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Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny (PSP) artwork

Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny (PSP) review

"Aside from ridiculous moments, the game plays exactly as one would expect of a new-millenium Soul Calibur. The control is as smooth as ever, the visuals are crisp, core characters remain essentially unchanged, the music is still epic in scope, and canned proclamations herald each battle just as they've heralded battles for the last ten years."

Every couple years, when I want to party like it's 1999, I pop SoulCalibur into the Dreamcast. Each time, I'm surprised to discover new challenges to be mastered in the game's sprawling "mission" mode. You'd think that I'd stop being surprised by now.

Whether traveling across the world or traveling up and down staircases, mission modes have become a SoulCalibur staple. SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny's closest equivalent is the imposingly-titled GAUNTLET, but it's more like an extended tutorial. The GAUNTLET is divided into a series of chapters and challenges, loosely connected by a continuing storyline. It sounded promising in the instruction manual.

Upon selecting Sony's badass Kratos as my character, I was surprised to discover that the storyline begins with a multicolor warning.

"WARNING: This story is based on obscure fables and does not accurately represent the Soulcalibur history!"

In other words, nothing in the GAUNTLET's storyline matters. Great job at making the player care, Namco!

Since the storyline doesn't matter, Namco threw sense out the window. Kratos has been living on a mountain, killing cute rabbits for food. He comes down from the mountain to fight in a tournament, while the spectators vow to "fill their bellies with prize money" (???) and victory proclamations tell you that you "dripped 514 drops of sweat" (???). When Kratos later decided to intentionally let an incompetent assassin hurt him (so that he could practice blocking and give the poor girl a confidence boost), I threw my PSP to the floor in disgust. Immature, yes, but it did make me feel better.

I spent most of my playing time on the other modes, those being the "quick match" and "trials" (survival) modes. There's no arcade option. Some people will care about that; I didn't. The quick matches let players face off against single opponents of varying difficulty, most of whom are customized characters such as SUCCUBUS. When our battle began, the first thing she did was take off all her clothes. During battle against another female -- I don't recall her name -- I went for a grapple, and ended up tearing off all her clothes instead.

Is this SoulCalibur or is this Battle Raper 2?

Aside from such ridiculous moments, the game plays exactly as one would expect of a new-millenium SoulCalibur. The control is as smooth as ever, the visuals are crisp, core characters remain essentially unchanged, the music is still epic in scope, and canned proclamations herald each battle just as they've heralded battles for the last ten years.

"Determination. Obsession. Hope. The fiery emotions illuminate the two swords!"

Two burly men then whack each other, using three swords.

If I were unfamiliar with or prejudiced against the PSP, I would probably be impressed that the fighting engine translated so well to a portable system . . . but I've been playing excellent PSP games for long enough now that I'm not surprised. Although technically impressive, the problem with SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is that it lacks soul. Namco is simply going through the motions -- some of them, anyway -- and polluting the rest with nonsense, seeing as they've apparently forgotten how to create a game with dramatic personality.

I remember when SoulEdge hit arcades; it easily surpassed all prior weapon-based fighters. I remember being impressed by rats crawling along the floor of Voldo's lair in the first SoulCalibur. I also remember that game's nefarious missions bringing attention to such graphical details; in one battle, the rats were poisonous. If I hadn't noticed the scurrying rodents before, I certainly did after that!

Somewhere along the way, the series lost its heart. Perhaps it's because the "famous" characters -- such as Kratos in this one, or frickin' YODA in episode IV -- dilute the importance of the core characters. Perhaps it's because the customization feature makes the original cast look limited. Or maybe it's because the artwork and game design simply don't showcase the imagination I once expected from Namco.

Long ago, I fought atop rafts floating through underground tunnels. Long ago, I traveled across a nation, choosing my own destiny, clashing swords with legendary warriors. Today, I fight inside empty arenas with nary a raft nor rat in sight. Today, I clash swords with creepy mustachioed men in assless chaps to earn the lofty title of "Farting Baron". I wish such things were amusing exceptions, but the single-player modes -- which are the focus for any PSP game, whether the developer likes it or not -- play the combat up for laughs. That doesn't mesh with such brooding personalities as Mitsurugi, Taki, Siegfried, or Kratos.

The series never would have achieved such popularity if it had begun with Broken Destiny. I suppose this is SoulCalibur's tragic fate . . . but we'll always have 1999.



zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (September 26, 2009)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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zippdementia posted September 28, 2009:

It's worth noting that when I sold back some games to Game Crazy the other day, the latest Soul Caliburs received the least money.

Wolfenstein on the other hand bagged me $40 (!)

Yeah, sorry BJ. I ended up selling you for the money. We knew it would happen.
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honestgamer posted September 29, 2009:

This was a great review, Zig! I felt like you did a great job of capturing what once was right with the series and what now is wrong. And to answer your question, things started going wrong with Soulcalibur III. Part of me thinks that Namco just decided at that point that they no longer wanted to bother making Soulcalibur awesome anymore. I still enjoyed much of Soulcalibur IV--mostly because it was pretty and the fighting seemed to have been refined from SC3--but nothing like Soulcalibur and Soulcalibur II. Those were fighting game events. Everything since then has been full of question marks.
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EmP posted September 30, 2009:

I fell out of love with the series at Soulcalibur II, which I thought was overly-bloated rubbish. The titles have been getting steadily worse since then.

This game was doomed at the disclaimer. Great job driving the nail home, Zig.

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