'SoulCalibur VI' Review: Loads of Content and Critical Gameplay Changes Make Latest Installment a Treat

9/10 (PS4)

The SoulCalibur franchise has a special place in my fighting gamer heart, but it feels more like a niche fandom than some of the other mainstream titles like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. With SoulCalibur VI, Bandai Namco aims to rectify that, with a return-to-basics approach, a rebooted(-ish) story, a ton of content and just enough changes to the fighting mechanics to keep things feeling fresh.

It's been six years since SoulCalibur V and the genre has evolved substantially since then. Now, story and single-player modes are a must, the battle system is simpler to attract more casuals and the visuals have to be spot on (or they can share the fate of games like Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite). Luckily, the latest installment of the weapon-wielding franchise delivers plenty of replay value, a streamlined story and a battle system that is a ton of fun to play.

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Kilik will play a big part in the story of 'SoulCalibur VI' Bandai Namco

FIGHTING

SoulCalibur VI 's battle system retains the familiar vertical, horizontal and kick inputs, and makes two huge additions that both veterans and newbies need to learn to be competitive in fights.

The first is the Reversal Edge, which will put both players into a cutscene and a rock-paper-scissors scenario. Vertical attacks beat heavy horizontal, horizontal beats kicks and kicks beat vertical attacks. However, there are two other options that players can choose from during the Reversal Edge state. Players can guard or even step to the side, so it becomes more of a guessing game.

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Reversal Edge is a new feature in 'SoulCalibur VI' Bandai Namco

Reversal Edge is done by one input and is helpful for players who are being overwhelmed by attacks. By pressing the Reversal Edge button will allow the player to hit their opponent and trigger the cutscene. There are instances where the Reversal Edge move can break guards and even ignore incoming attacks. It's a vital feature in SoulCalibur VI 's battle system and a must to master.

The other new addition to combat in SoulCalibur VI is the Critical Edge, a huge special attack. Again, it's one input button to deliver a cinematic attack that deals a ton of damage. It's a great example of the suped up presentation of SoulCalibur VI. The fighting is flashier and nicer to look at than previous entries, complete with spark animations flying off the weapons and armor.

Another huge change in SoulCalibur VI 's battling is the Guard Break. In the past, it was a bit harder to execute, demanding a carefully timed block and forward input. It's still a bit tricky to get the timing down, but in SoulCalibur VI it doesn't take up any meter to perform, so there's no excuse not to attempt a Guard Break in battle. If you do land one, it'll stun the opponent just long enough for you to mount a counter attack.

The fighting in SoulCalibur VI is faster, simpler and flashier. It's the most fun I've had playing SoulCalibur in years.

SINGLE-PLAYER OVERLOAD BUT IN A GOOD WAY

One of the weakest aspects of SoulCalibur V was its lack of single-player content. The folks over at Project Soul must have took it to heart, because there's a lot to do in this game. With two story modes and a classic arcade mode, players will have a lot of solo gameplay.

Players get two story modes that each take hours to complete. The game recommends going through the Libra of Soul mode first, creating a custom character and traveling around the world in an RPG-like experience. You'll meet some of the cast of SoulCalibur while fighting enemies and helping townsfolk as you try and find a way to close "astral fissures" that have popped up around the world. You'll gain experience and level up, which increases your health stat and allows for your character to obtain new, more powerful weapons. Each story mission or side quest gives gold to spend on food, which offers boosts before battle, or weapons. You can even swap the gold for Soul Points, which can be used to unlock more content in the museum or equipment for character creation.

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The second story mode for 'SoulCalibur VI' will allow players to create their own character. Bandai Namco

While Libra of Soul offers hours of gameplay (you'll still be on Chapter 2 even three hours in), it can become very tedious ,especially with the text-only dialogue and scenes. The story itself is plodding but if you don't mind the grind you'll get plenty of hours out of it.

SoulCalibur VI's character creation suite is pretty solid, with numerous races to choose from (robot, mummy, lizardman etc..) and you can do quite a bit of customization. There are body sliders and a swath of colors to make your own unique fighter. It's not the deepest things out there, but for a game which pioneered for character creation in the genre, it's very good.

The Soul Chronicle story mode is really where longtime SoulCalibur fans should spend their time. The main story follows Kilik as he searches for the Soul Edge to quell his inner darkness. Along the way, he meets Maxi, Xianghua and other classic characters. Similar to how Mortal Kombat 9 rebooted the series by returning to the original story, SoulCalibur VI retells the story of the first game but introduces character introduced in later games like Zasalamel into the fold. The story has full voice dialogue and while there are only a few cutscenes in the story, the painted drawings make for a more engaging presentation than in Libra of Soul.

After you're done with the main narrative, you can play as each individual character as you learn their side of the overall story. This is a great way to learn other characters and experiment before challenging other players online. The main story took a couple of hours to complete and each individual character's arc adds several more in addition to that.

VERDICT

SoulCalibur VI is a much-needed step in making the franchise relevant again. The battling is simpler, faster, flashier and (most importantly) fun. These gameplay changes make it easier for comebacks and add another layer of strategy.

But it's the single-player content that fans should be most excited for. While Libra of Souls can get monotonous at points, and the presentation of Soul Chronicle doesn't reach Injustice -levels of storytelling, it's a back-to-basics approach that should garner new fans and make fans of the franchise very happy.

SoulCalibur VI is easily a contender for fighting game of the year, and a can't-miss title for fans of the genre.