Take the Soul with You
As far as fighting franchises go, SoulCalibur is one of my all-time favorites. From its over-the-top character designs to its time and strategy-based battle system, SoulCalibur has always had a uniqueness about it that set it apart from the Street Fighters and Tekkens of the universe. However, much like other fighters, SoulCalibur was a home console fighter, which seemed fitting considering the grandiosity of the series. However, SoulCalibur has arrived on the PSP in the form of SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny, and while a little bit of the SoulCalibur magic seems to have been sacrificed to bring the SoulCalibur series to the PSP, a lot has been retained, and if you are a fan of the series, you won’t be disappointed!
Although I wasn’t expecting a full roster for SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny, I was pleasantly surprised by how many characters made their way into the portable iteration. Series mainstays like Siegfried, Taki, Voldo, and Nightmare are of course present, but relative newcomers like Hilde and Algol have also been included in the roster. All told, there are 24 characters in the roster, including a new SoulCalibur character and a famous cameo fighter.
The SoulCalibur series has had some big names before for its character cameos, like Link and Darth Vader, but this newest iteration is including one of the most compelling characters from a modern franchise: Kratos of God of War fame. As a SoulCalibur cameo character, Kratos gets the full SoulCalibur treatment, complete with several different notable Blades of Chaos he can use. These include the powerful Ghosts of Sparta and the grandiose Titans. Interestingly, the game classifies Kratos as an “easy” character, and recommends him for beginner users. While he does have some very powerful standard attacks, advanced players will find a lot of advanced techniques in Kratos’ roster repertoire as well.
In addition to Kratos, there is another new character in SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny – Dampierre. This original character is classified as having “normal” difficulty and is characterized as a con artist with plenty of personality (and an amazing moustache). This new character has a larger move set than Kratos, and he also has more advanced techniques. Although his fighting style is similar to Taki’s, he has plenty of interesting attacks, including numerous “fake out” moves where Dampierre will act like he is hiding or hurt after a mid-range blow but then launches into a surprise attack. Dampierre is definitely a character with lots of personality and is a welcome addition to the SoulCalibur family, especially for established players.
As far as the battle system is concerned, the fighting in SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is remarkably similar to the combat in previous entries. As someone who played SoulCalibur II-IV on PlayStation systems, I was amazed at how well the controls translated from the PlayStation consoles to the PSP. Many characters, including Raphael and Xianghua have moves sets that include some of their biggest signature moves from past iterations with the exact same button mapping as the previous PlayStation versions. This is definitely an advantage for more experienced players, and this will reduce the amount of time you may need to spend in the game’s training mode in order to get full command of each character’s moves set.
However, even though there are plenty of familiar features, one thing is noticeably missing from SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny: a story mode. The game does include a single-player mode known as “The Gauntlet”, but this mode’s aim seems to be about teaching you basic fighting techniques rather than delivering a story. Instead of fighting rounds with enemies, you will have a certain fighting condition (like striking after an enemy blocks or dodging at a certain time), and once the objective is complete you move on to a new round. You don’t even have to beat enemies. Just perform the requested action and move on. Unfortunately, this mode feels more like an extended tutorial than a proper single-player fighting offering, and I was very disappointed in the lack of story mode. Sure, we’ve all heard the Siegfried/Nightmare storyline before (which forms the basis of SoulCalibur lore), but it would have been nice to include, especially for new players.
Even though there is no story mode, there is a very engaging Trial mode. This takes the form of the tower-based modes in SoulCalibur IV, and it allows you to take your character of choice through different stages based on attack power, defense, or stamina. This has some surprising replay value, and the stamina-based trial actually features an endless wave of randomly generated enemies, which lends it most of its replay value. Trying to up your level of defeated enemies is certainly a challenge worth undertaking and gives hardcore players something to strive for.
One of the most recent defining features of the SoulCalibur series has been its customization. The series has always allowed fans to choose different weapons for their favorite characters (as well as use different power-ups), but the customization feature was never fully realized until last year’s SoulCalibur IV, which finally included the ability to create custom characters. This full customizability is incorporated very nicely into SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny, and while there isn’t as much depth in this customization mode as there was in the console version, there is still quite a bit to enjoy. Characters can be made with varying body structures, plenty of clothing and accessory choices, and can also be given several voices. The character creation mode was quite snappy overall, and although the preview view of characters drags a bit if you don’t install the game, the creation aspects are quite satisfying overall.
As far as multiplayer modes go, SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny unfortunately only includes an ad-hoc mode. While this is great if you have a lot of friends who play SoulCalibur, we’ve seen plenty of handheld games, particularly in the sports and shooter genres that use the PSPs hardware to handle multiplayer, and it is disappointing that most PSP fighters do not include online play. Still, if you are a master of the ad-hoc party, SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny’s multiplayer mode will let you battle your friends in the same way as the console versions, which is nice.
Technically, SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is quite sound. I am continuously impressed with the PSP’s graphics capability, and SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is no exception. Character models more than retain the look of their console big brother, and I would confidently say that SoulCalibur: Broken Legends is on par visuals-wise with SoulCalibur III. Characters have a tremendous amount of detail, and the fighting environments are just as large as you remember them to be. Framerate during fighting is also very consistent, which is actually an improvement over the sporadically-choppy SoulCalibur IV.
Audio is also on-par with the console versions of the franchise. Several tunes have been lifted from previous entries (as you might expect), but there are some original compositions that sound great as well. And for those who were wondering, the over-zealous narrator is back as well, doing the ultra-dramatic “in a world where…” and “two souls, entangled in fear…” pre-fight narrations to pitch-perfection. As for the voiceovers, the game allows you to pick between Japanese and English for your character’s speech. Both of these are very good options, as the voice acting is top-notch either way.
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is a great handheld fighter. It features plenty of characters and a battle system that is the spitting image of its console big brothers. However, I was quite saddened by the lack of story mode. Although the SoulCalibur story has been told plenty of times over, having it in portable form would have been nice, especially for those who might be picking up SoulCalibur for the first time. Still, despite this shortcoming, SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny manages to be just as fun as its console counterparts. None of the elements of the battle system, look, or feel have been sacrificed for the transition to handhelds, which makes SoulCalibur: Broken Legends an easy recommendation for fans of the franchise. If you’ve never played a SoulCalibur game before, Broken Legends is also a good recommendation, as its tutorial-like single-player mode teaches the basics as well as advanced techniques quite masterfully. Plus, the game features Kratos as a character cameo… how could you go wrong with that?!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Character detail and animation are spot-on. 3D battle stages feel just as expansive as they did on the console version. 4.1 Control
Controls are surprisingly tight on the PSP, and moves feel the same as they did on PS2/PS3 iterations of the franchise. 4.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Both English and Japanese voice tracks sound great, and the score is up to the standards of previous SoulCalibur games. 3.5 Play Value
Unfortunately, the main single-player mode feels like an extended tutorial, and the multiplayer options are limited to ad-hoc. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for customization, and the trials and versus modes are always fun. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.