Soul-Searching: Why Soul Calibur Has Lost its Meaning


Gaming wasn’t always sexy. And before the advent of modern-day graphics, more focus was put into actual gameplay and storylines. I’d like to cite the Soul series as a prime example.

In 1996, Namco released Soul Edge, a fighter that followed the journeys of ten warriors and their quest to obtain (or destroy) the legendary blade for which the game was eponymously named. There was nothing quite like it at the time: primitive, chunky 3D graphics pioneered the next generation of games to come and were exciting, new features in the world of ‘90s gaming. It had seen success in ‘95 as an arcade hit; now, as a Playstation release, players could enjoy gameplay from the comfort of their own homes.The characters were a culturally diverse group of both men and women holding seemingly believable historical backgrounds for the sixteenth century. There was a traditional “Arcade” mode, as well as the inclusion of a two-player “VS” mode, a “Survival” mode, and “Time Attack,” where the player has to kill as many enemies possible within a time constraint.

Though the game received little critical reception outside Japan, its sequel, Soul Calibur (often mistaken as the series’ first installment), enjoyed favorable worldwide acclaim. Released in 1998 as a feature game to promote Sega Dreamcast sales, Soul Calibur featured the return of the core original cast, as well as the addition of nine new warriors. Gameplay saw the addition of of a “Missions” mode, where players could complete tasks or challenges to travel across the globe. Points earned in this mode allowed the player to purchase artwork, costumes, and other in-game features that enhanced the overall experience. Namco had birthed a fruitful series. Fans everywhere reveled in the modernistic “eight-way-run” fighting experience, a feature Soul Calibur was first in its genre to have.

Namco followed up with Soul Calibur II in 2001, which enjoyed similar success. In 2005, Soul Calibur III hit the market — not under Namco, but the new company Project Soul, an inner group of game designers from Namco. I still to this day am unsure of why they chose to release it only for one console. It proved to be a grave mistake, as the sequel went mostly unheard of, and the graphics were severely disappointing for four years of waiting (considering game technology had vastly improved in said time period). Some long beloved features were omitted, and story modes lacked the meaning that they once had. Since then, Project Soul has released two main sequels, Soul Calibur IV and V respectively (and a handful of innocuous spinoffs). With each release came less features, lackluster gameplay, and most disappointingly of all … the objectification of women. As bad as the outfits were becoming in the actual game, additional online anachronistic equipment exacerbated the issue.


When one visits the official Facebook page of Soul Calibur, he or she is immediately bombarded with character renders (only female) purposely posed in a sexual manner, clad in some sort of ridiculous seasonal wear that emphasizes the excessively disproportionate figures that these women boast. There has been no talk of furthering the series — instead, time and money is put into designing ridiculous content for players to download.

Soul Calibur III and its successors never should have been released. The series’ once esteemed prestige has fallen. “Soul Calibur” does not conjure the image of a powerful, enthralling fighter any longer. Plot details were thrown out the window carelessly, as well as any other features that once defined the series. Soul Calibur V was perhaps the most disappointing of all: upon its release, head developer Daishi Odashima stated that the story mode was only “twenty-five percent” of what they had written, but for time reasons, they chucked the rest aside. There were and have been no plans to release the rest of the content. “Story mode” is only limited to the two main protagonists. All other characters get no backstory and are only playable through Arcade or Versus. There are no special endings, either (the only thing IV managed to do correctly). And character movesets have been horribly simplified, complete with a guard impact change that’s just unnecessarily tedious.

The sad truth is that with the emergence of modern, hyper-realistic graphics, the age-old catchphrase of “sex sells” is becoming more and more of a universal truth. It is clear that the producers behind Project Soul are targeting an audience of young males, and consequently are putting more effort into designing their characters to be voluptuous than the actual gameplay itself. It’s unfortunate that technological advances that should, in theory, improve video games tend to unearth sexism and take a step backward in portraying strong female characters who aren’t entirely dependent on their sexuality to succeed.

The series is all but dead to me, but more importantly it stands as a representation of the entire gaming industry today. Gameplay should not take a backseat to sex. And a fighting game should not be dependent upon downloadable costumes for its main source of revenue. When a franchise’s page has resorted to sexually demeaning propaganda to promote their sales, it’s a red flag. Namco needs to step up their game — quite literally. They have the tools to create an amazing in-game experience, but the question remains: will they put them to use?

  • I have to disagree with this article to a massive degree, especially because I am looking at it from a fighting games standpoint.

