So Close That I Can Smell It

We are now less than 2 weeks from Soulcalibur 5’s official release. I feel like doing some gloating. So I’m going to go over a few predictions I made and see what has come to pass. And like Nastradamus, this is going to get really iffy, really fast.

This first one is easy: No arcade release. It was obvious from the start.

Week Two – 01/01/11 – 07/01/11

I’m getting a lot of request for the arcade version from North America, Europe etc. I never knew there is a market for that overseas.

Thanks! I’m excited there are players from so many different countries! RT @merdenomss: There are thousands of players around the globe.

No matter where you are from, if you like SC, I want to include your ideas in the game.

Every country is important. It might be hard to include every single request, but I’ll try my best.

I have to think about the business side of things as well… but as a creator I don’t want to base my decisions solely on business.”

After all, Daishi is working for Namco, a company that reported losses for the last 2 years. Their last profitable year was 2008, when Soulcalibur 4 was released. Coincidence?

But I digress. The point is that Namco needs money, and they know that the foreign market loves Soulcalibur. They also know that the foreign market doesn’t buy many arcade machines. A cynic would say that the revival of Soulcalibur comes down to pleasing shareholders, but a cynic would also have to say that no shareholder would be pleased with an arcade release.

Continue to cross your fingers and hope for an arcade release, but my nearest arcade is too far away for me to indulge in wishful thinking.

Easy, right? I give it 4 Nastradamus heads out of a possible whatever.

Next, meters. Would there be a new type of meter in Soulcalibur 5? Daishi was already hinting at it before we’d even had concept art.

Week 4 – 15/01/11 – 21/01/11

I like the gauge system. Super/Ultra Combo, Rage, Tension, Kiai, Weapon, Skill, Power, Heat. RT @Wael3rd: What is your favorite gameplay…

There are many different gauge systems. I like managing gauges while I fight.

Gauges, like the Soul Gauge? Or maybe a weapon gauge? Or maybe a combination of the two, since weapons and souls seem intertwined in Soulcalibur anyway.

There is precedence for gauge management in the Soul series: Witness the Critical Edge.

For anyone out of the loop, the Critical Edge was the Soul Blade equivalent of Tekken’s 10-hit combos, though a well placed Critical Edge was actually useful, since it was guaranteed on a normal hit, leading to easy half bar punishment on whiffed moves. The downside of a Critical Edge is that it used up 1/3rd of a character’s weapon gauge to just start it, and it could be blocked. When a character’s weapon gauge was empty, blocking weapon attacks would disarm them, and they’d be forced to finish the round without a weapon — an unarmed character took block damage, had very little reach with their attacks, and couldn’t hurt their opponent’s weapon gauge.

In fact, Soulcalibur 4’s Soul Gauge functions similar to the old weapon gauge. Both are drained by blocking, partially refill between rounds, and would probably cost a player the match if drained completely. It’s easy to imagine a synthesis of the Soul Gauge, weapon gauge, Critical Finishers, and Soul Charges, and all the gauge management options it would represent.

As predictions are like hand grenades, I feel this deserves a solid 7 Nastradamus heads out of a possible 5.

Week 5 – 22/01/11 – 28/01/11

I like Random moveset characters (Mokujin) too. @BladeHero1: return of random moveset users like Edgemaster or Olcadan

Yes, please.

Hooboy. This wasn’t even a prediction. But it’s still a thing that happened.

Pure coincidence takes precedence over actual predictions when we’re dealing with the likes of Nastradamus. Ten out of ten.

Week 6 – 29/01/11 – 04/02/11

@tetubusi I put my soul in balancing Rock but he was changed again on the PSP version… Like I said I don’t favor characters, just in case.

Speaking as a Rock player, if Daishi was doing his best to balance Rock, he was doing it for a different game. Rock suffers from nothing more than Soulcalibur 4’s basic systems not favouring his playstyle. At all. But at least he was unique and fun to play. Given the chance, would Daishi just balance the rest of the game around such a unique style?

Funnily enough, Rock is much stronger in Broken Destiny, mostly through simple damage buffs and improved options. He’s still completely out of place, though.

Another non-prediction, but something I do have a followup to. I spoke to Daishi and Utoh (his translator, and a member of Project Soul who works an the game’s AI) at NEC–which means that, yes, I’ve played Soulcalibur 5–and the topic of Rock came up, though in a roundabout way since nobody actually cares about Rock except for me.

