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Soulcalibur 6 comes out fighting with new ideas

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Hands-on impressions of the newest in blade-fighting series

Bandai Namco showed us progress on Soulcalibur 6 earlier this week, with some hands-on time at a publicity event in San Francisco.

You can see six of the characters at work in our gameplay capture, including the new guy, an assassin called Grøh, who wields a double-ended sword that he can separate into two weapons. Old favorites Kilik, Xianghua, Mitsurugi and Sophitia are joined by Nightmare, who carries the infamous Soul Edge sword. Soulcalibur 6 takes place in the early years of this series, and so its returning characters glow with a flush of youth.

Soulcalibur games focus on weapons, timing and movement. As you’ll see in our demo, there’s a new way to break through in combat, called Reverse Edge, which is a kind of rock-paper-scissors metagame.

It can be implemented at any time, with no limits, and brings up a short cinematic. You choose one of a number of attacks, which are countered (or not) by whatever your enemy chooses. If both players choose, say, a vertical slash, it goes to a second round. On the third round, the player who initiates the Reverse Edge delivers the damage.

I asked Bandai Namco if this mechanic can be turned off, for any purist players who would rather avoid it. A spokesperson said the game is still in development, and various options are on the table. Reverse Edge is a neat little microcosm of the game’s entire point, which is learning to anticipate opponents’ moves and tactics as they make use of a variety of blocks, attacks and special moves.

Along with a health meter, there’s also an offensive Soul Charge meter (as in previous games) in the top center of the screen that fills up during combat and can deliver dangerous Critical Edge moves. Players can also win by tossing opponents over the edge of combat pits, known as Ring Outs. There’s also a lot of parry and counterattack moves that shift the needle when executed correctly.

Players lose their armor as fights go on, but this is a purely aesthetic matter. It makes no difference to defensive ability.

Each of the warriors have their own styles, costumes, colors and stories. We didn’t learn much about how the campaign will play out, except that there will be revelations about the early days of the series. The first game in the series, Soul Edge, came out in 1995 as an arcade game, making an appearance on PlayStation 18 months later. The first game called Soulcalibur came out in 1999, also as an arcade game and for Sega Dreamcast.

Soulcalibur 6 is coming to PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One later this year.