Namco’s other fighting game – the one with kooky guest stars and weapons – debuts on the PSP, summoning God of War’s Kratos to hack apart Soul Calibur 4’s already impressive roster.

Besides standard quick battles, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny features a lengthy “gauntlet” story mode, a create-a-fighter system, ad-hoc versus battles, and a trainer.
The Pitch

Alongside Tekken 6 for the PSP, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny proves that Namco knows how to shrink stuff.

Kratos showboats.

The Play

If you gave up on the PSP during the last few years, there’s a good chance you’ve spent the last few months kicking yourself.

The PSP had a great 2009, with Patapon 2, Chinatown Wars, and Motorstorm: Arctic Edge rounding out a crop of really fun games. Last month’s Tekken 6 kept the trend going, providing a robust alternative to its console counterpart, and it was released right alongside an equally impressive fighter from the same developer. Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny might even surpass Tekken 6 as the best handheld fighting game on the PSP, or on any handheld. It looks incredible, handles well, runs fast, and is a near marvel for the way it reproduces the play experience of Soul Calibur 4 on a portable device.

If you’ve played any iteration of the Soul Calibur series, then you’ll know what to expect from the fight system: using weapons and special moves in a 3D arena, win a match by either beating your opponent into submission or by causing a ring-out. Beating your opponent into submission isn’t as simple as it sounds, though, as countless counter maneuvers exist to thwart attacks, and weapon styles vary across the 28 different fighters.

Fighting is complicated!

The quick battle mode pits the player character against an array of different fighters, and is the game’s default arcade mode. The “gauntlet” mode is Soul Calibur’s story mode equivalent, and follows the player character through an increasingly difficult series of trials interspersed with JRPG-style dialogue cutscenes. The JRPG stuff is awful, but never takes itself seriously, and the trials themselves are more or less a cleverly disguised training system. Gauntlet mode won’t draw Soul Calibur any new converts, but it’s a decent way to learn the game’s intricacies without feeling too much like a stale tutorial. There’s a character creator that offers a lot of visual options but little by way of actual substance, and seems like little more than an afterthought. Training mode lets the player take on various types of dummies, and versus mode allows players to take each other on head-to-head wirelessly. Unfortunately, there isn’t an infrastructure multiplayer mode – you’ll need to be in the same room as a friend to use the multiplayer feature.

The game introduces two new characters to the franchise: Kratos, from Sony’s God of War series, and Dampierre, a foppish moustache-twirler who wears a top hat and throws daggers. The rest of Soul Calibur IV’s roster makes it here intact, including Cervantes, Nightmare, and all of those animal-headed freaks that nobody ever uses.

Namco’s feminist sensibilities often take a backseat to the boobs.

While the different modes aren’t all winners, the basic play is still just as fun as it ever was. Kratos’ high profile appearance stands out as one of the best guest spots in any Calibur game, and it’s just as fun to swing his chain blades here as it was on the PS2. That the game looks and plays like almost as good as a current-gen console title doesn’t hurt, either.

The Replay

It’s innately replayable, especially if you’re interested in ferreting out different play styles and strategies. Versus mode will keep you on your toes well until the inevitable sequel, assuming you have a friend nearby.
The Verdict

If you’re a Soul Calibur fan and own a PSP, there’s little reason to go without this one.

CHUDTIP: This lady never wears any pants.
Use this to your advantage.

8.5 out of 10