Well…did anybody see this coming? After years of rumours, random polls and a few filler games that I don’t class as “proper” entries, a brand-new Soul Calibur has been announced by Namco Bandai. Soul Calibur VI will be hitting PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2018 and the initial reveal trailer was quite intriguing. I thought so anyway but then again, I’m a weirdo with strange concepts of what is “interesting” so take it with a truck of salt.
The little teaser shows Mitsurugi squaring off against Greek goddess Sophitia and judging by the outfits and Mitsurugi’s apparent reversal of age, I’m going to assume that this is a prequel of sorts or at least a game that takes place earlier on in the storyline. Let’s face it, Soul Calibur‘s plot has gotten utterly ridiculous during recent games so going for something easier to digest while not binning off the existing canon wouldn’t be a terrible idea at all.
So am I hyped for this? Well obviously I am in some way or else I wouldn’t be writing about the announcement BUT I am still feeling extremely cautious. So far, I’m pleased that the game is even going to exist (because SC is one of my favourite series’ of all-time and I’ve been playing it since Soulblade/Edge on the Playstation) and of course, I’m doubly pleased to see that my main character and one of gaming’s most beautiful ladies, Sophitia, is back after being unceremoniously killed off between SCIV and V (because: rubbish plot).
My caution comes from the fact that I thought Soul Calibur V was absolute pants and not the fancy, lacy variety being worn by a pretty lady but that pair of nasty old boxer shorts that you sometimes randomly spot on the ground in an alleyway. The game looked incredible and it had one of the most enjoyable character creation tools that I have used in any game but everything else was wrong. There was no single-player experience to speak of to begin with and perhaps that should have been expected given how fighting games are all about the online these days but for me, SC has always been a fighting game with killer SP. I have great memories of unlocking all of the characters in SCII and the ridiculous amount of modes in SCIII for example. By contrast, SCV was a complete insult with its pathetic arcade mode that had the same two opponents for the last couple of battles every. single. time (Aeon and Nightmare).
Worse still was the loss of so many favourite characters with many being replaced by descendants or students/disciples in order to keep the classic fighting styles present in the series. The problem was that not many people liked these new characters and just wanted their old favourites back. Some (such as Natsu) looked completely out of place for a game set in the fifteenth century, others were simply “WTF?” (Z.W.E.I) and there even characters that seemed to mock players such as Elysium who looked like Sophitia but wasn’t Sophitia. The plot was rubbish and nobody wanted to play as the whining Pyrhh or pretty-boy Patroklos. There were way too many characters that adopted random fighting styles between rounds as well – wasted select screen slots for sure. All we wanted was Cassandra, Mina and Hwang but no, we got the likes of Dampierre (*shudder*) instead.
Clearly, they had attempted to do what Tekken 3 and Street Fighter III did before: breathing new life into an existing series by introducing some fresh faces and youth into the roster. In Tekken 3‘s case it worked due to the replacement characters being closely modelled on their forebearers and while SFIII‘s updated roster alienated a lot of the SFII fanbase, it did at least have a killer gameplay system to fall back on.
Speaking of gameplay, this was the final thing about SCV that switched me off due to how they’d messed about with an established and very enjoyable template. It was done with good intentions no doubt but the addition of flashy super moves seemed unecessary and having the classic Guard Impact only available when a specific meter had some stock was a very, very poor change. I suspect that the latter was implemented in order to make the game more accessible to those who couldn’t learn to use GI frequently but it rubbed me up the wrong way. The SCVI trailer appears to show super moves of some variety and the breakable armour feature that debuted in SCIV but I hope that this doesn’t signify a continuation of what SCV was.
It might sound like I’m being negative but I’m still actually cautiously excited for Soul Calibur VI and until there’s any evidence of the bad stuff returning, there’s no reason to be overly cynical. Street Fighter V has set the benchmark for disappointing fighting games this gen anyway – with its poor single-player and F2P style DLC onslaught – so SCVI can’t be any more deflating can it? I just hope that Namco Bandai heard what people didn’t like about SCV. Recent strong form with the Tekken series gives me some confidence at the least.