Review: SoulCalibur VI (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Jessie Ljunggren, posted Oct 19, 2018, last updated Oct 19, 2018
Oct 19, 2018
  • Release Date (NA): October 19, 2018
  • Release Date (EU): October 19, 2018
  • Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO
  • Developer: Project Soul, Dimps
  • Genres: Fighting
  • Also For: Computer, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Transcending history and the world, a tale of souls and swords, eternally retold!
Jessie Ljunggren

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The Hero of Your Own Story

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(O.C. - Do Not Steal)

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SoulCalibur VI starts off by inviting you to play the RPG-esque "Libra of Souls" campaign mode before diving into the main game. It offers a few tutorial missions and an army of dim-witted A.I. opponents to massacre so you can get the feeling for some of the new mechanics as well as brush up on (or learn for the first time) all the main characters fighting styles and combos. You must design your own hero from a varied selection of races and costume pieces, as well as color customization and sliders to adjust the thicc-ness of your fighter. While it may seem at first that the custom fighter from this mode and the one on the main Arcade mode are the same, they aren't. Your Libra of Souls hero does not have a predetermined fighting style and can change at whim, whereas the Arcade mode fighter must lock in their style from the character editor and isn't so readily changeable.

As you play through Libra of Souls, you'll encounter the heroes (and villains) from the main story as you work in parallel to stop the spread of evil and help destroy the Soul Edge. You can move between nodes on the map to take on missions or spend your hard earned gold to travel off the main path, placing yourself at risk of random encounters, in hopes of reaching a far off mission with an especially juicy reward. Towns offer weapons for purchase that increase your damage and can add other modifiers to your attacks, such as bonus critical damage, and serve to switch up your combat style before any fight. Completing optional missions sometimes means missing out on other timed events, so planning your path can help you snag all the good stuff before its gone. Food items give you a boost for the next round of combat and hired mercenaries can battle in your place to either defeat or weaken opponents; a boon for random encounters with strong opponents that threaten to send you back to your point of origin while exploring off the main path.

Your journey is laid out in a visual novel style of storytelling and all of the missions and encounters offer at least some small snippet to explain exactly why you are fighting, and the randomly(?) generated enemy models go a long way to make it feel like you're facing a new threat each time. Tons of crazy modifiers sprinkled in add additional challenge such as slippery floors, rapid meter charging, massive knock-back, and modes where only certain attacks are effective shake up what would be considered a monotonous task and turn it into an enjoyable romp across Europe. Your hero, the Conduit, even makes cross-appearance cameos in the Arcade mode storyline as a CPU opponent, neatly tying together the entire package into a well-rounded presentation.

A More Traditional Affair

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"Time to save the world! But first..."

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The main Story Mode breaks away from the traditional linear style of most fighting games and instead offers you a choice on where to jump in to experience it from everyone's point of view. In the easy to navigate timeline menu, you can replay any of the events you've beaten and get a general idea of where characters will cross paths and a better understanding for the story timeline as a whole. Additional bonus entries to the timeline can be unlocked and added by playing Libra of Souls, further meshing together both modes and rewarding you for tackling the game at both ends.

The voice acting of the main cast and narrator (in English) are pretty darn good. The sub-characters can be hit-or-miss and, unfortunately, the whole thing is thrown off by jilted line delivery. The game can pause too long in between delivering the next block of dialogue and the apparent lack of a voice director make things really awkward. Throw in some terrible pirate accents and you get one heck of a roller-coaster performance. The music is fitting but isn't anything to write home about-- It's expertly balanced between the voices and the crystal clear sounds of weapons clashing and bodies hitting the dirt.

The graphics are clean and all the models and stages look fantastic. Since the game is a reboot of the franchise, starting at SoulCalibur, you'll recognize many of the maps if you've been a long time fan of the series. The newly detailed and polished arenas and characters will bring you back to the golden era to see long time rivalries rekindled and give newcomers a taste of something truly classic. Accessories and clothing can be lightly damaged, showing cut strings and frays, or destroyed completely, exposing underclothes or bare skin, giving players a real satisfaction and impact to every move and round of combat. The polish quickly deteriorates in the stages with rain, however, as the "wet" look has the unfortunate effect of making everybody look like a plastic action figure; While I doubt they will patch this at any point, it's a real shame this particular shader effect made the final cut because it is truly hideous.

 

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Quite a few new mechanics have entered the fray to spice up this re-imagining of the series. Soul Charge consumes a bar of your fancy new meter to boost your damage (in most cases) and appearance for a period of time, ultimate moves which play out a flashy scene and deal massive damage, and a Rock-Paper-Scissors style clash mechanic all add to the visual appeal of the game. 8-way movement with tight controls give you incredible freedom and handling to punish your opponents with expert maneuvering. Accessibility means any button-smashing fanatics will have just as much fun as a seasoned veteran, and anyone can jump right in without having to read over a move list beforehand and still look and feel good while playing.

If storytelling isn't your forte you can, of course, play through the regular Arcade Mode where you simply choose your favorite fighter and clash through a gauntlet of foes. Versus mode has a handful of modifiers you can apply to spice up the action with all your favorite options a la Libra of Souls but some, sadly, are locked behind a launch day DLC pay-wall. Politics not withstanding, this is a crummy move to pull, especially if you like Tira-- a later addition to the franchise. Ranked mode is available for online play with a refreshingly modern match-making system that allows you to compete against other players with a selectable level of connection quality, as well as your favorite starting "side" and the ability to fight against a computer opponent while you wait for the system to pair you with somebody else matching your criteria. To complete the package, there is a training mode to practice complex combos, and a vault where you can view all sorts of media related to not only SoulCalibur 6, but also a bunch of content from previous games. Tucked inside the vault is a tips guide for every character, highlighting in detail how you should approach them as well as some genuinely helpful strategies and combo chains for how to turn the tide and deliver a punishing defeat.

The precision controls and well-paced movement speed of the characters will really bring back the feeling of the original SoulCalibur. The gently refined art style of the classic characters, the addition of the new fighting systems, and the eye-pleasing graphical overhaul will hopefully translate to strong sales and keep the series from ending when it just got started-- back at the beginning.

 

Trailer

Verdict
Pros
+ Tight Controls
+ Gorgeous Models
+ Tons of Content
Cons
- Launch DLC
- R.P.S. Mechanic
- "Wet" Graphics
8 Presentation
The game loses a few points for the horrible voice directing and the ugly "wet" shader, but is ultimately forgivable for the rest of the wonderfully packaged title.
9 Gameplay
Fantastic controls and freedom of choice likely mean that any frustration with the game will ultimately boil down to the unlimited usability of the rock/paper/scissors mechanic.
9 Lasting Appeal
With tons of gameplay content on offer and a mountain of art, fighter accessories, music, and other goodies to unlock, you'll have your work cut out for you if you want to see the collection through to completion.
8.7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Soul Calibur VI is a fantastic reboot that hearkens back to the golden age of fighting games where anyone could pick up a controller, get lost, and just -have fun-.


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