Namco's popular franchise, Soul Calibur, has now ventured into the handheld domain with its latest title Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, which appears on the PlayStation Portable. This isn't alien territory for Namco though, as they had vast success with Tekken on the PSP, and with Kratos added to the mix, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny potentially has a lot to offer.
Soul Calibur's story has always been a bit on the weird side, and also somewhat confusing. However, it still managed to maintain a consistant lore that returns throughout the games. This is where Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny offers a slight departure from the franchise, as essentially there is no story present in the title. Gauntlet mode is the only place where any story whatsoever features, but it's very shallow and probably isn't canon. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though, and the game openly admits that it totally ignores everything the franchise has done before and instead decides to be completely off the wall mad.
The Gauntlet Mode is split up into 2-4 missions per chapter and consists of a very large number of chapters overall. This means that there's instantly a fair bit to get through. Each chapter sees a minor bit of story divulged in a 2D anime style, but there isn't much animation involved and while some sound effects and battle cries are used to aid the story telling, it's mostly text and avatars with different expressions. It's quirky and unique, but with regards to the content of the story, it's all too easy to really not care about what's being said.
With regards to the actual missions present in Gauntlet Mode, they are essentially a complex tutorial. Every mission involves learning the basics of the game, and executing them correctly allows players to advance to the next mission. To start with this isn't too bad, but after about chapter 5 or 6 every thing starts to feel similar. Most of the missions will involve landing a hit after surviving a combo from an opponent, and it gets very repetitive. That said, it does teach players some rather unique ways of dealing with the different character's movesets, but nonetheless the whole thing seems slightly redundant.
There are three other modes to talk about however, and these are Quick Match, Trials and Versus. Quick Match is very self-explanitory, players pick a character and pick an opponent from a randomly generated list. However, in something of a revival for the series, stats are recorded and titles may be awarded to the player which can be attached to their chosen character. While there are a vast amount of titles to be earnt, the mode is slightly stale and it doesn't really offer much of a reason for replay. Trials is also guilty of a similar offence. Players take part in half a dozen battles and by winning them with the use of attack combos or defensive counters, they will earn more points depending on the offence or defence variation chosen. It's a very shallow mode and doesn't really offer anything.
The remaining mode is Versus Mode, which is where the real meat of the title potentially lies. It enables players to link to another PSP and battle to their heart's content. Couple this with the fact the game has a rather extensive custom character creation and it can make human vs human cross-PSP conflict rather entertaining. There is a vast array of unique fighting styles and clothing which can be equipped to players, making the possibilities for strange abominations quite high.
The highlight of Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny comes with the gameplay. It makes a perfect transition to the PSP and the majority of Soul Calibur IV's features have been integrated into the game, including Soul Crush. The roster is also quite extensive, as all the main cast are included and there are a couple of new characters in the form of Dampierre and Kratos. Kratos has been done exceedingly well, and his move set is pretty impressive but he does seem a little bit too powerful. Everything the fans loved about the gameplay experience of Soul Calibur remains including the introductions to stages, fights and announcements.
Graphically the game is quite stunning. It's sometimes really difficult to remember that it is infact on the PSP, and while it isn't quite as detailed, it certainly gives the illusion that it is. The animations of the characters are fluid, and the stages maintain their beautiful atmosphere. Voice acting and sound quality is also top notch and the soundtrack is spectacular as always.
One of the major gripes about Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny is the fact there just isn't enough content. In a genre that's generally quite bland in terms of overall featuress, it would have been nice to see even some of the more traditional features present, like Arcade Mode and Team Battle. The create-a-character mode, and the awards offer some reason to keep playing, but overall it's just very lacking in substance.
Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny instantly proves that the series is fully capable of working well on the PlayStation Portable and it's easily one of the stand-out titles in the PSP's library with regards to overall presentation and gameplay. However, the lack of actual content is a real sore point, and while there are some new characters and a huge create-a-character mode, the game just feels like it lacks depth. If these aspects had been addressed properly, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny would have been an amazing title.