Soul Calibur. We'll just let that word hang there for a few moments. Those chills you're getting? That's because you know that name resonates with awesome. It's alright to admit it, everybody has a soft spot in their hearts for the Soul Calibur series, which has provided some of the most wholesome and good-natured weapons-based fighting-game carnage that we've ever seen. So, we know what you're thinking - why not bring the series that started in the arcade and made its way onto home consoles, to the PSP? Actually, you've probably already come up with several reasons for that, but they'd be wrong, as Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny is actually quite good. How good? Let's find out!
As you've most likely been able to surmise from the game's screenshots, Broken Destiny is quite a looker. It continues the series' tradition of having some pretty excellent graphics, and considering it's on the PSP, the game pulls off some very impressive character models, backgrounds and lighting. The sound too is classic Soul Calibur fare, with cheesy but well-acted voice-overs and some epic orchestral-sounding tracks.
Broken Destiny, more or less, is essentially a portable incarnation of Soul Calibur IV, albeit without any of the Star Wars characters that its big brother had, but bringing in Kratos from God of War to make up the difference, as well as a new character, the foppish Dampierre. It's got all of the major characters from that game, Ivy and her massive rack included, but it's not considered canon in the larger Soul Calibur universe. This is hardly surprising given its strange take on the main single-player mode. There is no 'Arcade' or 'Story' mode present in this game, so if you were planning on choosing a character, then battling it out with a series of stronger opponents to watch a cool character-specific ending, you may be disappointed.
Instead, we have 'The Gauntlet' in Broken Destiny. 'The Gauntlet' is a series of missions that essentially act as a tutorial for players, teaching them advanced offensive and defensive skills. You'll get a snippet of a very silly story, conveyed through humorous text boxes, and then you'll be asked to face off against an opponent. It's not quite as easy as just fighting them, as the game will then require you to pull off a certain move, and will not advance until you have. For instance, you'll select a mission, then enter a fight. The fight will pause as a text box tells you that you must guard, then strike with a quick hit. Doing so will advance you a 'rank', and completing all of these instructions will earn you rank 'A' and complete the mission. If you don't follow the instructions, the battle ends and you're forced to replay the mission until you get it right. It's a useful tool for learning how to play Soul Calibur properly, we'll give it that, but it's no replacement for a decent 'Arcade' mode, and given that most of the instructions involve guarding and retaliating, it slips into repetitiveness fairly early on.
In addition to 'The Gauntlet', Broken Destiny has a few other modes to enjoy. If you just want to fight and not be interrupted by the constant stop-start nature of the missions, then 'Quick Match' and 'Trials' should be your first port of call. The former allows you to choose a character and then fight against AI players, who have their own usernames and ranks, while the latter is akin to a survival mode, focusing on chaining together attacks, guarding against attacks, or both. While these modes are somewhat slim, the gameplay of Soul Calibur on PSP remains untarnished, as it's still incredibly fun to play, and the combat remains silky smooth. The controls on the PSP do not hinder you at all, and the only difficulty you'll experience is in getting your timing and guarding right, so that you can pull off the impressive 'Guard Impacts', which can turn the tide of battle in an instant. There's a lot of grabbing, sidestepping and hitting people with sharp objects more than is plausible, but that's the beauty of Soul Calibur and when it's in full flow, it's fantastic. The Soul Gauges and Critical Finishes from Soul Calibur IV also make a return appearance.
Broken Destiny also has the requisite multiplayer mode in the form of 'Versus', which works over the PSP's Ad-Hoc multiplayer. In terms of gameplay, it's virtually the same as the 'Quick Match' mode, except you're obviously fighting your friends rather than AI opponents. For many people, this is where the real value of the game will lie, and while we were only able to test it out a handful of times (friends with PSP's aren't that common these days, you know), we encountered very little slowdown. Some may bemoan the lack of Infrastructure support, but the multiplayer that is present works very well indeed.
Finally, there is also a littany of character creation options present for manufacturing your own heroes. The 'Creation' mode is very easy to use, we'd argue even easier to use than the one present in Soul Calibur IV, allowing you to pick everything from fighting styles, to clothing, to voice-over artists. Within minutes we had created a very reasonable facsimile of Miles Edgeworth from the Ace Attorney series of games, and we're sure that given more time many of you could create far more original characters, or even more outlandish ones.
Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny certainly looks, sounds and plays very well. It's just a bit of a shame that some of the features of its home-console and arcade brothers had to be cut out, because it somewhat limits the audience for the game. Gamers who are just looking for a standard arcade-style experience will be left wanting with the lack of a standard 'Arcade' mode. However, if you've been looking to sharpen your Soul Calibur skills then 'The Gauntlet' mode will certainly help with that, and may make you chuckle a couple of times along the way, and for everyone else there's the 'Quick Match' and 'Trials' modes to keep you occupied until you find a friend with a PSP to play against. The soul's still burning with this one, and if you're a fan of the series then it's definitely worth a look.