If there's one thing we love about the new generation of videogames it's that, while they can push things in ways we've never seen before -- be it visually, aurally or in terms of gameplay -- they've also sparked a renewed interest in old-school genres and styles. This could explain why there's as much buzz in anticipation of Soulcalibur IV as there is for such envelope-pushing games as Spore and Prototype, though it could just be because it looks like it's going to be a kick-ass fighting game. While fans of this series would probably just be happy if the developers only upgraded the graphics and nothing more, according to Namco Bandai's Katsutoshi Sasaki, the game's director, Soulcalibur IV does more than just answer all the unanswered questions from the first three games.
Crispy Gamer: What are the big new additions to the series this time around in terms of characters, story, gameplay, etc.?
Katsutoshi Sasaki: There are several new features in the series. We've expanded our character lineup to include several new faces, including Hilde, who wields a short sword and spear, Scheherazade and Angol Fear, who are two bonus characters created specifically for the game by famous manga artists and character designers, and, of course, Star Wars icons Darth Vader and Yoda. In terms of gameplay, not only are we bringing Soulcalibur to the HD era, but now players will be able to go online for the first time in the history of the series. There's also environmental and equipment destruction, and players will be able to perform Critical Finish moves.
Crispy Gamer: Let's start with the online modes. First off, what are they and how do they work?
Sasaki: We're actually really excited to bring online gameplay to the Soulcalibur franchise for the first time. The online versus battle will allow you to battle one-on-one and give you the opportunity to climb up the worldwide leaderboards against others. You can also take your customized Soulcalibur character online as well.
Crispy Gamer: How hard was it to get them to work well?
Sasaki: We are still in the process of developing the online component, so I really can't say at the moment. There are always challenges when creating a game, regardless if it has online gameplay or not, and the Soulcalibur team is always striving for perfection.
Crispy Gamer: Will there be any arenas that will either be unavailable or only available in the online matches?
Sasaki: I'm unable to comment at this time, but please stay tuned.
Crispy Gamer: IV is the first game in the series for next-gen consoles. Besides better graphics and online options, what else did all that extra power afford you?
Sasaki: I feel the gameplay and battle system will really shine. You'll get an exhilarating and tense feeling playing the different characters, especially when they perform their Critical Finish moves.
Crispy Gamer: You're also, as you mention, adding some new characters. What do they bring to the game?
Sasaki: Adding new characters, I think, will add a new level of excitement for the player as each one has their own fighting style and motives.
Crispy Gamer: The series has a tradition of bringing in guest stars from other worlds, and this time you've got Yoda and Darth Vader from Star Wars. How did that happen?
Sasaki: With Soulcalibur II, we got a pretty favorable response when we included a guest character. In III, everyone seemed excited about the character creation mode. So for Soulcalibur IV, we're trying to do a little bit of both. Since IV is the first Soulcalibur game for the next-gen consoles, and the franchise itself is such a huge entertainment product, what's a bigger entertainment property than Star Wars?
Crispy Gamer: Vader is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and Yoda is exclusive to the Xbox 360. Is this a subtle editorial comment about how you feel about these systems or was it simply an aesthetic choice?
Sasaki: The decision was solely based on aesthetics.
Crispy Gamer: Did you get Frank Oz and James Earl Jones to do their respective voices?
Sasaki: We are using voice actors that are recommended by LucasArts.
Crispy Gamer: Who decided it would be those two and not, say Darth Maul and Mace Windu? Were Yoda and Vader your first choices?
Sasaki: For us, it was Yoda and Vader from the start. It just made the most sense.
Crispy Gamer: Does the game also feature any Star Wars-themed arenas?
Sasaki: You will definitely see stages based on Star Wars. I can tell you that the Soulcalibur team and LucasArts have worked closely together at every stage of development.
Crispy Gamer: Has there been any talk of doing a Star Wars-specific Soulcalibur, one where all the Jedi and Sith battle in places like the cantina or on Hoth?
Sasaki: That sounds like a great idea!
Crispy Gamer: Would that even be something you guys would want to do? Or are you so sick of all the Star Wars questions that you now kind of wish you'd never agreed to put Yoda and Vader in the game at all?
Sasaki: It's definitely a great idea, but we are too busy with Soulcalibur IV to even think beyond the current development. I would welcome more people to ask about additional details.
Crispy Gamer: So are there any plans to let 360 players download Darth Vader, and to let PS3 players download Yoda, later on?
Sasaki: Vader and Yoda are exclusive to their respective platforms.
Crispy Gamer: Finally, which game in the Soulcalibur series do you think Soulcalibur IV is the most like? For example, do you feel it's an evolution from III? A throwback to the unadulterated thrill of II?
Sasaki: That's a tough one because all of the games in the series have their good points. I would say that Soulcalibur IV is a good integration of II and III.