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Nightmare is the main antagonist of the Soul series. He made his first appearance in Soul Edge, with his proper debut being in Soulcalibur. He is the host, wielder and living incarnation of the cursed sword, Soul Edge, the objective of most other characters in the story.
Nightmare has been portrayed in the games as a violent and ruthless creature, constantly in search of souls to restore Soul Edge. He looks down on humans, considering them “pathetic” and “foolish”, having no mercy for others, even to those who serve him, as shown in his Tales of Souls path where he considers killing his loyal servant Tira. Though his incarnation in V wants to take over the world rather than destroy it.
Nightmare has been present in one form or another due to him being an animated armor, his possessing of bodies or the power of Soul Edge keeping him alive in most games after.
The Nightmare seen in Soul Edge, Soulcalibur, Soulcalibur II, and Soulcalibur VI is Siegfried Schtauffen, possessed by the cursed sword at the end of Soul Edge.
The Nightmare appearing in Soulcalibur III, Soulcalibur III: Arcade Edition, Soulcalibur Legends, and Soulcalibur IV is Inferno possessing Siegfried’s discarded armor.
The Nightmare appearing in Soulcalibur V, Soulcalibur: Lost Swords, and Soulcalibur: Unbreakable Soul is a new being, Soul Edge possessing the body of a swordsman (according to the art book Raphael Sorel) and plotting behind the scenes under the alias “Graf Dumas” as he plans to resurrect the full power of Soul Edge.
True to his nickname, Nightmare appears as a dark figure covered in dark blue armor that covers most of his body. His prominent feature is his right arm, which has been twisted and transformed into a large three-digit claw whose flesh overlaps his entire right arm and shoulder. He is depicted with Soul Edge in his left hand, symbolizing his polarity with Siegfried. Over the years, his appearance has progressively grown more and more demonic, as influenced by the state of Soul Edge himself. During the events of Soulcalibur, he was simply a suit of armor with a giant arm and horned helmet. In Soulcalibur II, Nightmare’s armor changes design, now sporting long red hair from the back with bat wing-like ornaments on the sides replacing the horn. With a body to call his own at last, Nightmare returned to a suit similar to his original Soulcalibur variant, although slightly re-vamped, in Soulcalibur III, with the claw having stretched over his chest plate, possessing a rudimentary jaw lined with sharp teeth both on his shoulder and chest. As of Soulcalibur IV, Nightmare seems to have degraded into a body of dark energy. What was once flesh has now fully transformed into a compound of metal and bone. The mouth covering the chestplate from before has split open around his entire waist, connecting the legs and torso with a torrent of evil energy. The armor appears fused to his claw and much more metallic in appearance. No longer using Siegfried, the alternate costumes are much more severe in mutation. His alternate outfit in Soulcalibur IV displays traits similar to Night Terror.
Following the destruction of the original Nightmare, Soul Edge obtains a new host in Soulcalibur V, resulting in the rise of a new Nightmare. His design returns to a more traditional look best likened to his appearance in Soulcalibur II. He retains the long horn on his helmet from his other designs, and both the horn and parts of his arm display a menacing orange glow. Despite having a new host, he retains his fighting style from past games. Soul Edge, like Nightmare himself, has also reverted to a design more like its appearance in earlier titles, despite having a different official design for the game. In Legendary Souls, the Soulcalibur IV version of Nightmare appears as one of the opponents, albeit the dark energy and smoke being replaced with flames, resembling Inferno to an extent.
In Soulcalibur VI, Nightmare is given a redesign from his Soulcalibur appearance, not only featuring yellow trims from his later designs, but now having upward-facing fins on his helmet and his breastplate being pointed. He also now wears a cape, similar to an art render from Soulcalibur’s Art Gallery. As the game features battle damage, Nightmare’s helmet can be knocked off, revealing Siegfried’s face and shoulder-length blond hair underneath, though his eyes continue to produce the same glow.
In the spinoff Soulcalibur Legends, Nightmare’s appearance is taken from Soulcalibur III but it noticeably more demonic, with his grieves having developed talons and his right leg having taken on the form of a large jaw, similar to his right shoulder.