Our Souls Shall Burn Again for Soulcalibur VI

For a while, it appeared Bandai Namco planned to put the Soulcalibur franchise to rest, outside of occasional spinoffs like mobile and pachinko games.

Pin that on Soulcalibur V splitting the fanbase in half. The team at Project Soul took risks with the game’s cast and mechanics, instead of making another game just like previous installments again. It took place 17 years after Soulcalibur IV, and provided a significant time skip similar to the overwhelmingly successful Tekken 3 from the same company; because of this, some characters returned in much older forms while others were replaced by younger counterparts, and brand-new faces were added. It’s the replacements that upset fans of the franchise the most, as familiar and adored characters like Taki and Sophitia were replaced with less appealing counterparts like Natsu and Patroklos.

Also, while most of its mechanics were similar to previous games, there was one large addition: The Critical Edge system. Here, players could fill up a gauge and unleash a special attack, similar to many other fighting games. Also, Guard Impacts were changed to make them similar to parrying attacks in the Street Fighter III games and Garou/Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves. Longtime fans were divided about the implementation of elements from 2D fighters, and given its sales and reception, it appeared those skewed negative.

The signs for another installment also didn’t look good after the company celebrated its anniversary with only a special trailer and announcement of a pachinko game. But at least they acknowledged it. Vocal fans, however, wanted the company to give the series another shot, and often let Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada know on Twitter. So, after letting Soulcalibur lie low for nearly six years (again, excluding spinoffs and odd experiments like the free-to-play Soulcalibur: Lost Swords), they’ve finally announced Soulcalibur VI. The franchise is returning in a mostly familiar form, with new producer Motohiro Okubo. Since the franchise is returning after a six-year dormancy, Bandai Namco is making several changes.

You can see the first one upon seeing the trailer, as not only has Sophitia returned, but Mitsurugi is considerably younger than in his last several appearances. This is because SCVI will be a reimagining of the original Soulcalibur in terms of its story, and explore mysteries that surrounded it. It’s their way of returning the story to a time where most fans were satisfied with the cast, and ignore the continuity that lead to the divisive SCV. This allows them to bring back everyone’s favorite characters in younger forms, though the game will still include new faces.

The move is similar to the strategy NetherRealm Studios took with the 2011 Mortal Kombat installment, though that game’s title signified how it was a reboot, unlike this one. Whether there’s an in-game reason for why the story has gone back in time also hasn’t been confirmed. Though they haven’t detailed it, rumors have suggested how this game will have a much larger story mode than previous titles. The development team made a miscalculation when they bet on the fighting game community over the general gaming audience with SCV, and underestimated the number of those who cared about single-player content and story. There’s a good chance they won’t make the same mistake again, though hopefully they’ve studied how to implement a good story mode in a fighter.

Bandai Namco is bringing back gameplay elements from older Soulcalibur games, though they’re also adding new ones. The games became noticeably slower with newer installments, but the team is making sure the speed matches the action flow from fan favorite installment Soulcalibur II. The aforementioned Guard Impacts have also been altered to be similar to how they were in installments prior to SCV.

New to this game, however, is the Reversal Edge, a technique that can be executed with one button that involves defending against an opponent’s attack and counterattacking with a powerful strike. Also new is the Lethal Hit mechanic, which will send the opponent flying for juggling opportunities when landed in the right conditions. They’ll reveal more about how these work in the near future, to assuage concerns from fans about them being game-breaking features. The armor-breaking feature introduced in SCIV will also return, though like previous installments, this likely won’t alter the character defense properties.  You can see more of these features in action in the gameplay video and an interview with the producer.

SCVI will also bring back character creation, which has become an important feature since it was introduced in Soulcalibur III. Hopefully it comes with all the options that led to players making fantastic creations like SCV’s, and more.

Bandai Namco plans to release Soulcalibur VI sometime next year, though given how it was just announced with two characters, expect it to arrive in the second half of 2018. They’ll slowly reveal the remaining cast of characters, including the mysterious new character teased in the first trailer, over the next several months. It’s also imperative that they space it away from Dragon Ball FighterZ, a title they’re also publishing which will release in late-January in western territories, and early February in Japan. The next big promotional effort should occur shortly before or after FighterZ, since the company apparently likes to have at least one fighting game in their lineup to promote.

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