When Star Wars’ Yoda and Darth Vader were revealed as the guest character fighters for fighting game Soulcalibur 4 in early 2008, reactions went two ways: One, this is so wizard. And, two, is a guy with an ax or a lady with an épée really going to be viable against someone with Force powers and a damn lightsaber? Wouldn’t Darth Vader just instantly Force-choke the entire Soulcalibur cast into submission? And wouldn’t the amputating/cauterizing powers of Yoda’s diminutive lightsaber simply slice through literally everyone and their metal weapons?
Even mainstream gaming sites worried, “is Star Wars ruining Soulcalibur?” citing, in part, the perceived imbalance between Jedi, Sith, and the roster of Soulcalibur 4. But many Star Wars fans underestimated the raw power of the Soulcalibur cast back in 2008. Virtually the whole roster of Soulcalibur 4 could trounce Yoda in a fight, with nary a midi-chlorian among them.
Fighting games are all about balance, but also about level playing fields. The Marvel vs. Capcom games presume that Street Fighter’s Ryu or Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine are an even match for Marvel’s ancient demon Shuma-Gorath or Infinity Gems-wielder Thanos. Similarly, NetherRealm’s DC fighting games effectively put Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Sub-Zero on even footing. Questions about imbalance are often hand-waved away with one word: magic.
Magic is an important element of the Soulcalibur universe. This is a franchise about a magical demonic sword, the Soul Edge, after all, not just humans, golems, and lizard people bashing each other with swords, axes, and nunchaku. Star Wars is likewise a movie series about space wizards intended for children.
The character Zasalamel, introduced in Soulcalibur 3 and playable in 4, is a heavy magic-user. He’s nigh immortal, and has powers that outclass Darth Vader and Yoda. Zasalamel’s critical finish move, a spectacular technique that debuted in Soulcalibur 4, sees the spellcaster open a portal to another dimension and telekinetically throw his opponent into the void. Later games gave Zasalamel the ability to stop the flow of time mid-battle, summon tangible spirits, and telekinetically slam his opponent into the ground, powers that rival his Jedi opponents. In other words, Zasalamel has the power to kick Yoda’s ass.
Series mainstay Ivy is likewise magically powered. Her Soulcalibur 4 critical finish illustrates just how deeply magic is rooted into her weapon, the snake sword known as Valentine, which splits, reforms, and can be telekinetically fired like a projectile. Ivy’s magic-infused weapon can be controlled with Jedi-like finesse, its distinct segments swirling and flying through opponents in a way that would strike fear into Vader’s heart (and a four-inch heel deep into his lower back).
That’s to say nothing of Algol, who is literally a god. The point remains: Multiple members of the Soulicalibur roster, if not all of them, have magical talents.
Magic, therefore, explains the inherent survivability of the entire Soulcalibur roster. How else would one explain otherwise normal human fighters standing right up after being struck down by Astaroth’s giant ax, or puréed by Voldo’s katars? Even after being “beheaded” by Yoshimitsu’s execution-style critical finish, Soulcalibur’s fighters keep their heads intact. Soulcalibur is not Mortal Kombat, but somehow its whole roster can take Nightmare’s giant sword through the tummy and keep on fighting. If they can withstand that, surely a lightsaber through the sternum isn’t the instant kill some would think.
That same logic can also be applied to Soulcalibur’s weapons and armor. Whatever materials the cast of Soulcalibur 4 has made its weapons out of, they are clearly lightsaber-resistant. Viewers of The Mandalorian know that there’s a material in the Star Wars universe, Beskar steel, that can deflect the white-hot heat of a lightsaber blade. But even in 2008, the people making Soulcalibur 4 were well aware that the lightsabers-versus-metal debate would ensue.
“In [the Star Wars] universe, there are two materials, Cortosis and Phrik, that have [the] power to withstand the power of [a] lightsaber,” Katsutoshi Sasaki, director on Soulcalibur 4, told Gamersyde in an interview at the time. “The idea is that the weapons and equipment from [the Soulcalibur] universe contain materials at high concentration and that’s why the lightsabers can’t cut through all the things.”
Even the Force is tempered in Soulcalibur 4. While Sasaki describes Jedis’ command of the Force as “an absolute power,” the developer limited its use with a special meter for Yoda, Darth Vader, and his apprentice. Just spitballing here, but perhaps the vast distance of time and space that Yoda and Darth Vader traveled to medieval Europe diminished their use of the Force.
Furthering the argument that the majority of Soulcalibur 4’s roster could beat Jedi are multiple tier lists — essentially a power-level ranking of the available fighters. While there is no official or unanimously agreed-upon tier list for Soulcalibur, multiple community-made lists place Yoda at the very bottom, with Vader hovering around the upper-middle/average tier. In other words, despite pre-release concerns about pint-sized Yoda trouncing his Soulcalibur 4 opponents with Attack of the Clones-style acrobatics, the little green guy simply cannot hold his own.
Polygon reached out to Lucasfilm and Bandai Namco for comment on Jedi power levels in the world of Soulcalibur, but neither company chose to comment. Probably out of respect for Yoda.