The Soulcalibur franchise is one of the most beloved fighting game series of all-time. This is because of its ease of play, outlandish characters and most importantly it’s just a blast when friends are over. The most recent console outing was considered the best in the series with its online component, character creation and laundry list of combatants. If you took most of that and squeezed it down to fit on a UMD, while retaining the same level of visual polish and adding two new characters, you would essentially get Broken Destiny. This is the first time the series has appeared on a portable system and to be perfectly honest is also the best fighting game experience I have had on a handheld.
The biggest hook the series has always held was its diverse cast of characters and of course special guests over the years. Characters such as Spawn, Link and more recently Darth Vader have made their way into the roster, but this edition’s guest is probably the most sought after. Kratos from God of War fame makes his fighting game debut, partially thanks to the fact that Broken Destiny is exclusive to Sony’s PSP. Kratos plays great and looks fantastic, as well as meshing nicely with the other quirky characters found within the game. Speaking of roster all of your favorites return here for a collection of fighters that would make some console games jealous.
Old favorites such as Kilik, Ivy, Lizardman and Mitsurugi return as well as a host of the new additions from SCIV including Algol, Hilde and Amy. The roster maxes out at just fewer than thirty characters as well as giving you over a dozen slots for created characters. This is the most impressive list of combatants in a portable game in quite some time. Character creation feels nearly identical to the console iteration with plenty of items unlocked from the start and plenty more to discover as you progress through various modes in the game. The only difference now is that we don’t have to create a custom Kratos, he is available right from the start. The other new character is Dampierre, and he plays very similar to Voldo. As a whole the two new characters continue to add flavor to the universe, and make this title worth checking out for fans.
Characters are not the issue that Broken Destiny runs into; it is modes and online functionality. There is no traditional arcade/story mode included in the game. Instead you have Quick Match, which essentially places you into a one-on-one fight with a random opponent, much like the virtual arcade found in Virtua Fighter 4. Trials mode allows you to practice three different types of game including chaining attacks together, defending against incoming attacks and simply battling endless waves of enemies similar to survival mode. You can also battle wirelessly with friends if the own a copy of the game, and of course they are in the same room with you. A lack of online functionality really hurts this title if for nothing more than a missed opportunity to show off custom characters.
The most engaging mode is The Gauntlet. This basically has you running through a predetermined storyline as any character, performing specific tasks along the way. It is very akin to the Weapon Master mode found in the second game. These mini trials have you performing tasks such as defeating enemies with one type of attack, or finishing them off before your health depletes. It is perfect for portable gaming, but still does not make up for a lack of traditional arcade mode as well as online.
Lack of modes aside the combat is always most important, and transitioning a precise fighter to the PSPs dismal d-pad or analog nub can be a challenge. Thankfully Namco Bandai has done an exceptional job translating the moves, making them fairly easy to execute without much problem. Sure some of the more precise inputs will prove more challenging, and downright impossible on command at times, but for what it’s worth, things play relatively smoothly most of the time. If you are serious about fighting games I doubt you will be practicing for the next Soulcalibur tournament on your PSP anyways.
Visually the game is a showcase for what Sony’s portable machine can do. The character models are fantastic and the animations are nearly on par with the console version. Backgrounds are lush and full of variety, making each one unique and entertaining to play in. Everything moves at a picture-perfect clip too. Frame rates remain stable even during some of the flashier moves the game throws at you. Sound effects are ripped directly from the console version, complete with both English and Japanese voice track options. The music continues the tradition, and if you were lucky enough to pre-order the game, you received a compilation soundtrack from the series. This is easily one of the most impressive PSP games on the market.
Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is quite possibly the best portable fighting game I have ever played. The only thing it suffers from is its inability to differentiate itself from its console brethren. Kratos is a nice addition, but not nearly enough to make up for the lack of a solid single-player component. However, if you enjoy fighting games, and need one on the go, you will be hard pressed to find a better candidate. Broken Destiny plays great, looks beautiful and is just as much fun as you would expect from the Soulcalibur team.