    Soul Calibur is not as successful because the Fighting Games Community do not see it as much of a competent fighter; they are more focused upon the story based aspects of the game, which is why “Soul Calibur: Lost Swords” which debuted earlier this year has no multiplayer aspects, only single player.

    The biggest flaw to the game came after Soul Calibur II where they did not keep the fast and fluid game play that the Soul Calibur series was known for… That and people are just not wanting to accept the changes made to a game that they love. A lot of people were angry with the way that Soul Calibur V handled because it included EX moves and Super moves which is similar to how Street Fighter and the King of Fighters (Even TEKKEN 7 is getting mixed reviews without being released because Super Moves are not being included). Also, the game was not really too simplified in its movesets. I play Alpha Patroklos who plays in a similar manner to Setsuka from Soul Calibur IV. A lot of his moves require “Just” timing, in me pushing the button the the EXACT frame in order to get maximum damage, the most favorable hit state, or to allow the full move to come out. Also, lets talk about the guard impact system. in fact, “Just Guard” did take the place of guard impact and still achieved the same result. It allowed you to have some time to punish an opponent dependent on the move, and it allowed you to be punished if you used it incorrectly. It was not tedious because you had to be skilled to use it, and I am one of the only persons I have found to be able to use it on a consistent basis to punish certain things my opponent does (I have some YouTube videos of me playing matches).

    Your whole crusade on sexuality is irrelevant because we can look at the Dead or Alive fighting game series which has a strong fan base and has made it a point to release a lot of costumes to boost revenue. You say that fighting games should not have to resort to costume sales in order to be their primary income, but I have to disagree with this as someone who plays fighting games as their main games. Allow me to explain.

    Fighting games are a very niche genre because they are not like a lot of the other games. It is 1-on-1 usually and is entirely skilled based; you can and WILL get crushed in a fighting game brutally if you do not know what you are doing. It also can take hundreds of hours in training mode (Dependent on the game) to really be able to get down even the basic mechanics. Unlike a lot of games, it is nearly impossible to pick up and play some fighters (While we can argue this with 3D games, a lot of 2D games require you to cancel specific motion commands into other ones. While my friend is able to play 3D games because of their input, they cannot play 2D because they are unable to properly perform motions). Even Street Fighter, arguably the biggest of all fighters, has released a lot of costume packs recently for Ultra Street Fighter IV and are in the process of releasing an animal themed one in order to boost its revenue. It is not the biggest genre out there, so yeah, we need to make costumes.

    Also, the reason why a lot of the women are sexified is probably because the vast majority of the fighting games community is male. Sure, you have some prominent known women like SherryJenix or Burnyourbra, but even fewer have even been able to get to the pro level (Like Kayane). Therefore, they will do whatever is necessary to sell their game in an already low but competitive gaming demographic.

    I disagree with this article.

  • Very well-written article, Ellie!

  • Krystal Carr

    Yay! I’m happy to have another fighting games lover on the team! 🙂

    Yeah, I’m pretty big into fighting games and Soul Calibur has always been that one game I’d like to pass on. I’m not really sure why but a lot of it has just never appealed to me. Including weapons, characters, play-style, boards, meh.. everything just seemed to not be as interesting as let’s say MK, Street Fighter or even Virtua Fighter. It’s always been seen as a weak fighter, especially with 4. The gameplay really lost a lot of it’s highlight mechanics with SC 2 and from there, it’s hasn’t been able to ever hold the interest that it once sparked with it’s last and good game, Soul Calibur 1.

    Regarding the over sexualization of female characters, I feel like this is always going to be an issue that we’ll come across. From Skullgirls, to Dead or Alive (my biggest annoyance was in that beach game) and “mostly” every other fighter, the ladies will always look to be the center part of attention. Though I do get my fix with sexy hunky men such as Miguel from Tekken, Ken in Street Fighter and even Jax for Mortal Kombat… the women do get more of the sexier treatment. I don’t like to say it but these game are continually trying to appeal to it’s mostly male demographic. And that’s not to say that we aren’t or shouldn’t be interested, but that’s mostly where the overly sexiness comes from. Soul Calibur really does need to step up in the ranks of actual game content if they want to be taken more seriously. It was a good series but has just been kinda taking a slow plunge from there on.

    I too am ready to see a change in how every female character in these games appears to be. Why do we all have to have the boobies bouncing around? Why do we always have to show some part of the skin? Let’s be realistic. The only characters that don’t get this treatment are little kid characters, or fem knights. Other than that it seems to be a free for all. Though it’s overly sexualized characters are not the only reason that this game is not good.

