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Soulcalibur VI, the seventh entry in the main , is a fantastic and epic to form complete with deep combat and gorgeous visuals. After waiting six long years since the overall underwhelming release of Soul Calibur V in 2012, the patience has paid off: we have been rewarded with a truly phenomenal addition to the Soul Calibur series. It combines everything that made previous entries so great and adds in some beautifully rich story telling which has been seldom seen in the game’s long history, helping to make Soulcalibur VI the best entry in the entire series.

Soulcalibur VI is, more than anything, a reboot than a sequel. This latest iteration of the game takes you back to the roots of the game’s history and invites players on a new and unique journey across the world of the 16th Century, revisiting the original story of cursed swords Soul Edge and Soul Calibur, but also adding in new elements which end up telling an excitingly epic tale of the characters whom tirelessly seek the swords. But above all else, Soul Calibur VI is extremely fun to watch, play and incredibly easy to pick up and get started with.

Soulcalibur VI offers two entirely different story modes to play through. The first is the main story of the game called Soul Chronicle, while the other is the Libra of Soul. Soul Chronicle takes you on a fantastic journey depicting the grand tale of the spirit sword and the wicked sword, Soulcalibur and Soul Edge respectively, retelling the series’ origin tale. This time however, it’s completely restructured with the addition of new characters and episodes, with each episode being depicted in beautiful 2D and 3D animations, conversational parts between characters, wonderful illustrations and, of course, exciting battles any Souls series fan will love.

Soul Chronicle does a fantastic job of giving these characters context. It takes you step by step through each character’s thought processes which in turn provides you with some rich and much needed development of these characters we’ve come to know and love over the years. The fully voice acted scenes and exchanges between the cast really help to bring them to life in a way never really experienced in a Soul game and as such, it feels like they’ve really fleshed the characters out in a way previously unheard of. These characters have always been interlocked in each iteration of the game and now they are properly interacting with each other instead of exchanging brief passing comments that would be made at the start of a battle, as seen in the older games, before you start beating each other to a pulp for mostly dubious or unknown reasons.

Libra of Soul is the second story mode in Soulcalibur VI and it’s mostly told through text. In this new game mode, you create the hero and here is where Soul Calibur’s brilliant character creation makes a return. Players create their own custom fighter from scratch and they are set on a grand quest of roaming the world to stop a new evil mastermind who is seeking the evil sword of legend. On your vast journey across the land you will come up against characters from the main storyline and other warriors created by the greater Soul community. The fights feature a variety of rules or restriction-specific showdowns, for example the inability to use your Soul Charge, or throw people out of the ring. These specific battles and other RPG elements feel heavily influenced by the Weapon Master mode which was implemented in Soul Calibur II, which in case you’re wondering, is a great thing. As you level you character, you’ll earn stronger weapons that have different visual styles and properties.

Xianghua, a series regular. Picture: (Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe)

You are totally free to customise your character any way. Do you want to be a lizard-man fighter with Voldo’s fist weapons? Sure. Maybe you want to create a skeleton character who fights like the Witcher Geralt? Go ahead! The customisation in this game is wonderfully vast and while it is similar to Soul Calibur V’s character creation, it has noticeably built off of the old formula and created something fun and unique which you can easily spend hours in to create your perfect (or hideous) character. In these menu you can pick the character’s fighting style, hair, clothes and even make changes to the original cast of character’s hairstyle and appearance.

Libra of Soul plays and feels like a role-playing game in the best possible way. You are shown a world map and you travel between numerous places of interest. Your character travels from point to point, exploring areas, visiting towns, earning gold and fighting enemies who stand in your way as you progress the story. Over the course of your adventure you are faced with myriad choices which are considered good and evil and each of these special choices will push your soul towards being good or bad. Your actions are weighed by the ‘Libra of Soul’ to discern the level or inclination of your soul along with shaping what happens later on in the story. For example, if you decided to go purely good you will unlock hidden missions, and the same goes for if you pick purely evil choices.

