Beginner's Soul Calibur FUAQ* v1.2 or the Advanced Soul Calibur System FAQ
(*That's frequently unasked questions)
By Joe Ottoson

This FAQ is freely reproduceable to all interested parties. SC's old and
crusty, so I'm not going to lose sleep if someone wants to post it on their
site etc. The goal here is to get this out to the maximum number of people
so the quality of competition improves wherever SC's played. A HTML version
will be appearing on my site,
http://marginal_1.tripod.com/marginalsoulcalibur

Anyway, on with the guide!

One of the biggest factors separating high level players of any fighting
game from the rest of the pack isn't dedication, practice or superior
response time. Ability comes from understanding the game at its most basic
level and pushing its limits. Once you understand the limits of a game, you
can understand not only your character of choice, but the actions of your
opponent as well.

This guide is intended to generate that level of understanding in more Soul
Calibur players. (Sammo's making a Soul Calibur movie, so I'm anticipating a
massive surge of interest in the game. Provided of course that I finish it
before SC2 comes out.) It should also be helpful on some level in any
fighting game you play however, as the basic concepts are fairly universal.

First up on my tour is the Soul Calibur game system. Now before your eyes
glaze over at the prospect of reading another explanation of the guard
impacts and the throw breaks, keep reading. There's some new stuff in here
that you may not have heard of before or overlooked, and it's very useful to
your game.

Move key: Throughout the guide, the following conventions will be used
789
456
123 will correspond to the various directional movements, so 3 will
translate to the down forward position of a joystick.

G,B,A,K are the same as the buttons of the arcade version.

~ indicates a rolling switch between one button and another. Cervantes' B~2,
Maxi's K~B etc show off how this is used.

1fs means one frame shift also denoted by a "i" in front of a move like
Cervy's iGeoDaRay. This is when you hit one button, then cancel it into
another attack within one frame of the execution of the initial attack. It
sounds complicated, but the principle's not any different than successfully
pulling off a move like Cervantes' B~2.

8WR equals eight way run 8WR9_3B means that you can execute the move from
either the 3 or 9 position like Taki's assassin strike.

Technical Dealies: Soul Calibur runs at 60 frames per second. The move
timings are broken down by this same timing rate, so a move like Seung Mina'
s 3B move will come out in 15 frames for example.

Basic Attacks: You have A, B, and K.

A is the horizontal family of attacks. A attacks always hit high as a rule,
and most variations on the A family are also treated as the basic attack
base. (Ducking A's for example tend to be quick strikes that do little
damage but are useful for interrupting the opponent's high strikes with no
risk to yourself.) Use these as interrupts, continuing a stalled attack, and
for disrupting eight way run maneuvers.

B attacks are the vertical attack class. The basic B attack will hit ducking
opponents as well as standing ones. They tend to be marginally slower than
the standard A attack, but they still move very quickly, varying by only a
few frames. B attacks are the primary launching attack class that'll start a
juggle.3B is almost always a low to mid "uppercut" strike for every
character, so keep that in mind for starting up juggles and wake up games.

K attacks are the kick attack class. These run the gamut from horizontal
attacks to vertical attacks. The standing K will usually be a quick high
strike, These vary widely between each character, but 3K generally lets you
fire off a fast standing mid attack. 3K attacks are quick, they hit mid, and
recover nicely though their range tends towards the shorter range. Kicks are
the base wildcard attacks before you get into the button combination presses
(which I won't get into since they follow no apparent logic) that also offer
little distinction between vertical or horizontal.

Note the similarities within each attack class well. They'll help you pick
up the basics of a character faster, and knowing the basic properties of the
three helps you a lot in understanding how they link together. One you've
grasped that, you'll be much harder to stop, and you'll have a better
variety to your attacks.

Linking strategies. You've probably figured out the usual combos and attack
strings for your character already. (They're in the game's move list after
all.) But how are you supposed to keep going? This is where linking
strategies come into play. If you do your utilitarian AAB, you generally
will stop cold and have to start up a whole new combo, or stick out a single
attack, or worse, you'll block. The most basic way to extend your attack is
to do a quick AA or 2A, something quick and simple that's easy to do. That's
still relatively staccato feeling isn't it? The next step is to take
advantage of Soul Calibur's buffer system. You can start putting an attack
in while the animation of the last move is still finishing, this even works
with moves normally only available from the 8WR state. So for example, you
can do BBB,8WR9_3A with Cervantes just by tapping 99A or 33A while he's
still hacking downwards with that final B. Your opponent staggered by the B
tries to retaliate thinking there's an opening, and Cervy auto GI's and then
hacks the opponent down. You can even RO with that one. This buffering
strategy is very forgiving to the point that you can even buffer in Ivy's
complex Summon Suffering throw while disguising it as a combo. Very useful
in that case as Ivy's SS is the most damaging move in the game.

