What lies within your
Aside from “pushed back”, no two words will take the wind out of a gamer’s sails like “PSP exclusive”. This is only made worse when the game in question is from a long-running and wildly popular series like Soul Calibur. Despite having this disappointing trait, many of the games that commit this cardinal sin can actually be great (Daxter, God of War: Chains of Olympus, MGS: Portable Ops) and Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny is no exception to this surprising trend.
[image1]In most of the core elements of any fighting game, it lives up to just about any of its full-sized console counterparts. The controls are astonishingly good, with the face buttons controlling your swinging, whacking, kicking, and blocking, and your choice of either D-pad or analog nub for movement. I expected a poor translation to the PSP given the downgrade in hardware, but it handles like a dream. The nub can be a bit of a bother and using the D-pad after years of analog stick bitch-slapping can be a nuisance, but after a while you’ll get accustomed to them.
The character roster is just as full as those from the last few installments, though sadly, Darth Vader is not around this time. There is, however, Kratos from God of War, and as unfair as that sounds (what with him being a demigod and all), the fighters are all just as balanced as ever. In addition to Kratos, Broken Destiny introduces us to Dampierre, a dandy-fop who wears a top hat and has a sweet mustache. He’s just as balanced as the other fighters, but in the higher difficulties seems to have increasingly bull-shitty attacks that you will never, ever, be able to pull off.
As great as Broken Destiny is, it’s not without its flaws. The most egregious is The Gauntlet which takes the player through a series of tutorials starting with simple things like blocking and movement, and later through more complex maneuvers like dodging and starting a combo. This is what is offered in lieu of a real story or arcade mode, and given the abysmal story mode in Soul Calibur IV, this isn’t just a step back, it’s a giant leap backwards off a cliff.
[image2]I realize the story in fighting games is always bad, but Namco could have at least tried to, err, try. There’s even a disclaimer at the beginning that says the barebones story you get between rounds (which has you fighting wolves and bears, I might add) isn’t official canon and tells you to ignore it altogether. Couple this crap with load times eclipsing the actual “fights” (which are only about 4 seconds a piece, BTW), and you’re left with the most bland and superfluous campaign since… well… since the last Soul Calibur's. The Gauntlet is a great addition for the uninitiated (hell, even I learned something in the later stages and I've been on board since the Dreamcast days!), but giving us this instead of a real story mode, or even an arcade mode for that matter, just doesn’t make any sense.
Character creation makes an appearance in this installment and it’s practically unchanged from SCIV. You still pick an established fighting style, so you’re still basically mapping new skins for a pre-existing character, but if you give it a chance, you’ll lose hours making your creation. One thing that was omitted from this port of IV’s character creation is that worthless “stat” boost you could maybe get if the game was in a good mood and all the planets just happened to align.
[image3]There’s a quick match option which has 200+ CPU generated opponents with fake gamer names like "xXxfiGHtKinGxXx" to create the illusion of playing online. It’s way more fun than Gauntlet, so you’ll probably play this and neglect Gauntlet like an unwanted stepchild. The lack of an online mode is a bit of a drag, but adhoc makes up for it with reasonable load times (made even better if the game is installed to your memory stick) and let's face it, trash-talking is so much more satisfying when the other player is in the same room.
Broken Destiny is slightly lacking in the unlockables department as well, but there’s enough to keep most players satisfied. The majority of the unlockables are in the “honors” department. This is to placate the rabid Achievement whores who won’t play anything if it doesn’t add to their gamerscore. But there’s no real reward for unlocking them beyond simply unlocking them.
Despite the disappointing Gauntlet mode and its insulting lack of story and patronizing tutorials, Broken Destiny is a great addition to the series because the core gameplay is as solid as ever, which is especially impressive on the small screen. The overall presentation is well above expectations and definitely a must-have for any fan of Soul Calibur. The only reason this isn’t getting an 'A-' is Gauntlet mode, and I can’t stress enough how great a game this is. If you’ve enjoyed any of its predecessors, you owe it to yourself to pick up Broken Destiny.