“Transcending history and the world, a tale of soul and swords, eternally retold… “Booms a voice in the opening title for Soul Blade (also known as Soul Edge overseas) the predecessor to Soul Calibur that reinvigorated the fighting game genre. But where is Soul Calibur now? Will we ever see a release on current consoles? After 6 main instalments and 4 spinoffs (and one HD port) what happened to Soul Calibur?
Released in 1997, Soul Blade slashed its way onto Playstation 1, after being ported from arcades. Developed by Namco (the same team behind Tekken) the game is set in the late sixteenth century, following 9 warriors on a quest, each of whom has his or her own reasons for joining the quest but they all share a common goal: to obtain the legendary sword, called ‘Soul Edge’.
The game was a real hit (excuse the pun) with gamers everywhere and critics praised the 8 directional movements of characters along with realistic looking (for the time) graphics. The 9 fighters were equally balanced combat system based on the three attack buttons: horizontal attack, vertical attack, and kick. Soul Blade was one of the first fighting games to incorporate weapons; some were standard swords and shields (Sophitia) whereas others had either a longer or shorter reach (such as Li Long’s nun chucks) that would balance out in the fighting. Characters were all fully realised with their own style of play, back story and would speak in their native tongue. Gamers were desperate for a sequel, but it didn’t arrive in the form they thought.
The sequel, Soul Calibur was named differently rather than just “Soul Blade 2” as the producer wanted to make a totally different game to the first. Originally, none of the original characters would be returning but all 9 characters did return in some form or other along with some fantastic new character additions. Originally released in the arcades and then for home consoles on the Dreamcast in 1999, Soul Calibur had massively improved graphics, even more game modes and new characters that was regarded as one of the best Dreamcast games ever. The new characters admittedly had similar fighting styles as existing fighters except for the amazing Ivy who had an unusual segmented spirit sword – still a favourite character of my own.
Soul Calibur 2 is where the Soul series really found it’s footing as it were. Ported from arcades in 2003 to Nintendo’s Gamecube, Playstation 2 and Xbox each with their own unique exclusive character – Nintendo had Link from the Legend of Zelda series, for the PS2 it was Heihachi Mishima from Tekken and for the Xbox, the comic book character Spawn. Graphics again had been massively improved, a better version of Weapon Master Mode was added and other different modes to boot. Soul Calibur 2 was both a commercial and critical success, praised for its fluid game mechanics, well balanced characters and graphics (at the time and even now, still look great) remaining one of the greatest fighters to this day.
Then came Soul Calibur 3. Released in 2005 for the Playstation 2, the game was a direct sequel to 2 and included 3 new characters – the crazy but awesome Tira, Zasalamel and Setsuka. It didn’t feature online play, like a lot of fighters did at the time and chose instead to expand on offline play modes – including a character creation mode for those interested in making their own fighters. The game wasn’t bad by any means, but felt as though it hadn’t moved on enough from its predecessor.
Soul Calibur 4 was the beginning of the end for me. Released in 2008 for both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, it strangely added in characters from the Star Wars universe along with two new characters: Hilde and Algol – in my opinion, both utterly forgettable and not worth bothering with. Why Star Wars characters Yoda, Darth Vader and Starkiller have been added is anyone’s guess. They don’t fit in with Soul Calibur at all, making me feel it had severely lost its way.
The sequel Soul Calibur 5 also featured a special guest character from another universe, Ezio Auditore da Firenze from Assassin’s Creed but fitted in a lot better with the Soul Calibur characters. The story focused on Sophitia’s son and daughter but was heavily criticised for its lacklustre content.
There was also a spin off release for the Wii, not really worth mentioning named Legends, featuring both Ivy and Siegfried in a sort of adventure style fighter. The game wasn’t received well, nor did it play well either. Sections were marred by dull combat, an uninspired story and the game felt it had done away with everything the series had built upon.
Except for some ok-ish handheld versions, we haven’t heard a single thing from Soul Calibur recently. Is it because of the decline in quality of games? The difficulty in diversifying away from the fighting genre or because beat em ups aren’t as popular as they once was?
Either way, Soul Calibur for either PS4 or Xbox One would be outstanding. The potential to have such stunning graphics, rich gameplay experiences both online and off would be overpowering for a fan. Imagine the game set a little further on in the future, fans could catch up with characters’ stories and enjoy their new looks.
But I’d be happy with something simple like a full remake of the original Soul Calibur, with added features and an expanded story, extra characters and more. Please, make it happen Namco?