When we played the very first Soul Blade on the PlayStation back in the '90s, we were totally smitten by what was happening. Castles crumbled, ninjas attacked, gods appeared, and that was only in the opening sequence. This experience still frames the franchise for us, and if there are two things that we would describe as characteristic of Soul Calibur as a series, it's beating each other up with weapons rather than fists, and that it actually has a real story.
With that said, we want to add that by "real story" we don't mean a well-written narrative that makes us sit and bite our nails wanting to know how things are going to end. Soul Calibur is, of course, a fighting game and that means that after one or maybe two games are finished with we're out of reasonable reasons why basically exactly the same people have to meet again and again to beat each other up. What we mean instead is that this is a game where the storylines are so incredibly bad, and in the genre, Soul Calibur is best in class.
The Mortal Kombat games have begun to challenge this trend in fighting games with the two latest games, but besides these two alternatives, there's virtually no reason to recommend these titles to anyone who is going to mostly play alone. This is something we were thinking about and had in mind when we visited Bandai Namco's office in Stockholm recently to test Soul Calibur VI, what with it mainly focusing on single-player.
Specifically, the Soul Calibur series is the one we've played the most over the years, due in part to the fact that there is an undeniable amount of depth while at the same time still being very easily accessible to beginners. Together with the Tekken series, it has been the game that defined the concept of "button mashers"; a game where you rapidly press the buttons to make cool things happen and where it actually takes a few hours of training to stand absolutely safe from the bombardment a happy amateur can unleash.
The last entry in the series was, unfortunately, a weaker game and we didn't play as much as we usually do when a new episode of Soul Calibur is released. It's still Soul Calibur II, perhaps primarily the GameCube version with Link, that stands as our highlight, but in pre-talk about Soul Calibur VI it seems like it's a step back gameplay wise. In order to confirm this, much more time is needed than playing at Bandai Namco's place for one day with a limited version, but with that said, it seems to be on the right track.
The game actually includes two single-player campaigns. One of the more traditional kind where you play through a reasonably forced tale that involves the evil doings of Cervantes and, of course, the magic weapon known as Soul Edge. What is a bit unique is that this time events take place around the time of the first Soul Calibur, which offers a slightly different perspective on the same story. However, anyone who loves their fighting games will know that Taki, Seong Mi-na, and Voldo had more hassles than we first thought in the original game, and for those who still do care about this side of thing, there are quite a few golden nuggets for fans to find.
As we've mentioned though the story itself is really quite secondary, but it's there and it's fun to play through. There is the main story and then separate ones with all the fighters' different perspectives on the same narrative, which also includes Geralt as a guest, and naturally he spends his time chasing a witch. The story sections consist of encounters between one or more fighters and these can either be meetings with the regular ensemble or those the developers themselves let you make with the built-in tools available to create your own. Additionally, special rules for the matches will force you to vary your game style like focus on throwing opponents, performing combos, or trying to stay on the stage in hazardous winds. Basically, it doesn't try to fix what isn't broken, and it's all looking promising.