Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny

October 16, 2009

Fighting games don’t feel the same at home as they did in arcades. When I was in high school there would be a line of kids behind the Street Fighter 2 machine in the mall arcade just waiting to take on the winner of the previous match. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have made large strides in emulating that feeling through the PSN and XBL services. Now the experience is changing again with fighters on handhelds. It used to be that to play multiplayer you needed $0.50. Then you needed a pricy home console, two controllers, and a copy of the game. Now you need a handheld console, a copy of the game, and a friend within ad hoc wireless range with the same setup. It seems to me that we’re trading ease of use for no real benefit in this genre as fighters really shine when playing with human opponents more than computer-controlled ones.

SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny does its best to create an enjoyable experience despite being on the PSP. The fighting mechanics are just as deep as SoulCalibur IV’s were on the PS3 and 360. You can still grab, combo, and juggle opponents in the air, and the characters all control smoothly with either the directional pad or the analog nub. Physics from the console versions have been faithfully recreated on the PSP, and Broken Destiny is a visual wonder to behold. If anybody out there still thinks that the PSP is nothing more than a portable PS2 then this is the game to show them. Where Broken Destiny differs from its big brothers is in platform-exclusive characters. While the PS3 and 360 come with Darth Vader and Yoda respectively Broken Destiny players will be able to beat the tar out of people as God of War’s Kratos.

Single player, as is the case with all fighting games, is only really there for when you can’t find real people to fight with. That is makes up the lion’s share of available and easily playable game modes here is disappointing. Gauntlet mode tells a story that I won’t ruin for you in case you care about the SoulCalibur narrative, but know that the story segments are interspersed between short challenges that just aren’t fun. Arcade and Training modes also make a return. Arcade mode is serviceable, but – again – it feels like what you pick when you can’t beat up on a friend. Training Mode is good for learning movesets and combos though. You’ll outgrow it, but it sets out to make you better at the game and it is successful at it.

SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny also suffers from an annoying save-related issue. It occasionally refuses to acknowledge save files on my memory stick. I only have one (and no on-board memory) so I can’t rule out “faulty memory stick,” but it works for everything else, and it is really annoying to have Broken Destiny complain that no memory stick is inserted when I know it’s there and full of save files.

SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is a solid fighting game with one big thing going against it – multiplayer options. I know that my PSP can connect to the Internet, and I know that portable games can have online multiplayer (Mario Kart DS springs to mind) so who at NamcoBandai didn’t manage to connect those two dots? As it stands SoulCalibur fans probably own a console version of SoulCalibur IV, and if your friend is close enough to play PSP games via ad hoc wireless you’d may as well just sit in front of the big TV and play that way.

Pros: Gorgeous visuals, great mechanics
Cons: Ad hoc wireless multiplayer only
Plays Like: SoulCalibur IV
ESRB: T for mild language, partial nudity, suggestive themes, and violence

Score: 3/5

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