Saturday 27 April 2019

Soul Calibur 6 ★★★☆☆

Welcome to the stage of history... retold. Because Namco has now changed the game's lore more times than they've changed the name of the series and assumed someone was paying close enough attention to the story, that they might pick up on the plot holes of a demonic sentient sword and its goody goody twin (that was probably the school snitch).

Soul Calibur 6 feels like it was built for people who like to play alone. The game is full of single player content, which is good because right now the online doesn't work quite right. Hopefully, all the issues will be fixed soonish but currently it has problems finding matches and horrible input delay (which is also present in offline modes). This likely won't bother anyone after a casual match, with friends, but is quite noticeable when trying to time a block/parry at the last second; when you now have to somehow predict your opponent's move before they even know they're about to do it. Aside from the standard Arcade Mode, there's an additional Story mode called Soul Chronicle's which starts in 1584 and plays out over 8 years of the game's timeline, with a main focus on Kilik. Kilik's story takes around an hour to get through and then you have the remaining twenty-ish character’s stories to play out. Using a rather cool timeline menu, you get to see where all the events of these eight years overlap and characters come in to play. 

Still not done with single player content, Libra of Soul (yup, just Soul. Singular and awkward to read out loud) plays like a visual novel with RPG elements and combat. You start out by creating a character from the games rather decent character creator. If you have the time, patience and imagination it's possible to create some really cool things. Libra has you wondering a basic world map, levelling up and earning gold for new weapons with better stats. I'm glad it's back after being missing from the last couple of entries, but I was a bit disappointed that this mode didn't grab me the same way Conquest Mode, Mission's Mode, or Weapon Master Mode, from the earlier titles did. I ended up skipping past the bad story to just get to the fights, but at that point, I may as well just have been playing Arcade mode.

The series has always balanced the “easy to pick up and play but hard to master” thing fairly well and six is no exception. The pace of the game seems to have been picked up somewhat and a ton of new mechanics have been implemented. While they look nice and flashy, I'm not really a fan of the added Critical Edge attacks. An ultra move, as made popular by Street Fighter and recently added into Tekken (7). These change fight situations with the implied opportunity for a comeback, when in reality it becomes more strategic to get your ass handed to you and then execute your Critical Edge, with a simple press of one button. While these have been toned down a lot since the beta, a few of them still feel very unbalanced and will become mildly frustrating to newcomers who aren't aware of the timing required to avoid them. The next new mechanic is called Reversal Edge and one stolen from DC's Injustice, where you play a visual version of rock, paper and scissors for who gets to attack (Square beats circle, circle beats triangle and triangle beats square).

It's rather weird Namco are trying to reboot the game's storyline, as it's always best not to think too much about Soul Calibur, otherwise, it all falls apart anyway. There're characters that wouldn't exist within the same centuries, lizard men, sentient mannequins, Taki's iconic spandex ninja suit wouldn't exist for another 400 years, a pirate that died when the game was still called Soul Edge, a German Berserk fan that turns into a Tyrant from Resident Evil and a fire skeleton from another dimension. Using their broken timeline they've always managed to acquire interesting guest characters. SC2 had Link or Spawn, depending on what console you were playing on) and SC4 had Yoga and Darts Video. Soul Calibur 6 get Geralt, from the Witcher series, and he fits the game surprisingly well. There are notable absences in the roster, but it wouldn't be a current gen game without some controversial DLC packed on top. The first character announced is 2B, from NieR Automata. I'd take a guess we'll also see some older fan favourites such as Rock and Hwang, from Soul Blade (but that's purely speculation). If Namco is listening, I'd buy another port of Soul Calibur and Soul Calibur 2 HD.

Bry Wyatt

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