There are good reasons to be excited about the PSP this year, from the increasingly likely rumors of a UMD-less hardware revision to new high-profile games like Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny, which Namco Bandai showed me yesterday.
Namco Bandai wouldn't let me play Broken Destiny, but game director Noriyuki Hiyama showed me an early version of the game he's been working on for the last year. Hiyama promised Broken Destiny, largely based on Soulcalibur IV, would include almost everything hardcore players expects -- and, so far, I'm inclined to believe him.
Hiyama described Broken Destiny as a "modification" of Soulcalibur IV. The PSP version includes Soulcalibur staples like the eight-way run, as well as additions from Soulcalibur IV, like "critical finishers," which allow fighters to dismantle the armor of their opponent or, in special circumstances, finish them with one strike.
Broken Destiny's development was "mostly a programming feat," said Hiyama. Once the technical side was taken care of, his team wasn't forced to pick and choose what which features they wanted in this version. If a part of Soulcalibur isn't in Broken Destiny, it was a design decision, not a programming hurdle, he argued.
As with most fighting games, the character lineup is hugely important and something Namco Bandai is keeping quiet on. Taki, Mitsurugi, Tira, Astaroth, Ivy, Cassandra, Voldo, Siegfried and Hilde have been confirmed so far, including a new character eccentrically named Dampierre. Hiyama couldn't comment on whether Soulcalibur IV's guests from Star Wars, Darth Vader and Yoda, would make an appearance in Broken Destiny. Stay tuned for more details, he teased.
The PSP version can be controlled using either the analog nub or the d-pad. When I asked Hiyama whether his development staff prefers playing with one or the other, he laughed to his translator and said people will have to decide for themselves when Broken Destiny is released sometime this summer. D-pad it is, then!
Choosing the most comfortable control scheme will be an important choice for players competing against one another. Hiyama couldn't comment on the prospect of online multiplayer over Wi-Fi (he actually declined to talk about the subject), but would confirm Broken Destiny will feature local one-on-one multiplayer.
Honestly, though, I don't play many fighters not called Mortal Kombat (the easiest explanation: they're fun to play with your brain off). The last time I seriously played Soulcalibur was on Dreamcast. Hiyama said Broken Destiny was made with gamers like me in mind; "programs" and "modes" have been developed for newcomers. Unfortunately, he couldn't elaborate, leaving me slightly mystified.
Even if Hiyama fails to convert me, though, that's not what's really important: Broken Destiny looks and seemingly plays like a real-life portable Soulcalibur. I'll need to get my hands on it to be sure, but so far, the prospects are good.