Scotch Corner – High Calibur

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 28th October 2018.

 

PRODUCER Motohiro Okubo is a legend in the gaming fight scene — but he admitted he faced a real battle to get SoulCalibur VI past his bosses.  Motohiro had plenty of Soul in the past and worked on Tekken 7, but feared the newer kid on the block could be the death knell for the Calibur series.  Speaking exclusively to me he admitted:

“I believe that Tekken 7 should be seen as a core fighting game and will always be seen as our eSports title.  However, when it comes to SoulCalibur VI, the company didn’t give the game approval right away.  We were facing a bit of a crisis of the brand.”

The concern was very real because of the amount of changes in the gaming world and time that had passed since SoulCalibur V, but Motohiro and his team came up with a winning recipe.  He said:

“All the team looked at the characters from the past games and analysed what parts the fans enjoyed playing.  As a result we took all the fun parts of the past games, but we wanted to show the meaning of fighting using weapons.  We also wanted a game where someone who saw it for the first time would think that looks really cool and fun – and, when they picked it up, they would be able to enjoy playing the game right away… even at a high level against skilled opponents.  That is the core idea behind the series and that is what we wanted to focus on with SoulCabliur VI.”

That decision was enough to get the green light, but Motohiro insisted they had to keep the soul of the game.  He added:

“I want to express the identity of SoulCalibur in SoulCalibur VI and, in terms of the fighting, we have tried to combine the speed that was in SoulCalibur II with the well-rounded battle system we built for SoulCalibur V.  On top of that we have created new systems like the reversal edge.  I think we have blended all of these key features together well.  We have always had a lot of single players enjoying the SoulCalibur series, so we have built two story modes.  That means this game will have the most story-focused content of any in the series.”

A big attraction in the SoulCalibur series was the range of fighters – and this time we get Geralt from the Witcher series.  But that provided its own challenges for the team.  Motohiro said:

“I am the producer on Tekken 7 and it has other characters from different games, and the companies have feedback on how they want to see their characters in the game.  What was interesting was the way Geralt stands and the position he takes during a fight.  The team had to change it a few times during development.  We are making a fighting game so it is important to show the way the body changes form and to show that with this character.  We had to make sure his weight was centred in the right place, and how he moved and the angles of his elbows and shoulders had to be in a perfect position so the next move was a smooth action.  To get the actions just right we did motion capture during the development and we asked Doug Cockle, who plays Geralt in the games, to come to Japan so we could film him.  We were also sent a lot of detailed feedback about the character’s lines from the CD Projekt Red team.  I feel we have recreated Geralt very well in the SoulCalibur universe.”

That character crossover could play a role in the future.  Motohiro added:

“We have Yoshimitsu from Tekken returning to the game, but in terms of guest characters at launch, it will only be Geralt.  However, we have announced the session pass and, if we are going to add more guest characters, they may be part of that.”

SoulCalibur VI (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)

YOU can’t beat a good fighting game — whether it is perfecting the ultimate attack on an AI character or just bossing it in a mates challenge.  But there is more than one way to beat ’em up.  Some brawlers need millisecond timing to pull off the moves — they are the tough guys of the genre.  Others are easy to pick up, but still hard to master.  SoulCalibur is definitely in the latter group.  It is back after a six-year break and stands firmly on the epic side of the fence.

The latest souls-and-swords instalment keeps the arcade feel of the past.  Fire it up and you can jump into the action, but dig a bit deeper and there is a beefy combat system to sink your teeth into.  You get a lot of bang for your buck — two main campaigns that are supported by each fighter having their own mini stories.  Libra Of Souls is the biggest campaign.  You take your custom battler on a surprisingly deep RPG journey where you unlock gear and complete challenges as well as bidding to become a better fighter.  Soul Chronicle follows a more standard-style fighting campaign but, in an interesting twist, the events occur during the same time frame as Libra Of Souls which gives you a deeper understanding of what is going on within the world.  On top of the story-driven modes, there is a fight fest on and offline.

The characters will make or break this title.  There are only 20 now, with one unlockable one along the way, but we are sure more will be added.  Fan favourites like Ivy and Taki return but the most interesting addition has to be Geralt from The Witcher series.  He feels like a perfect fit as he blends blade combat with Witcher skills for some epic combos.  There is also a character creation system where you can build almost any fighter you wish . . . check out YouTube for some interesting creations.  It is easy to pick up some combat moves but there is a depth as you grow into the game — we are thinking of the reverse edge move that lets you counter incoming attacks and the critical edge moves which launch you into a stunning cinematic sequence and dish out some major damage.

There is a stunning level of detail in the fighters and the backgrounds look pretty special, but the real thrill is when you start pulling off combo moves.  The series has always had an epic soundtrack and SoulCalibur VI gets a booming vibe with a grandiose feel that is backed up by some strong voice acting.  We were not so impressed with the bits between the campaign action.  No cut scenes, just storyboards, so expect a lot of reading . . . and we found it killed the mood after winning a huge battle.  However, that won’t stop you lapping up this fun and enjoyable fighter.  It’s a warrior wonder.

Score: 5/5

Conventional Gaming

AFTER E3, Gamescom and EGX it was time for Scotland to show how it does an expo as Resonate Total Gaming rolled into town.  But it is clear that, after the three-day fest at Glasgow’s SEC, it is already facing a bit of an identity crisis.  The gold-ribbon events lift the lid on new gaming tech, titles and developers.  Resonate went down the Vlog and YouTube route.  It is a worthy argument to have, especially with Syndicate and Terroriser headlining and a host of other internet stars backing them up.  But they missed the opportunity to tell young fans how they could become the next online stars – sessions on how to get started, what kit you need, how much it costs and when to start looking for management.  If you are going down the YouTube route, then surely that would have been a valuable addition.

Away from the digital stars it was all about eSports and Battle Royale with the likes of Fortnite, PUBG and Black Ops 4.  There were a number of competitions — Counter Strike, Rocket League or trying out your new Black Ops 4 skills in the first tournament to be held at a UK expo since the game launched.  Konami had PES 2018 – with Rangers’ Kyle Lafferty and Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard and Youssouf Mulumbu making appearances.

The Scottish indie scene was more low-key than in the past.  We saw the Tron-inspired Rebound along with developer Hyper Lumnal, who showed off co-op knight battler Big Crown Showdown.  Frantic and fun.  Axiom Soccer was a winner — it looks to ramp up the Rocket League formula with teams of tanks.  Ali Legge, from Dundee-based Earth Bound Games, said:

“After a year of development, RTG was our first open public event with Axiom Soccer so we were really excited to finally get it into the hands of the gaming community and see how it was received.  We had nothing but positive feedback.”

Gaming charity Special Effect were raising awareness of the work they do to help people with disabilities enjoy gaming.  They showed off Microsoft’s new adaptive controller with a blast of Overcooked 2.  They also had some custom tech where you control a game with your EYES.

If you like eSports and YouTubers, Resonate was a hit.  If you don’t, then . . .  If Scotland is to have an event to rival the likes of EGX, Resonate needs to attract big publishers with new titles and the faces behind the games.  That would be a huge hit with families and light the fires in the next generation of gamers.

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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