Fighting games have never been more popular thanks to the emergence of eSports and streaming services. Once a hobby reserved for a handful of friends at the local arcade, competitions of the highest level now reach millions of viewers with the click of a button.
And while this grand revival occurs smack in the prime of Fortnite’s dominance, the fighting genre has been missing one of its most prominent and iconic voices. SoulCalibur has been taking a break since SoulCalibur V came out in 2012, a sabbatical which will soon be remedied by a much-needed comeback this year with the release of SoulCalibur VI on Oct. 19.
However, not all is peachy with the SoulCalibur series. According to Producer Motohiro Okubo in an interview with DualShockers, the series has fallen out of Bandai Namco’s good graces and could be killed off entirely if SoulCalibur VI is not a hit.
“The first thing is that the IP itself of the SoulCalibur franchise had low expectations from the company. It was actually facing a crisis of maybe disappearing. It took time for me to convince the company.”
And asking whether or not SoulCalibur VI’s performance could determine the future of the series.
“We don’t want to blackmail the users by saying that it could be the last one, but as it is, yes.”
However, Okubo claims that the team behind the game is using the threat of no tomorrow as inspiration to create the game exactly as they want.
“Since the SoulCalibur brand is facing a crisis, we have nothing to lose, so we just decided to do what we want to do.”
While dating as far back as Street Fighter II, SoulCalibur has been with gaming since the dawn of 3D polygons. The series first made an appearance as Soul Edge, or Soul Blade in North America, where it, along with the Tekken series, cemented the PlayStation as the premiere console for fighting games.
Later in 1999, SoulCalibur was released on the Dreamcast to dropped jaws everywhere, delivering the most cutting edge graphics ever seen. Few fighting games in the history of video games have ever received such universal acclaim. Seriously, SoulCalibur’s reception is the stuff of legends, and the positive reception of today’s fighting games is baby food compared to how much the Dreamcast masterpiece shook up the video game industry.
SoulCalibur II released to nearly the same level of acclaim across three platforms, the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, going to far as to include Link on the GameCube version, by far the gaming community’s preferred version.
Since then, the series has seen ups and downs. SoulCalibur III never managed to find the same fame, being released on just the PlayStation 2. SoulCalibur IV enjoyed a warm reception and a boost in popularity with mainstream gamers thanks to the inclusion of Yoda and Darth Vader, but SoulCalibur V struggled to repeat that success.
As for SoulCalibur: Lost Swords, the free-to-play experiment from 2014… yeah, we won’t go there. I hope this game’s failure isn’t the reason executives don’t see SoulCalibur in a positive light anymore.
However, it is clear that a sense of stagnation has entered the venerated series, and its developers have endured great struggles helping it stand out in a crowded market. Tekken always provides Bandai Namco with greater revenue, and it makes no sense for the company to run two competing fighting franchises. I can only hope that SoulCalibur VI beefs up its RPG story mode, something that has always helped it stand out, and provides the same jaw-dropping reaction that its Dreamast debut did back in 1999.
Otherwise… we might be seeing the end of one of gaming’s titans. At least, we’ll always have this! Never forget!