Throw ticks. This concept started with Street Fighter 2. A player would jump
in with a jab or short attack, the opponent would block, and while the
opponent's still in block stun, the player would land, and throw the
helpless blocking sucker. Soul Calibur's ticking game isn't as guaranteed as
the SF2 variant, but it's still useful. Throwing can be done at about any
time except while you're jumping. (Even if you're in a ducking state, a
throw kicks in automatically and stands you up for the throw instantly.) So
Xianghua can do a 3A,G+A. If the 3A hits successfully, Xiang can connect
with the throw with no problems. There are tons of variations on this
method, so play around. Some are downright devious.
One Frame Shift. I touched on this earlier, but there are more applications
for this. You can cancel a lot of attacks with a strategic press of the G
button before the attack moves into its hit frameage. This works better for
some characters than others, but you can use this for feints to get your
opponent to react to an attack they think is coming. In the case of Astaroth
this can ve a very useful technique since his slower swings allows the
opponent to perceive commitment, you cancel the attack, then immediately
switch over to a throw. It looks something like this: A~G~A catches the
hapless blocker in a throw in that event.

Recovering crouch cancel. Some attacks will put you into a crouch state
which means that you're limited to either more crouching moves, or while
standing moves until you wait and let your character fully rise. You do this
by tapping back, forward, or up just as the attack that places you into the
crouch state concludes. If you do it right, your character will do the
attack, then do a quick step in the direction indicated. Once you get that
down, you can cancel that last movement with any attack or move input so
that the recovered crouch happens instantly so you'll be able to do two 2A+B
's with Xianghua in a row with no perceptible hesitation between the two.

Note: You only need to RCC attacks from the 123 range. All others will
cancel the crouch state automatically as will 8WR.

Spirit charge unblockable. When you cancel the soul charge (A+B+K) you get a
golden glow around your character. During this period, certain normal moves
take unblockable properties. A Maxi 8WR7_1B for example will let Maxi come
in with an unblockable rib xylophone maneuver. You can still GI these
attacks, but there is a fair chaos potential introduced by these moves. Like
any good fighting game, SC's just as much a psychological game as it is a
text of reflexes and general knowledge.

Instant full crouch state (iFC)
This is explained better on www.guardimpact.com, but the basic concept is
that you can cancel a standing attack with guard hit down while in the
process of canceling, and your character will be instantly in a crouch
state. Main advantage is the fake out value that the standing cancel allows.
Done smoothly enough though, it's pretty hard to detect and adds versatility
to your game that the alternative doesn't quite allow as crouching tends ot
take a bit longer and it's easier for your opponent to read.

Defense

There's active guard and neutral guard. Neutral guard is essentially
worthless, so ignore it, and hold G to active guard when you absolutely have
to block. Your other defensive options before a hit are to try for a guard
impact, or to intercept the incoming attack with one of your own that's
faster or that allows you to evade the attack and strike at the same time.
Xianghua's 4A is an interesting example of this last idea. It is technically
considered a crouch by the game's engine, so she'll slip under high attacks
and strike an exposed opponent at the same time even though she looks like
she never ducked by the move's animation.

Parrying and repels are explained in the manual, in the Mission mode, in the
Prima Strategy guide (sigh) and the Soul Calibur web site among others.
People seem to disregard these two options frequently, and there are a few
good reasons to do so depending on the approach you're using. The advantage
to the guard impact options is that it throws your opponent off balance,
disrupts their offense, and allows you to play around with some extra mind
game options that you don't usually have. The drawback is that it's still a
reactionary, and passive way to handle an incoming attack. What makes these
work is when you start getting your opponent's rhythm down and you can GI in
anticipation rather than trying to wait for your opponent to stick one out.
(Trying to GI in reaction is a bad idea. GI'ing off educated guesses is good
in comparison.)
Once you've been hit however, your defensive options are not gone. This is
the part of the SC system that makes a massive difference in your game, and
should be given closer attention. If your opponent hits you, and pops you up
for a float, air control can save you from ring outs, extended juggles, and
those pesky air throws like Cervantes's B~2. Just hold the directional
control in the direction you'd rather fall, and you'll start to fall more in
that direction. Simple, but extremely effective. When you're stunned
(holding your gut and slowly falling forward, etc.) hold G, and press any
direction. This will allow you to recover and depending on the nature of the
stun, you'll either be able to move normally, or you will tech roll out of
harm's way ideally. You cannot recover from an earthquake stun so either
prevent moves that induce the stun from getting off, or jump.

