Recently Bandai Namco was kind enough to host us in Paris for their Winter Level Up event, a showcase of a number of upcoming titles, one of which was the recently announced Soul Calibur VI. With only the initial trailer to prepare us for what we were getting into, we sat down to spend some personal time with Sophitia and Mitsurugi, the two characters available for use in this demo.
Fans of Soul Calibur will immediately notice that in a lot of ways this feels like familiar territory. You can smash people around with swords, send them flying off the edge of arenas, and there's plenty of orange and blue hurtling around on screen at any one time, so in that respect we started playing with the muscle memory coming back to us. Even the controls are mostly the same as well, with X (on PS4) for block, square for horizontal attack, triangle for vertical attack, and circle for kick. In the first few seconds things were all well and good as we jumped around and got back into the Soul Calibur flow we knew and loved, but not everything is exactly the same.
Critical Edge, for instance, is a little different to what we saw back in 2012 with V. If you cast your minds way back five years ago, Critical Edge required directional buttons before you pressed R2 - something that was easy to execute if you were well-practiced but a little tricky for newcomers - but this has changed. Critical Edge is now assigned to R2 alone, which brings good and bad news. The good is that players can easily access it once their Critical Gauge is full without fumbling for a button combo, but the bad is that you can often repeat this move multiple times over a fight for this very same reason. Once you learn how to guard against this it'll surely be easier to handle, but we saw the same two animations over and over during our 30-minute session.
Reversal Edge is a totally new feature though, as another button press slows the action down, giving you a chance to block or to try and hit your opponent. There's also the added risk of getting hit yourself and suffering a lot of damage, so it's worth using this with caution. It's an incredibly cool feature though and adds a cinematic quality to the action, which isn't surprising since producer Motohiro Okubo said the team took inspiration for this feature from watching films. Again, though, this requires Critical Gauge, so you'll need to use it sparingly.
The visuals also stood out for us during our time with Soul Calibur VI, as there's remarkably more polish this time around (unsurprising given the time difference). This is truly a modern fighter, with all the visual finesse that we can see in competitors like Tekken 7, and this isn't just in regards to the fighters, as the environments are incredibly detailed as well. One of these in the demo saw us fight in an ancient Greek-style palace filled with fountains and statues, while another saw us battle in front of a cave where stalactites hung from the roof.
In another attempt to make the fights more cinematic and spectacular there's been extra effort put into the visual effects of the fights themselves, as the blues and oranges are as clear as ever and sparks even fly off when the two fighters clash swords. This sounds like a small thing, but as you can see from the gameplay above it makes for a pretty epic clash when you see it in action, especially during the slow-motion sections and in the Critical Edge moves.
Having only two fighters at our disposal, we got to know the pair of them very well. Both of them had the same level of visual detail in their armour and character models as we'd seen in the environments, and both were characters we'd seen before in the series. Mitsurugi and his sweeping samurai sword felt a little slower and more sluggish compared to Sophitia, meaning mistakes were punished during these tentative opening rounds, but he was definitely powerful, and if you can land the hits then you're in business. Sophitia, on the other hand, seemed the better all-round choice, as she was quick, nimble, and had a devastating Critical Edge move that saw her throw her opponent in the air and launch her sword through their midriff.
We came out of Soul Calibur VI impressed overall, because it strikes that balance between feeling like a Soul Calibur game, but also offering something new thanks to some little tweaks. As Okubo explained to us, it was important for him not to mess with the essence of Soul Calibur, and you could really tell. The Reversal Edge system and new visual effects add that cinematic feel to the battles, making each clash an epic one, and we're looking forward to seeing more characters, more Critical Edge moves, and more stages.