Review: Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny

Fighting games are evolving, right before our very eyes. No longer are they simple grudge matches between superpowered titans or scantily clad women, they are pseudo-RPGs, overflowing with character customization options, challenges to complete, and awesome guest stars, including some that seem eerily out of place (Yoda, anyone?). Perhaps the fighter that dabbles the most in said deviations from the past is Soulcalibur. It has long held a special place in my heart reserved only for the best of the best. Ever since I laid eyes on Soul Blade, I knew I’d never forget the series or what it stood for. Here we are all these years later and the latest release, Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is still blowing me away. Juicy customization, explosive guest appearances, and the core Soulcalibur experience are intact. What more could you ask for?

Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is more or less a portable version of one of the most polished fighting experiences available on a console (and it’s much better than Soulcalibur Legends on the Wii). As in the previous installments, if you’re not familiar with the franchise, 3D fighting is intact. Breasts bounce and the women are scantily clad. The men are rough, rugged, and tough — and packing big swords. Broken Destiny presents an impressive roster of 30 familiar Soulcalibur characters to choose from. You can even select Kratos, fresh out of the explosive God of War franchise as your avatar with which to wreak havoc on the other fighters. In fact, the appearance of Kratos sealed my interest in the game.

Since the PSP is devoid of two analog sticks, the D-pad actually works well with fighters for the same reason most fighting gamers prefer fight sticks or the PlayStation 3 for brawling. It just works much better when executing combos. And in Soulcalibur, you must learn to master combos or else you’ll fail out miserably. In Broken Destiny, you’ll learn to ignore the analog nub entirely, as performing combos with it is absolutely ineffective. The diagnonal, vertical, back-and-forth character controls require more precise direction than the analog nub can provide, and in this the PSP is a fantastic home for a fighter that requires memorization of special moves.

There’s no shortage of special moves, either. Each of the 30 characters (including Dampierre, Talim, Taki, Siegfried, and other series staples) possess their very own special attacks. While they range from the subdued to the extremely flashy, they provide new and unique experiences, especially when veteran Soulcalibur players get behind the control pad. Combos and special moves flow extremely well together, and fighters breeze to and fro in ech lush arena. It helps that even on the PSP’s obviously smaller screen than the one you enjoy the “bigger” console releases, arenas and character models are painstakingly detailed.

For every type of fighter, even the newbies, Broken Destiny provides several different gametypes to get you accustomed to the often-difficult gameplay or jump right into a challenge. The first stop all players should make is the Gauntlet, a tutorial veiled as a story experience. It is here you will learn about each character’s custom moveset and how to perform them. It’s a great interactive learning experience for those who have little knowledge about the franchise or how to pull off the flashy moves it’s known for. Gauntlet mode is split up into missions that cover just those topics. Of course, while you’re busy with all of these, there is a thinly-woven storyline playing on in the background. However, it’s far too silly and disjointed to be taken seriously. Such is the nature of a fighting game, though — we’re not playing them for character development, now are we?

If you complete Gauntlet mode and want more, you can head on over to the Trials mode, which will present several different opponents for you to defeat in a set amount of time, chaining together combos and meeting specific conditions. Failing that, you can turn to the regular ol’ Arcade mode or check out the Quick Match, which is sort of like an offline matchmaking lobby. You’ll be paired up with imaginary opponents with “real” names to give the feeling of squaring off against human players. It works quite well and the AI can be absolutely brutal. Hey, it’s just like taking on the pros online! You know, getting your butt handed to you and all when you’re just starting out? I know that feeling all too well.

The customization popularized mainly in Soulcalibur IV returns here as well, but it’s severely limited. There are far less outfits and accessories to choose from, meaning that even though the box advertises unlimited ways to outfit your character, there are really only a few different viable outfits that you can choose to whip up. Just like in Rock Band Unplugged’s stripped down Rock Store, the customization is pared down considerably — which is understandable, considering the entire game might as well be a stripped down Soulcalibur venture.

Broken Destiny looks and sounds ravishing. The series has always been known for its breathtaking orchestral movements and detailed character models. It’s filled with lush and vibrant arenas to fight in, meaning that sometimes you might be too busy admiring the scenery and getting blows to the face rather than defending yourself. Even though it’s built for a technologically inferior platform, it looks just as splendid as its big brother titles.

Bottom Line:

Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny is a fantastic console to handheld port that’s most certainly worthy of your time and money — especially if you’re a fan of the series already. Smooth controls, frenetic and flashy action, and several game modes ensure that it won’t leave your PSP for quite some time…at least, until Soulcalibur V decides to stop fooling around and come out soon. Either that, or the chains of the great Kratos will keep you from stopping. Either way, this game should be a definite buy for fighter fanatics or simply fans of the series.

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