When you're down, you have a few options. You can hit G to quick rise, or
you can hold off and roll on the ground to avoid some of the more heavy
handed attacks aimed at your prone person.

Approaches to the Game

There are many approaches to playing a game like Soul Calibur. I'll address
the other approaches I've encountered and their downfalls in the next
section, but for now I'll try to focus on the method that has helped me rack
up the wins consistently.

The first thing I learned when I started to take the game seriously was the
effectiveness of a solid, persistent attack strategy. This works especially
well with my main character, Maxi since he has a wealth of high, mid, and
low attack options from his various stances. Aggression's a good idea for
every character in the game however. The reason for this is that when you're
attacking, the opponent is inclined to block and wait for an opening. (This
is SF2, VF and Tekken conditioning at work.) If you keep linking in moves,
this will disrupt the opponent's natural rhythm, and make them afraid of
attacking at all. You have officially made that particular opponent your
b**** in that case.

The important aspect of this persistent attack strategy is to have a set
plan of attack before you enter into a match. This involves knowing the
speeds of your attacks, their hit ranges, and when to use what, but that
develops naturally with time as you play with any given character for a fair
amount of time. Go into practice mode for about an hour, set the CPU to Very
Hard, Level 8, and face off against opponents until you get a feel for these
if you haven't developed this yet.(Ultra Hard will limit your creativity and
isn't as representative of human competition as the lower setting is, so use
that the lower setting I recommend here.) Know the combos, and know when you
want to use what move. If you develop an effective rhythm and get
comfortable with a few pattern sets, it's easier to avoid panicking and
making a fatal mistake if your opponent takes your life bar down to next to
nothing.

While on the topic of rhythm, you should be aware that people will be trying
to pick up on your rhythm as well. You should vary your rhythm so that they
don't get used to a certain tempo and adjust to your flow. Look for things
that are against your opponent's instincts like doing the exact same thing
twice in a row. People naturally expect you to try something else if the
first series doesn't work, or if it connects, but does little damage and
shows little followup risk so a second, or even a third dose can confuse
them as they start trying to over think what your next move will be. Then
when you do change the move or pattern, it disrupts their own rhythm that
much more. For example, in the second tournament I participated in, I faced
another Maxi player. He wasn't bad, and was able to read a lot of the moves
I was trying against him. For the first few fights, I was semiconsciously
performing an alternating BAK, BAKK set on him. The last round, I switched
to three consecutive BAK attacks with Maxi. After every BA, he'd try to
interrupt me me anticipating the delay the fury kicks require, and he ate
that K each time. He was KO'ed because of one move done three times in a
row. Funny to me, not so entertaining to the loser.

After a time playing the game some more and hitting more competition, I
realized that the continuous attack strategy is good, but it's really just a
variation of the real game you're trying to play. The key to winning in Soul
Calibur is not in just attacking, (doing that just for the sake of attacking
breaks down once the opponent realizes that there's no way to win if they
just stand there blocking) it's in guiding your opponent and restricting
their options. Attacking limits their options to a point, but it's only a
part of the strategy if you're attacking properly.

Hit staggers, evasions, throw ticks, and moves that force a crouch state
onto your opponent are all part of the arsenal you should be bringing to
bear. The forced crouch state is especially useful because it sharply
restricts the attacking options of the opponent. They can generally only
attack low or mid while crouching or while standing, so a 1_3G will set them
staggering even further off balance. What's more, it leaves them wide open
against mids. More free stun hits, juggle launchers etc are all part of the
mayhem that FCS brings with it. After a few of those, they'll be so
frustrated or rattled that you can even get away with something like Maxi's
unblockable move. Really amazing for me given that Maxi's sole UB sucks
rocks for range, tracking and speed. Evasions have been loosely covered
above, but watch for moves that sidestep slightly, tech crouch (like
Xianghua's 4A or Astaroth's 66K) and use them in situations that you expect
a certain attack by your opponent. For example, if Cervantes is prone to try
a B~2 when his back is to the ring's edge a Maxi player will have little
trouble landing a 4B->LIB. That makes Maxi sidestep the thrust by Cervy and
crack him over the noggin with the B for good measure. Watching for your
opponent's patterns will help you know when to evade what, and you can help
that along by training your opponent to react in certain ways as well.

