In 2006, Namco proved it could deliver the same high-octane fighting action on the PSP that they’re known for on the bigger consoles with their release of Tekken: Dark Resurrection. Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny attempts to give the same treatment to its other famous fighting franchise, and while the game is undoubtedly a technically impressive achievement, its lack of worthwhile play modes keep it from being nearly as memorable as Dark Resurrection.
Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is essentially a modified version of Soulcalibur IV. The same control scheme from the home console version is present here, and it’s every bit as fluid and responsive as its predecessor. Much like every other entry in the Soul series, Broken Destiny strikes a gamplay balance that allows both seasoned series veterans and button-mashing amateurs to enjoy the frenetic, weapons-based combat. Much like with Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Broken Destiny does an excellent job of emulating its bigger brother, and series faithful will find no issues with the core mechanics of the game.
While Soulcalibur IV saw Star Wars characters carelessly shoehorned in as special guest stars, Broken Destiny finds a far more fitting character to invade its roster; Kratos from the God of War series. While a warrior from ancient Greece may not quite fit in chronologically with the game, he still feels much more at home than Darth, Yoda and Starkiller ever did. With his emphasis on power moves and easy air combos, Kratos serves as a great character for beginners. For more experienced players, another new character, Dampierre, has been introduced. Longtime players of the series will love the subtlety and cleverness of Dampiere’s unique fighting style, while newer players may find him a bit daunting to control (though pretty much everyone will agree that the guy’s got one killer mustache). With nearly 30 characters total, though, pretty much everyone should be able to find a fighter who fits their style and skill level.
The big problem with Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is its lack of game modes. On the single-player side, there’s Training mode, which is just what it sounds like, Quick Play, which lets you fight a single opponent to win titles which can be used in two-player matches, Trials, which is essentially a survival mode, and the Gauntlet, an alleged story mode which challenges players to a series of brief encounters that test specific skills. While these modes cater to the handheld audience with very quick fights, the lack of a standard arcade or time attack, and no real story mode, makes the single-player experience feel very shallow. A robust suite of online modes would have gone a long way towards fleshing out the experience, but sadly, there’s one versus mode, and it only works in ad-hoc mode, meaning you’ll need a nearby friend with a PSP and a copy of the game to play against anyone. For those that fit this description, versus mode is a lot of fun, but most players won’t ever get to experience this.
Despite the dearth of game modes, one mode has made its way from the home consoles to the PSP; character creation. In fact, it’s every bit as deep, silly, and awesome as it’s ever been. There are even a few new features to the mode that make their debut here, namely the ability to rotate certain apparel to make them fit better on your fighter, and ability to choose your fighter’s pose for their character photo. They’re pretty minor features, but they essentially make up for the loss of the ability to tweak character’s physiques and the decrease in custom character save slots from 50 to 16.
Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is easily one of the best-looking games on the PSP. Obviously, it isn’t as stunning as Soulcalibur IV, but it makes great use of the PSP’s graphical capabilities to produce visuals that are on-par with later PS2 fighters. Characters are big, bright, and distinct, and move with personality and fluidity. Even up close, players’ faces and outfits are rendered extraordinarily well, showcasing the game’s high level of graphical polish. The same care and attention was paid to the game’s audio presentation. Sound effects are perfectly-timed, and nearly indistinguishable from Soulcalibur IV’s, and Broken Destiny contains all the ridiculously overwrought voice-over dialog you’ve come to expect from the series.
There’s no questioning Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny’s technical acumen; it’s a brilliant fighting engine that looks amazing, sounds great, and plays just about perfectly. It’s just a shame that there’s really no good way to play it. The inclusion of infrastructure online play, or even a legitimate single-player story mode would have made the game an absolute must-buy, but as it stands, there just aren’t enough quality game modes to keep people entertained. Namco has given us a fantastic fighting engine that looks spectacular, and has given us almost nothing to do with it. After the excellence that was Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny comes as something of a disappointment. It is, however, as solid a fighting engine as you’re likely to find in a handheld title, and a game that has me salivating over a more robust sequel.