalibur VI delivers on that promise. Its single player content might not be as good as some prior entries of the series, but it gets everything else that’s important right. The fighting is fast and looks great in motion, the offline and online multiplayer modes will keep you preoccupied, and the creation mode will let you have fun coming up with new fighters to add to the roster. It feels good to be back on the stage of history once more.
This review was based on a digital review code of Soulcalibur VI for the PlayStation 4, provided by Bandai Namco.