Throw ticks can come from multiple set ups. A basic A, blocked or not can
lead into a throw connection. Low attacks that interrupt an attack, but don'
t knock down will usually set up a throw as well. If someone's blocking in
anticipation of a combo's end, cancel the combo before the final hit and sub
in a throw. Boom! They're down! Some of Maxi's throw setups are:

A,A_B+G (Just have to have connected with the first A)
22A,A_B+G (Quick step in and you could land one of Maxi's meatier throws
since this is a spin stun)
22A,236K, 2A, B+G (dependent on what your opponent does after the 2A. Risky
but high damage.)
2A,B_A+G
BA5K, G+A_B (you'll probably have to step forward first to land the throw,
but it's pretty consistent.)
BA[K], B_A+G (The hitstun knocks your opponent back, so you'll have to step
towards them again, but the throw's easy money from there. Just don't step
in too far. You just have to be inside their weapon range.)
LI K (Dicey, but nice for variety's sake.)
B+K,B,A_B+G

The final part that everyone should focus on strongly is the concept of the
wake up game. This is based on the expectations of what an opponent will try
when rising from a prone state. If you press an opponent correctly while
they're down, juggles, throw games and other approaches are very real
problems that they'll have to contend with. My main goal is to hit the
opponent just as they are rising to get a counter result with the 8WR8_2K
sweep. This allows me to set up a float which allows me to better control
where the opponent moves in the ring. Wake up moves include:

A+B (Second hit in series hits downed.)
4A+B (First hit can connect downed, second hit can send riser into orbit or
stagger a blocker)
44A (Not an ideal ground hit, but it'll connect. Staggers risers.)
A_B+G (Good for snagging an opponent who likes to rise blocking)
K~B, K (First will hit grounded depending on angle of the prone opponent.
Second hit juggles against rising opponents.)
236K_8WR8_2B+K (Opponents has to stand up into this, but it's nasty when
timed right. Can be canceled to set up a throw.)
8WR8_2KK (Essential juggle starter)
8WR8_2B~AAB_G+A (8WR variant of the bane step. The first hit's high, second'
s mid which will force blockers to stand which sets up the throw perfectly.
If you're connecting however, just as viable to break out the final B)
3A+K (It connects against downed and can RO someone in the process of
rising.)
3B+K (Quick safe hit that hits downed.)
3B
B~2
2B+K,A (Not usually that great of an option, but if the opportunity
arises...)
BAKK (First K can hit downed. Dependant on body size and angle.)
3K (Quick, low risk, hits downed)
4B+K (Maxi's UB. Not especially reccomended.)
WLB (Hits downed, knocks down on CH, ends in RO)
WLA (Hits downed, axis staggers on CH, ends in RC)
WLK_A~K~4 (Juggles risers)
G7_8_9B (Hits risers for a re-knockdown, staggers if blocked, and ends in
RO)
8WR9_3K (On CH it knocks down and can ring out.)

Terrain awareness is the final aspect I try to keep in mind while I'm
fighting. A ring out or even just the threat of a ring out will change the
face of the fight. If you're on the ring's edge with your back to the ring,
your first threat will be straight hard hits that can knock you out of the
ring if you don't block or dodge them. The second most likely threat is a
throw attempt. Low attacks and juggle starters are the other options
available to your opponent. Knowing this, you should order your responses
accordingly.

If you have your opponent to the ring's edge, try to order your aims so that
they don't mesh with the expectations of your opponent. Try something they
won't expect, or wait for them to get nervous and try an attack before you
try to wade in. Odds are they won't be too creative on the ring's edge, and
they'll try to repeat their last unsuccessful action, or at the very least,
something similar.

Approaches I don't like so much.

Turtling. People always complain about turtling, but let's face it, in many
games it works. In Soul Calibur however, attacks deferred are attacks never
launched. You're just setting yourself up for a throw or ring out if you try
to turtle.

Machi play. Machi loosely means "wait" in Japanese. These people wait for
mistakes then punish them with powerful combos or moves. It's generally
considered a cheesy fighting style (though it was effective in VF2 among
other games). Machi play's generally too passive to gain you any advantage
in SC however.

Reactionary. This is kind of a poor Machi player. They wait for you to do
something, but they try to react to it right then instead of waiting for the
pattern to develop like a Machi player would. Since SC's a game of 1/60th's
of seconds, that means they lose. You've also abandoned any chance of
gaining initiative, and wouldn't know what to do with it even if you did.

Singularity. This player knows a small set of moves and knows exactly when
to apply them for maximum effect. The problem is that if another player
adapts to their favored tiny move set, they have nothing left to try.

Basically, being on the passive end of the spectrum's probably not going to
win you many matches in SC. Always strive to hold the initiative.


Credits:
Guardimpact.com staffers and their loose affiliates like WCMaxi, Ai Uchi and
the rest of the people who thought outside the box.

If you have any additions/amendments for this document to discuss, you can
contact me at jaottoson@fortlewis.edu or though my website,
http://marginal_1.tripod.com/marginalsoulcalibur