It was more about Amy and last-minute work done on Soulcalibur 4. See, neither Rock, Amy, nor Mina were completely planned additions to the cast. Each was a gameplay experiment, and each proved a point about gimmicks. That is, if your gimmick is compounded guessing in a game where everyone else gets consistent guaranteed damage then guessing right had better pay off really well for you, and if your gimmick is crushing your opponents guard then you’d better have some good ways to keep them from just killing you. But if your gimmick is just having ridiculously strong and safe mixups then you’re going to do fine.

This is a topic I plan on elaborating on soon enough.

Five Nastradamus heads because I’m really serious about this rating system.

Week 7 – 05/02/11 – 11/02/11

“Learn from the past and create something new.” No deep meaning 🙂 RT @broccoman: have you considered a retcon for the Soul series?

I think the title “Soul Edge” suits the game more than “Soulcalibur”. Other than SC1, the story always revolves around Soul Edge.

@zeonizm SE (SB) was about Soul Edge. SC1 was about Soul Calibur. SC2 was about Evil Calibur. The rest is all about Soul Edge.

Plus everyone seems to like Soul Edge better than Soul Calibur. It’s something I was thinking from a while back.

@satoda_eida I didn’t think Soulcalibur would become a numbering sequel. Thought it would change from Soul Edge > Soulcalibur > Soulxxx etc

@koo_j Yeah, I like Soul Edge better too. It looks stronger and the design’s cooler. Especially the eye.

@Harada_TEKKEN I know the real reason why the title had to be changed. I’m just talking from a setting, story point of view.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the chief reason for Namco switching from the name Soul Edge to Soul Blade for their international releases was the infamous EDGE Games trademark. With that out of the way Namco would be free to make a new Soul Edge game.

Daisha hints at a more intriguing direction for the series, though: a new sword, which would allow a new title, a new character, and fresh motives for all the rest.

Soul Edge was about Soul Edge, the sword, Soulcalibur 1 was about Soulcalibur, the sword. They’ve been playing off each other since then, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be more ancient and powerful weapons.

Imagine: Nightmare is again rampaging through Europe, with Siegfried on his heels. However, when they battle, a stranger shows up, holding a sword neither of them have seen before. The stranger states that his goal is to not only destroy Soul Edge, but Soulcalibur as well, and he attacks them both. Siegfried and Nightmare are too busy fighting each other to deal with this new threat, and the swords know it: with their mutual destruction at hand they combine to form Night Terror, leaving Siegfried and Nightmare drained and helpless. The stranger chases after the fleeing Night Terror, leaving Siegfried and Nightmare for dead. They each recover, but now have new goals, and a new, mutual enemy.

Any variation on those themes would work. The important thing is that a new threat would break the repetitive cycle of Soul Edge being broken up, recovered, broken up, and recovered again. It’s time to end the Cold War. If Siegfried is always chasing Nightmare, why can’t someone be chasing Siegfried? If Soulcalibur wants to destroy the evil Soul Edge, why can’t another sword, or owner of the sword, want to destroy them both? It would be a more neutral position, to balance out the good and evil we already have. And how would the rest of the cast treat a new sword? How would it treat them?

Technically I could have been more wrong if I’d tried, but who’s counting?

Certainly not me, so this critical miss is getting a solid 4 Nastradamus heads out of 5. Which is 2, plus 2 for effort.

Week 10 – 26/02/11 – 04/03/11

Good idea. Not sure who’s in charge at the company but we’ll have to organize it! RT @lifeasadesigner: Namco SPONSORING Nationals in JP/US

Take a hint from Blizzard, and put some money down. It attracts the players, it makes things exciting, and it pushes the boundaries of competition.

And guess what? Maybe someone at Namco is paying attention for once. Although, this being Namco, nothing good comes without a price being payed somewhere else.

Since this is less of a prediction than it is a God-like use of my powers, I only award myself 1 Nastradamus head.

Week 15 – 02/04/11 – 08/04/11

The story of a fighting game, of the new Soulcalibur, is 100% build-up. It’s about defining the setting, and about how the setting will define the gameplay. That’s also the reason behind Street Fighter 4 and Mortal Kombat 9. The developers appeal to nostalgia by reverting all the characters, and the story, back to early days. For Street Fighter, that means Street Fighter 2, and for Mortal Kombat that means Mortal Kombats 1-3. The setting then influences the gameplay — it could be argued that the reverse is more true, but that’s chicken and egg territory.

It still seems like a relatively safe bet that Daishi will hit some sort of reset button for the new game, if only for the sake of gameplay. He wants to go back to Soulcalibur 1 and 2, and he’ll use the plot to get him there.

The only thing to debate is whether the “joke” ideas are ones that he’s throwing out, or ones that show what he’s actually considering. Those are his 2 paths.

