There have been few great fighters on the PSP and when the announcement came for a SoulCalibur title on the Sony handheld there was a buzz of excitement around the game. It has arrived and features Kratos from God of War as a playable character. So, is SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny the next great fighter or is it just a broken dream? Well, it is a little of both unfortunately.
First things first, this game is beautiful; I would easily say that the game looks as good as the PlayStation 2 SoulCalibur games. The character models are absolutely amazing and the backgrounds are equally as good. Fine detail is apparent, trees sway, water flows and machinery chugs along. The game truly looks stunning and is one of the best looking on the platform. The frame rate rarely (if ever) stutters and it is all silky smooth and animated exceptionally well. The game truly is a design marvel and looks and plays as well as you could ever hope.
The fighting engine is also expertly implemented. Moves, commands and actions flow perfectly, just as you would expect them to in the SoulCalibur series. The new implementations like Soul Gauge, Soul Crushes and Critical Finishes add a further depth to the fighting that is really interesting. Defending characters lose Soul Gauge points and eventually up to three pieces of their armor. Once it is low enough you can execute a Soul Critical (finishing move) that is very effective and flashy.
There is a huge roster of characters, all unlocked from the start, featuring your favorite returning characters as well as some fresh new faces. Of course the biggest addition is Kratos, everyone’s favorite badass from the God of War series. Unlike Yoda and Darth Vader from SoulCalibur 4, Kratos fits very well in the universe, his moves and era very much matching the SoulCalibur feel. The God of War team worked with the SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny team and the results are obvious. The moves, model and animation are spot on, with the original voice actor even lending his talents to the game.
The other new character is Dampierre, a very interesting character who fights with hidden weapons and an unorthodox style. He is a favorite already with his clumsy yet effective moves and cowardly demeanor. On top of the large roster you are free to make any character you want with pre-existing items and ones you unlock. You then arm them with anyone’s weapons making a dream character, if you will.
Sounds great doesn’t it? Well it should be except there is no real game here! Unlike every other fighting game since there have been fighting games there is no arcade mode, or the perennial story mode. Yes, while the engine and characters are great, there is no original story per character or even a basic story told through an arcade progression. Instead we have a weird mix of modes, the meatiest of which, Gauntlet, is actually not very fun at all.
In Gauntlet, you engage in a series of mini-events as you complete a fairly thin story that has you helping to locate Hilde's father. These are not themed fights or objective based battles but instead quick attack or defense actions that teach many of the advanced concepts you can use in the game. There are 80 of these stages and they boil down to defend then attack, evade then attack or defend X times then attack to complete a stage. It doesn’t sound like fun and it truly isn’t. There is always a specific action needed to pass a stage and it is a really limiting use of the great engine. The only benefit to the mode is that the writing is really very humorous, both in the limited cut scenes and in the in-between stages.
The other modes are a mix of throw away and baffling. There is Training, Quick Match and ad-hoc multiplayer matches as well as Trials mode. All the others are self explanatory, but Trials is fairly interesting. There are Attack, Defense and Endless trials to choose from. The Attack mode has you getting multipliers based on how aggressively you attack over five stages. Defense is the closest to arcade mode giving multipliers based on defending then attacking effectively, this mode ends in a boss battle with Algol but is not specific to any character (no ending). Endless is just that, last as long as possible in stage after stage of battles.
These modes would all be great add-ons to a rich Story or Arcade mode but fall flat as the only modes to choose from. The developer wasted a great engine and a huge opportunity and instead of delivering a Triple A title to the PSP, it feels like a thrown together budget title with a great but underutilized engine. When it shines the game plays great, has little to no lag in local multiplayer, a great frame rate, an excellent fighting engine, but no game worth playing for an extended period.
The Final Word
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny could have been the best fighter on the PSP if the modes worth playing (Story and Arcade) were available. Multiplayer would be great as well, but if there was a meaty Story mode with unlockables this game may never have been ejected from my PSP; as it is, the game is beautiful but boring.
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Violence.