    Great article!

  • StarPhox

    As a long time competitive Calibur player I could not disagree with this article more. I have been with the series since the very first time I dropped quarters into a soul edge arcade machine at my local lazer tag arena and have been competing in national tournaments sense Soul Calibur 2 (as there were no Soul Calibur 1 tournaments because the game was an imbalanced mess from a competitive stand point and the internet and online play hadn’t yet given us the tools to form a scene. If you are critiquing a fighting game on the merits of it’s story than it shows a deep misunderstanding of what the fighting game genre is to it’s most dedicated fans. The soul series has without doubt become deeper, better balanced (with the exception of 3 if you don’t count the arcade and JP release), more nuanced, and over all a better game with every iteration. As far as your comments about over sexualization of the women has it ever occurred to you that some women like to play as sexy dangerous warriors who lay to waste every person who steps in their path? Is there no such thing as a female power fantasy? Also you absolutely can not deny that Voldo and Rock are every bit as sexually suggestive as Ivy and Sophitia. Your claims that this game is an inferior product to it’s predecessor because they spent more money on making the girls sexier is pretty obviously untrue. An ugly character costs exactly as much as a beautiful character does to render. The reason you feel like the series has betrayed you is because you are a casual player who prefers that money be spent on story over mechanics the soul team is appealing to the hardcore players (like me) who realize that all of the story in the entire world won’t make a mechanically clunky fighter a good one. To me this is a very good sign that they are heading in the right direction.

  • In response to StarPhox:

    You’re arguing from the perspective of a competitive gamer — and believe it or not, not all those who enjoy games (even fighters) play solely for the mechanics and the desire to win. Believe it or not, I too, played in tournaments. But unlike the population you claim to speak for, I always enjoyed Soul Calibur in particular for the storylines and other modes that the game featured.
    As for the gameplay being better with each new game, I still strongly disagree with that. There are certain characters whose movesets have been horribly simplified. Again, maybe this is a plus for some, but as my opinion stands, I saw it as a negative.
    I love how you’re trying to speak for women. As far as I’m concerned, few women harbor this “sexualized badass” character fantasy. Yes, some women do, and that’s fine. But the majority of us feel we’re often misrepresented because of the objectification. And Rock and Voldo may be sexualized as well, but I believe they are incomparable to the females of the series … especially considering Project Soul seldom releases outfits for male characters, and when they do, the outfits aren’t advertised all over their Facebook page.
    Say and feel what you may, but calling my opinion “untrue” isn’t valid, as it’s an opinion and therefore is subjective. And the last thing I’d like to say is that you don’t have to be competitive to be considered a “hardcore” player/fan, and you don’t necessarily have to be a storyline lover to be a “casual” one.

  • James

    There have been several issues raised below about playability and the difference between “hardcore” and “casual” gamers; it’s a spurious comparison. The simple fact is that it is far harder to come up with a cool female character than a sexy one. That’s not to say that there weren’t highlights in the later games – Hilde was a character I thought was quite cool, had cool moves, but then you’d get the weird mechanic of fighting in your pants by the third round.

    I think the core of the article is pretty bang on too; for playing with a buddy SC2 was as good as it got – fluid, intuitive and fun if not always balanced it was one hell of a game. I don’t think anything the author wrote goes against what people want: cool characters, not just dumbly sexy ones, cool moves and intuitive move sets and lots of fun. Once you get into nearly naked women attacking each other, it titillates briefly and then just becomes dull, dull, dull.

  • jpijijijijijioiijiojoijio

    who gives a shit? do smth more meaningful than writing this garbage, ty

  • jpijijijijijioiijiojoijio

    fuck feminism and feminists, ty

  • jpijijijijijioiijiojoijio

    being offended by every little shit that nobody cares about

  • jimShmolt

    The soul series has definitely gone down hill since 2. The game play
    mechanics are getting worse, and the selection of game modes and overall
    content is also lacking. I love the idea of an in-depth character
    creation tool, but not when the game comes with six pieces of upper body
    armor and 100 different thongs, bras, and thigh highs. ME- “yes, I’ve
    finally reached soul level 50!” SCV- “Congratulations, you’ve unlocked a
    new pair of nylon panty-hose!” It’s complete garbage. How about instead
    of new downloadable anal beads we get a free content update from time
    to time, like a new stage to battle in, or a new fighting style for CAS.
    And to jpijijijijijijijijij, grow up, 13 year old pre-puberty idiots
    have no place on forums or message boards.