Gaze deeply into my crystal ball. A reset button for the game’s story and setting! Who could possibly have seen that one coming, other than me? Nobody, that’s who. Which is why I get these 6 Nastradamus heads as a reward.

Week 16 – 09/04/11 – 15/04/11

One More Thing

As this was another slow week, I’m going to write about something the new Soulcalibur game will have to deal with, something that I’ve not seen anyone talk about yet.

When Soulcalibur 4 was released Street Fighter 4 was still a pipe dream, Tekken 6 was flitting about in Japanese arcades, and Marvel vs Capcom 3 wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Capcom may have brought 2d fighters back into prominence, and Tekken is as popular as ever, but if we’re going to play spot the influence — which I’m doing right now — it’s what these games have in common, and what legacy they’ll be leaving for new fighting games. That legacy is the comeback mechanic.

When Soulcalibur 4 was released this was not a standard across the genre. It’s not quite that now, but it’s moving in that direction. Mortal Kombat 9 has x-ray attacks and combo breakers and the meter used for them is built primarily by getting pummelled — you gain no meter for landing clean attacks and combos. Tatsunoko vs Capcom has Baroque Combos, Marvel vs Capcom 3 has x-factor, Street Fighter 4 has ultras, Tekken 6 has rage, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will have rage as well, Street Fighter x Tekken will probably reveal a comeback mechanic at E3. Of course, there are fighting games without comeback mechanic built in, but they’re becoming fewer and further between, and more importantly Namco (and Harada, Daishi’s boss), and the company they’re working with right now — and the acknowledged leader of the genre — Capcom have been incorporating them more fully into each game they release.

The Critical Finish system in Soulcalibur 4 almost always favoured the aggressor in a match, and when it didn’t it favoured a specific character in a match-up. It certainly wasn’t meant for comebacks.

Whatever ideas Daishi has for new systems in the next Soulcalibur game, will they lean heavily toward the losing player? If there were a single factor that would keep a definitive comeback mechanic out of the game it would be ring outs, but those are also very character, and stage, dependant, and while many losing players will start fishing for ring outs, it’s even more common for the winning player to have forced their opponent to the edge, prime position for landing their own ring outs. Is that one-hit kill mechanic enough, though?

More importantly, do Soulcalibur players want a comeback mechanic built into the next game. And what does Daishi think about them?

Well, I think we dodged as much of this rocket as we could. Minor splash damage, mostly absorbed by armour. And with CPMA-like precision we even air-controlled away from any follow-ups.

Which is pretty much the nerdiest way possible of saying that while Soulcalibur 5 did get a comeback mechanic, it’s also very mild.

Whenever a player is in their last round they get an extra Critical Gauge bar. Incentive to use some extra meter in round 2 or 3, and a little bit of help when against the ropes. There is no Ultra, no x-ray. Meter is still built primarily from being proactive or taking risks.

Let’s celebrate with this trio of Nastradamus heads.

Weeks 17 and 18 – 16/04/11 – 29/04/11

Difficult commands only limits the moves players can use but changing them suddenly may make things feel strange. The balance is hard.

This time we plan on reducing commands like A+K so moves are easier to pull off on pad.

Which pad players will identify with readily. Moves with a+k commands are very difficult to pull off using the face buttons on the default setup, so most everyone binds them to a shoulder button or uses a shoulder button in combination with a face button. And a+k moves are mostly distinct, niche moves within a character’s total moveset, making them often the rarest and least used. But at the same time, they’re often that way because the other inputs they could be using are being taken up by more common moves, so if their plan is to make things less awkward for people using the same character across multiple games, they may still run into problems.

If they really want to work on difficult commands, they need to redo all the just frames. Not because they’re all difficult, but because many of them are arbitrary, and that obfuscates important parts of the game. Ditto for guard crushes.

However, some things are a given, like Ivy getting new commands for half of her moves. You know it’s going to happen.

Yeah, I admit it, I was on fire that week. Reposting that there would be less a+k moves–turns out there’s none at all–and also smoothly segueing into that knowledge bomb about Ivy getting all of her commands changed again. Too good.

A full 5 Nastradamus heads. The perfect score.

Week 19 – 30/04/11 – 06/05/11

It does look something like that. RT @Dizzy1080: is that what namcobandai’s new countdown clock is about i mean theres a sword above the book that looks like raphaels rapier

Let’s deal with this one first. I know it’s getting late for this, but I’ll do it anyway.

The sword pictured may have a hilt unlike Cassandra or Sophitia’s but it is still shares their origins. As I said in my last post, Soulcalibur exists in a historical vacuum that allows distinct cultures to interact with each other in ways that fly in the face of both history and geography. The sisters come from an idealized Greek nation (nominally the Ottoman Empire) and draw their weapons straight from popular depictions of gladiators and ancient Greek or Roman soldiers (filtered through the artist’s imaginations).

