I spent the second half of October diving into Soulcalibur VI, and as a fan of the popular fighting-game series, so far I feel this installment stacks up to the standard set by its predecessors. It’s also a convenient entry point for players new to Soulcalibur, as instead of advancing the already elaborate story forward like previous games have done, Soulcalibur VI goes back in time in order to revisit the events that form the backdrop of those games. It opens just after the original Soul Blade, which acts as a prologue, with the story line of Soulcalibur I and II making up the bulk of the narrative. For veterans, this offers a wave of nostalgia, as most of the characters’ costumes are modeled on what they wear in those games. How the team at Bandai Namco chose to handle this reboot of sorts was important to me, as one of the biggest draws of the Soulcalibur games for me is how they tend to place a greater emphasis on story than many other games in the fighting genre. Even guest character Geralt, the main character of the Witcher game series, who should have no business adventuring here on Earth, is given a backstory of being teleported via a sorceress’s magic from his world into our own.
For anyone not familiar with the series, it takes place in a romanticized version of the real-world 16th century, where a cursed blade known as Soul Edge and its chief adversary, the titular Soulcalibur, have contested one another through the ages, with their timeless battle altering the course of history. This overarching motif ties the individual characters’ stories together, as they either seek to acquire the swords for their power or prevent the swords (primarily Soul Edge) from wreaking havoc on mankind. And yet, as with most fighting-game series, each character in each Soulcalibur game has their own ending, and these can often contradict one another until the next game to be released in the series establishes which of the previous game’s endings are or aren’t canon. Soulcalibur VI takes a refreshing new approach, as its Story Mode places each character’s arc onto a shared timeline, with events that put two or more characters face to face occurring concurrently in each of those characters’ arcs. In this way, all characters’ battles and endings are canon, and players invested in the story can enjoy seeing how each of the stories weave together to form the larger picture.
Another returning feature is Mission Mode, which has the player creating a custom warrior who travels about the Old World, battling foes and earning items and gold while experiencing the impact of the swords’ battle from a unique perspective. This mode has some role-playing elements, as fighting and performing quests in this mode cause the character to gain experience and become stronger over time, and at certain points in the narrative, the player is given choices that will alter the course of the character’s journey. Also, character customization itself has been much improved from previous games, with players now able to select from several nonhuman races, such as angels, automatons, and shapeshifters, as well as the human option.
Honestly, if I have one complaint about Soulcalibur VI, it’s that Cassandra, my character of choice in the series as well as my favorite video-game heroine, is sadly absent (though she does make a cameo in her sister Sophitia’s story arc). I’m hoping that she will be added later as DLC, but even if this does not occur, everything else about the game has met—and, in the case of Story Mode, exceeded—all of my expectations for a Soulcaliburgame. Whether you’re already a fan of the series or a newcomer who enjoys fighting games, I absolutely recommend picking this one up.