Back when I lived in New Orleans, my friends and I would get together on Friday nights and play video games until the wee hours. Eighty percent of the time the evenings were dominated by one game: Soul Calibur 2. My friends would practice during the week, becoming proficient enough with certain characters to come back on the weekend and kick some serious ass. When I heard I would be covering Soul Calibur IV, I was looking forward to checking out the game, but the reality of the situation turned out to be even more exciting: I would be interviewing the series' director, Katsutoshi Sasaki.
I started off asking him some general questions about the new title and discovered that like every new release in the franchise that we could expect to see new characters and new weapons. I asked how many we might see and he grinned and said a few words in Japanese and his translator told me "several" but that they weren't saying an exact number at the moment. The game will be appearing on PS3 and Xbox 360 and the 360 version will have various achievements although they couldn't tell me at the time how many or what for. There will also be downloadable content in the form of new levels and costumes for both platforms. As we've heard before the game will be online compatible, allowing players to compete side by side or over their connection. Revamped gameplay and new moves will also add some more freshness to the franchise.
Once I was done with the regular questions, I decided to get a bit more personal. I asked him who his favorite character in the series was and he said Taki, followed swiftly by Lizard Man. We then talked about popular characters with fans and it seems that Sophitia is the most popular character across all territories. Nightmare and Zazamel are probably the most popular in the States while the Japanese tend more towards female characters. This led me to ask him a bit about his seeming attraction to strong female characters. Asking this actually revealed quite an interesting story about Soul Calibur's character design process. The character's look and feel are actually inspired by the weapon. The weapons are thought up first and then they design a character that they feel suits that particular weapon. An interesting process to be sure and one I never would have thought of. He also revealed that much like traditional animation, a set of designers is assigned a character that they work on exclusively with very little cross over.
Finally we chatted a bit about story. In my opinion, Soul Calibur has a pretty deep storyline for a fighting game, especially compared to other games in the genre. Mr. Sasaki felt that because the games is weapon based, that the story was very important to help add depth to the characters who could otherwise seem one dimensional. In addition, the game was designed to appeal to two types of gamers. Those who want a strong fighting game will find a rich battle system, and can play the vs. modes on their own merits, while those who wish to dig a little deeper will find a solid story and interesting characters. More games should take this approach and they might find themselves appealing to a wider audience and selling more copies.
After that my time was up and I thanked Mr. Sasaki for his time and for making the game that has kept my friends and I occupied and threating each others lives for years. I haven't been able to do that since Hurricane Katrina chased me out of New Orleans and I look forward to the release of Soul Calibur VI so I can put on that headset and use Ivy to lay the smackdown while I jeer at them from miles away. It'll be just like old times.