The swords they use have the very distinct leaf-blade that is basic visual short-form for ancient Greek or Roman. What they use is a artistic exaggeration of a gladius, and the most popular design for one of the most recognizable swords in history. The blade in teaser site is clearly the same sort of leaf-blade used by Cassandra and Sophitia.

Hilde is not Greek or Roman, she’s from a made-up Germanic country called Wolfkrone. Her sword is a generic European straight-edged deal with an elaborate hilt, which is only faintly like the one seen on the teaser site (and it’s her 2p sword anyway). The blades are nothing alike.

This sword is not Hilde’s.

I admit that this is not as spectacular as it seems now, without the evidence on hand. I guess I should have saved some of these pics since the sites in question don’t exist anymore. I’m sure someone else did, maybe they’d share them?

Bottom line: I was right and everyone else was wrong.

Four Nastradamus heads.

Week 19 – 30/04/11 – 06/05/11

Going back to the beginning of this post, where I explained why the countdown sword isn’t Hilde’s, I also have to admit that it doesn’t look like it belongs to the sister’s either, even if it shares the same features. Which means that it could belong to someone related to them, either a child or a sibling (less likely, a parent). There are plenty of options there: Sophitia has 2 kids, a living mother and father, a husband who at least knows how to make swords (he made both hers and Cassandra’s), and a younger brother. Any of them has the potential to be a new character, but I’d put her brother Lucius ahead of her kids, if only because he has a name with a proper mix between consonants and vowels and could be inserted into the narrative with relative ease, much like Cassandra was.

The Alexandra family and their relationship with Soul Edge and Soul Calibur has the potential to blossom into something as melodramatic and circular as the Mishima family conflict that drives Tekken forward. If Namco was choosing a new direction for the series to move in that seems as likely an avenue as any.

Yeah, getting everything right isn’t enough sometimes. That’s when I have to make bold and decisive predictions that turn out to be uncannily accurate.

Of course, I also missed the point by inches, and this time I put myself out in the open while trying for that pixel rail. It didn’t connect, so it doesn’t even count.

Three Nastradamus heads and a “better luck next time”.

I still think their names are stupid.

Week 20 – 7/05/11 – 13/05/11

そうだね。中に入ってるんじゃ… Maybe it’s Rock inside…RT @jodace0710: that rock has the same techniques of SC2 berserker.

Make that official and Rock has squeezed his way into every Soulcalibur game (just like Mina). That’s more than Siegfried.

They’re still not going to be in Soulcalibur 5. :/

Sometimes hitting a shot is so easy that you just feel empty inside, like you didn’t even want to hit it if things were going to be that simple.

And sometimes it sucks to be right.

A perfect 10!

Week 20 – 7/05/11 – 13/05/11

木人?…なるほどね~。Mokujin? I’ll think about it. @Furzy1290: We need a “Mokujin” character! 🙂 I liked charade best but any character would be cool!

Like the custom characters and their altered move properties, the eventual problem a Charade-like character could have is that it would potentially limit how character-specific some moves could be. Olcadan would, at least, without him sprouting extra body parts when needed.

Not to say it couldn’t be done. It could; but it may end up being way more work than the developers bargained for. I’d still love to have Olcadan back, but if that means sacrificing the overall uniqueness of characters then I’d live without him.

And sometimes you miss by so much that all you can do is cut your losses, roll your eyes, and type something sarcastic in chat.

O rly?

Another perfect 10!

Week 21 – 14/05/11 – 20/05/11

ありがとー! Thanks! RT @Furzy1290: The new swords design is incredible! o_O Very nice work!

Of course the big question now is who will be using the new swords? It ain’t Siegfried, and it doesn’t have to be Nightmare — he’s been without Soul Edge ever since his remake.

While the idea of Sophitia (or maybe Tira) being the new Nightmare may have a weird sort of fan appeal, and give them a way to stick her in the game without really worrying about her age, keep in mind that it’s as I said: Nightmare has been running around without the full Soul Edge for 2 games now. He doesn’t need it to be in the game, and if you give it to someone else then he’s got a reason to go after them. You can have your Devil Sophie all you want without having to throw out 2 perfectly good (and iconic) movesets in the process.

Close enough to a prediction that I can count it as a draw. At least I get Nightmare back.

Six out of seven.

And that’s it for now. I’d give out some lottery numbers as well, but I’m keeping them to myself. When you’re as good as I am you deserve to benefit first.

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