Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. Some of these are forgotten gems, some you will guess straight away. Others cover more than one game in a series, or compare two similar games.
This week we continue with Chris presenting for us a fighting game with famously fantastic solo modes.
#36. Soulcalibur, by Chris Hepburn
Soulcalibur is one of the fighters that revolutionized 3D fighting games. With an emphasis on creative characters and weapon-based combat, the title was a fresh take to the genre when it released in arcades in December 1995 under the name Soul Edge. The game was unlike many others of its ilk that focused on hand-to-hand combat with an emphasis on special projectile or ranged attacks, akin to Street Fighter. The sequel titled Soulcalibur, which released in arcades and later on Dreamcast, helped to cement the new franchise into the stage of history for fighting games. With the newly redone 8-way run and faster combat, the series becomes all the more notable, leading to one of the best-known game franchises.
Fighting games are known to be mainly multiplayer experience aside from arcade and practice modes, but Soulcalibur always kept a place for the single-player experience, even with the original Soul Edge on the PlayStation. The Edge Master mode had gamers play through individual characters’ stories, acquiring new weapons in pursuit of their ultimate goal. In Soulcalibur 3, the special single-player mode was revolutionized with the addition of player-created fighters with their own fighting styles (which has been largely absent since). The game has a conquest mode that focused on a user-generated fighter in their pursuit to attain the all-powerful evil sword Soul Edge in a tactical movement, area of control mode while pitting the player against the main roster, unlockable bonus characters, and randomly generated fighters. Soulcalibur 5 introduced a more cinematic and story-driven mode to mixed reviews due to the still frame drawing style. Every entry of the franchise has modes tailored for the single-player experience, adding to the universe, story, and characters.
The combat in the Soulcalibur has always been easy for new players to grasp but still holds a lot of depth. The games are some of the best-balanced fighters with a lot coming down to skill and the ability to use each character. One of the reasons that the game is welcoming to new players is that it does not focus on quarter-circle or complex movement to initiate special attacks. The title works like Tekken with an attack button and a direction for many various attacks, except Soulcalibur has a bigger emphasis on dual button pressing, due to the three attack buttons as opposed to Tekken’s four or Street Fighter’s six. With the simple combat, players can find themselves losing hours just going through arcade or other modes, playing around with the many varied characters.
Arenas are a staple for fighting games, typically for aesthetic purposes as opposed to affecting gameplay, though Soulcalibur is an exception. Many areas are oddly shaped, requiring more spatial awareness. Some stages even have breakable walls that fall to extend the arena. Ring outs play a significant role in the game as a hard hit can knock someone off and lose the round.
One of the most memorable aspects of the Soulcalibur franchise is the introduction of guest characters starting in Soulcalibur 2, with each console having a dedicated fighter from other media: GameCube has Link from The Legend Of Zelda, PlayStation has Heihachi Mishima from Tekken, and Xbox has Spawn from Todd McFarlane’s comic series. One long-running guest character is Yoshimitsu from the Tekken series, also owned by Bandai Namco. The guest characters always add extra flair to the games, while also allowing fans to speculate on upcoming characters for the series. The upcoming entry Soulcalibur VI features the famed Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher. Past titles included Ezio from Assassin’s Creed, Yoda and Darth Vader from the Star Wars, and Kratos from God of War. Guest characters are not always to fans’ likings but they do add a sense of wonder and flair for many.
The series is known for having fun and unconventional characters, such as the creepy Voldo or the laughable Dampierre. The games have also had many imitation characters such as Edge Master or Abyss who can use every weapon in the game but is randomly chosen. These characters may not be a competitive choice due to the randomness but they add a sense of flavour to the game which gives players more to explore and enjoy. The more normal roster comes with plenty of styles and uniqueness: Siegfried and Nightmare are two large Claymore wielding warriors that play completely differently; Astoroth is the giant golem that hits hard with a giant axe and is grapple heavy, but still plays differently than Rock, the wielder of a giant mace he is cloned from; the flamboyant Tira dances with a blade hula hoop to move in odd ways and cover both mid and short range; and the famous Yoshimitsu is the samurai who can hurt himself and heal, and can enter weird poses, such as using his swords as a pogo stick or spinning one above his head to hover in mid-air. All of these unique characters play very different but feel balanced, adding to a lot of different playstyles and weird match-ups.
Custom characters take the fighting style of one main roster characters of the player’s choice in most cases and allow for characters of very different sizes and looks to wield outlandish weapons. Even the main roster can be customized to look different yet still keep their face and body type. New weapons can often be unlocked to add a whole new look to the character, and they usually have a joke version of their weapon. One very notable aspect is that in Soulcalibur 4 characters receive special states or effects based on the equipment or weapons chosen, so players can make a very tanky character or a very high damage character with lower health. In Soulcalibur 3, custom fighters have their own set of fighting styles to select from and are not granted the main rosters, adding to the size of the playable characters due to them all functioning differently. With many slots for new fighters, players can create their own roster, or new teams entirely, coming up with their own backstories and allowing them to embrace their inner child.
Soulcalibur has been a mainstay for many with the unique characters and lore. The balance has been fine-tuned to give everyone a similar game experience yet play quite different. Team Soul has always shown love to the single-player aspects and continues to add much for players to do and experience outside of a competitive scene, allowing for more people to invest time into the series and enjoy themselves outside of the multiplayer. Soulcalibur VI is right around the corner and looks to offer a lot for fans to partake in. A newly refined story mode, and a mode just for a created character to journey through, in addition to a few new fighters, and the introduction of the reversal edge mechanic the game is looking to win over the hearts of many new and old fans to the series.
For other games to check out, DC’s Injustice and its sequel—as well as the ninth and tenth Mortal Kombat offerings from the same developers—all boast well-produced single player stories. Readers can doubtless expect to hear of the next fighting game from NetherRealm in the coming year, perhaps as a cross-generation title.
Several side-scrolling action games also make an effort to include fighting-game-like mechanics in their combat. The Guacamelee! series combines Metroid-inspired adventure with fighting game moves, and the upcoming Indivisible from Lab Zero Games takes much of the developer’s experience with fighting game mechanics in Skullgirls and wraps it in an epic RPG. The Mortal Kombat series even tried this formula once, although Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero remains a divisive title for the fans.
Thanks for joining us for a look at one of the finest series in the fighting game genre. Leave a comment with your own favourite single player fighting modes, or your impressions of the Soulcalibur games, and we will join you next week for the predecessor to the biggest game of 2018.