SoulCalibur guest characters: A retrospective
Guys! Guys! (Girls too, dummies) Guess what?! Remember Ezio Auditore di Firenze from that cherished series of games that you love about quietly killing people without anyone noticing you? Yeah? (Hint: It’s Assassin’s Creed.) Well, now Namco's going to let you use him to fight close quarters with a bunch of weirdos who can see you the whole time and know you're trying to kill them! Sound good? Yeah? Know how come? Soulcalibur V comes out this today! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
So yeah, obviously, I’m a little weirded out by the fact that Ezio, who I LOVE is basically just going to be hoisted from the carefully crafted gameplay of the Assassin’s Creed series and awkwardly forced into a fighting game that he only vaguely seems to belong in visually. BUT, am I going to buy the game and play the SHIT out of it? Yes. Sure I find it strange, but why not listen to that little ghost of a voice in my head, calling out to me from a time before puberty, when my balls were high as the Empire State Building, and I loved nothing more than to sit around with my action figures from all the different things I liked and repeatedly smash them into each other? Isn’t that what this is? Hell yeah it is! And why not? In fact, lets draw back the curtains of time again right now, and look back at all the guest characters this series has brought us over the years.
Soulcalibur II: Link, Spawn, and Heihachi
Remember this, guys? Remember when this game came out, and all three consoles were at least CLOSE to each other in graphical prowess, and Namco attempted to put one character in each version of the game that was specific to that console? Link was an easy choice for GCN, Heihachi was like, fine for PS2, and then XBOX got...”Ugg Boots” Spawn? Really? Whatever.
So Link was clearly the best of the three, right? He had all kinds of cheap moves, and he was easy to play as, and COME ON DUDES! IT’S LINK IN A FIGHTING GAME WITH SWORDS! Link being in Soulcalibur II was so cool that everyone had to make excuses so that they wouldn’t seem like some kind of wussy for buying the game for a system that, until then, was clearly made for wussies. And then he had arrows, the boomerang, and those bombs that were the best/worst, and everyone was all like, “Uh, yeah, they were sold out of the COOL Heihachi one, so I had to SETTLE for the Gamecube one.” What a bunch of liars. Everyone was so much of a liar that for the first time ever, the Gamecube version of a game available on all three platforms came in first place sales-wise. And also coolness-wise. And also liars-wise. Liars.
And what was the deal with Heihachi being the PS2 guy, anyway? I mean, yeah, I love Heihachi in Tekken, which I guess was only on PlayStation systems at the time, and yeah, I guess Namco makes both games, but come on, bros! Not only did you choose a dude without a weapon to be in a game FULL of weapons, but also, you didn’t give him one as a way to fit in. And also, probably most importantly, if I, like most Americans, had no idea who Heihachi was, the choice that I would be facing in choosing which version to buy would be between the instantly recognizable (AND COOL AS BLAZES) Link, the spooky glowing demon Spawn, and like, a seemingly defenseless old man with way too many muscles and shoes made out of wood. Also, his hair looks like Albert Einstein, and also Victini the Pokemon.
Soulcalibur Legends and Broken Destiny: Lloyd and Kratos
Oh? What’s that? You don’t remember these games? That’s probably because both spin-off titles, Legends for the Wii and Broken Destiny for PSP, were just fine, unremarkable games that not that many people played. But yes, true to form, they have one quest character each.
Because of the obscure nature of Soulcalibur Legends, it seems only appropriate that someone like Lloyd Irving would be the guest character. He’s the main character of Tales of Symphonia, a Namco-made RPG from YEARS before Legends was released that’s actually quite good, but, of course, no one cared about it -- at least in America. So when this game came out, a full FOUR YEARS after Symphonia, more people gave a shit about like, I don’t know, the smell of their own belly button lint than they did Lloyd’s guest appearance in this bizarre game that’s not even a fighting game. Don’t worry though, it’s strictly non-canon, so the RICH and STORIED mythology of the Soulcalibur series that fans have come to expect won’t be tarnished by this ONE SINGLE BIT of bad storytelling.
Now Kratos, on the other hand, is just a badass who everyone loves. He never stops, not even on this weird little PSP spin-off. He is so badass, in fact, that he breaks the whole game! Like they just went, “Well Kratos has all these super-impossible moves based around fantasy and magic, so let’s just give them to him!” without any regard for whether or not they would fit in with the relative tame moves of the other characters. I mean, seriously, he flies around in the air with angel wings, hurting everyone with pure energy, and he when he finally lets them down, he just tears into them with super violent attacks that are based almost exclusively around the concept of embedding weapons in abdomens and hurling bodies around. He won every time, and it was broken, but awesome. Check it.
Soulcalibur IV: Vader, Yoda, and The Apprentice
This one was the weirdest. When Soulcalibur IV came out, there were three Star Wars dudes in it. Not only was it weird that it was three different characters, all from the same thing, but that thing wasn’t even really necessarily a video game! Two of the characters, the ones that everyone ever even stopped for a SECOND to get excited about, were both like thirty years old! And not only that, just Vader and Yoda were console exclusives, so aside from definitely making the 360 look like the good guy and PS3 like the bad guy, if like me, you bought this game because “f**k-whatever-else-it-is-I-just-want-to-make-Vader-and-Yoda-fight”, you had to either pay five bucks, or just not do it and pretend like The Apprentice has anything else going for him besides reminding you of Donald Trump every time you see him.
So yes, Ezio is in Soulcalibur V, and yes, that’s weird. But it’s no weirder than anything that has paved the way for it, and also, who says weird is bad? In some cases, video games have been known to push the boundaries of their medium, and skirting the lines of intellectually valuable art. This is not one of those times, so just laugh at yourself while you enjoy it. Besides, at least it’s not as franchise cheapening as freakin’ Freddy Krueger.