E3 came and went, and I didn't hear a damn thing about Soul Calibur VI. At this point I'm beginning to think that it's never going to happen - certainly not this generation, anyway. Bandai Namco seems content to lean on Tekken due to its popularity, leaving Soul Calibur fans wanting. I kept holding out - thinking that maybe Bandai Namco would announce something at Comic-Con due to Soul Calibur's enormous archive of fan art - but it didn't happen. Soul Calibur has always been the best (and prettiest) fighting game on every generation of consoles, but it seems like this generation may come and go without its flagship fighter. But hey, at least we have Tekken 7.
It's funny how one of the best video games in the world can spawn a series that, while maintaining incredible standards of balance and polish, eventually falls into obscurity. Soul Calibur was the first video game to get weapon-based combat right. That's a strong statement; I made it without the use of italics or words composed entirely of capital letters, but please know that I meant it to ring with significance. In the arcade it was a smash-hit, and on the Dreamcast it blew minds. No one had ever seen a game so beautiful or played a fighting game that felt so good. If you weren't playing video games in that era, I'm not sure you can truly appreciate the impact that Soul Calibur made, especially for fighting game fans.
I'm a big fighting game fan. Double Dragon, Punch-Out!!, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, ClayFighter, Battle Arena Toshinden, Tekken, Rival Schools, Super Smash Brothers... I played and loved all of them, and many more besides. I was always looking for the perfect fighting game, the one to make me feel like I was in complete control and able to flow with my on-screen avatar lucidly as a single fighter. It sounds insane, but I knew that one day fighting games would get there. Soul Calibur was the genesis of that dream coming to fruition, and it sparked a series that would continue to improve with each installment.
And with every installment more fighting game fans came to see the light. Every single Soul Calibur game has its dedicated fan-base that swears its favorite Soul Calibur is the best one. For me it's Soul Calibur IV. While I certainly hope I'm wrong, I don't think there will ever be a fighting game as good as Soul Calibur IV is. It sounds so dramatic to use the word "ineffable" to describe how that game felt as a seasoned player, but you'll just have to believe me that it's wholly appropriate. This is a game that turned complete casuals into driven competitive try-hards, and natural try-hards like myself into the kind of person who counts frames and spends hours mastering the timing of complex strings of combos, simple side-steps, defensive impacts, and space management.
There was so much to learn. Every character had an enormous list of strikes, special moves, and combos, and upon mastering that list you were finally free to truly begin your training. Years of competitive play taught me that there was no optimal way to play any character. In the competitive scene if you weren't an instinctive and gifted fighter; a true, strategic thinker; a ruthless bulldog who showed no mercy; and a patient observer all in one, then you would never be able to dance with the true masters.
And I danced, y'all. I had my time in the sun, and I connected deeply with my opponents as we clashed wits and swords. I tried to move on to Tekken, but it just wasn't the same. Combos aren't as satisfying; they don't have the swooping flow or momentum that combos have in Soul Calibur. Tekken 7 looks pretty good, but it doesn't look great. Street Fighter V was fun for a couple of months, but it's just not as deep. Soul Calibur has no equal, and Bandai Namco needs to know that its fans are dying for the return of the best fighting game series in the world. If nothing else, for God's sake, please just remaster Soul Calibur IV so we have a fighting game worth playing this generation.