If you’re completely uninterested in the overall Soul Calibur story and you just want the action then fret not! Arcade mode is back in full force and so is the glorious announcer replete with his cheesy lines. The timeless formula doesn’t need to be changed; you pick your preferred fighter (or a character you’ve created) and you fight eight computer-controlled enemies of varying difficulty in succession while you try to do it as fast as you can. Arcade mode acts as another way you can earn Soul Points, which act as a currency you can spend to unlock more clothing options in the character creator, options like a horse head for a helmet if you feel inclined to cosplay as a sword-wielding Bojack Horseman.

While the combat has remained mostly the same, it has been polished to perfection with just a few tweaks, and with one major new mechanic called the Reversal Edge being introduced. The reversal edge is a unique mechanic which is triggered by holding down the R1 (or right bumper) button on your controller which allows you to parry any incoming attacks before you then strike. If the hit connects with your opponent, it initiates a cinematic sequence which utilises a typical rock, paper scissors system where you have to outguess your opponent’s decision. You can kick, block, dodge or attack horizontally or vertically and if you beat your opponent’s choice, or dodge their attack, you open them up to get the upper hand in combat and look incredibly stylish in the process. Overall the addition of Reversal Edge is a welcome one, it’s a great way to do something fresh with Soul Calibur’s combat while also not forcing the player to use it if they don’t want to.

The combat feels slick and markedly different to how it used to play in the later releases despite being so similar. In truth the fights play out more like a finely-tuned version of Soul Calibur II’s combat as they’ve taken everything that made the one-on-ones fun in the previous games and truly perfected them in this entry. The combination of the updated graphics, polished and refined combat all mix together to make a powerful cocktail which is easy for players to digest and jump in to.

Perhaps the most anticipated part of Soulcalibur VI is the introduction of Geralt of Rivia, from the phenomenal Witcher series as a playable character. Geralt has been put into the game with the help of CD Projekt Red (CDPR), who are responsible for the Witcher game series, and they’ve done a truly fantastic job of this and just by playing him you can see they’ve taken extreme care and dedication to bring him to life in a genuine way. All his animations are moves you’ve be familiar with if you’ve played The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. So much care has gone into this process you feel like Geralt has always belonged in the Soul universe. It’s a marked difference from when they brought in Yoda or Darth Vader as guest characters and I for one greatly welcome the curmudgeonly Witcher to the illustrious stage of history.

Geralt of Rivia makes a brilliant cameo as the guest character. Picture: (Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe/CD Projekt Red)

The ever-present issue of season passes and downloadable content (DLC), rears its ugly head to the gaming community once again. In this case there is a character who you have to buy as extra download content to unlock her as a playable character. The character, Tira, has appeared in previous games for free, but the problem is that this character is already in the game, you can even fight against the character in arcade mode but the only way you can actually play as her is by spending more money on the season pass to ‘unlock’ her, which is causing a rather loud and justified outrage.

Like with most games, Soulcalibur VI has its downsides, the most notable problem, which has been present since the game’s inception, is the shameless and grosse over-sexualisation of any female character in the game. Take for example the character Ivy Valentine, who wears basically nothing and has the most exaggerated bust size in the entire game; she has seemingly lost more and more clothing in each instalment of the game and in VI she wears a skimpy leather purple body suit which leaves nothing to the imagination. Not only does that make no sense to wear in any type of battle situation, but in this day it’s just excessive, pointlessly gratuitous and feels entirely out of place.

It’s an unfortunate relic of Soulcalibur which has persisted through each game and I wish they would leave this portrayal in the 90’s when the game first came about. You can see that this problem has persisted throughout Soul Calibur’s storied history. Look back to the Arcade release of Soul Edge and compare it to today – the character Sophitia has had her breast size inexplicably increase to the extreme over the series and mostly all the other female characters have had armour or clothes removed in subsequent games and this instalment, a reboot of the series, would’ve been the perfect time to rectify this unfortunate trend through the games and send an important message. I’ve always thought that Soul Calibur and Bandai Namco could have a powerful message with a lot to say for female empowerment when you consider the number of strong, courageous female protagonists it has in the mix, but they seemingly can’t get past the idea of overly sexualising them because they have to look ‘attractive’.

Overall, Soulcalibur VI is the best entry to date which is easy to pick up and play for the more casual players, while also having the capacity for some truly competitive gaming via online ranked matches for the more technical and veteran players. This game is a must have for any fan of the Soul series and hopefully it is the first of many more to come.

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