Before we get started, yes, God of War’s blood-thirsty protagonist Kratos is appearing in Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny for PSP. No, I didn’t get a chance to play as Kratos during my hands-on time with the game at E3 2009. Sad, I know, but that’s how things go sometimes. Fortunately, the game (at least the portion that I saw) is everything you’d expect from a Soulcalibur game, and even more than you would expect from a handheld fighting game. Believe me when I say this game looks fantastic and plays even better.
Broken Destiny’s story is still a question mark (other than it takes place in the same general time period and universe as Soulcalibur IV), but I can report that the all-new story mode plays out a bit like an expanded training mode. Every character you beat will drop hints (once you’ve defeated them of course) about what to expect from future opponents in terms of tactics as well as weaknesses. This structure ensures the game’s complex fight controls are more accessible to all level of players. For series regulars, you'll still be able to jump into Versus, Arcade and Survival modes for some good old-fashioned straightforward weapon-based brawling.
Longtime fans of the series will instantly feel at home as the fluid fight controls, stunning visuals and ridiculously melodramatic voiceover work that have been the defining characteristics of the franchise since it first stole gamers’ hearts on the Dreamcast 10 years ago are all present and accounted for. The character list is also populated with many franchise favorites including Mitsurugi, Ivy and Cassandra, among others. There were only 10 characters available when I played, with series freshmen Kratos, Dampierre, a creepy Euro-trickster, and a couple other veterans being present but not playable.
And I’m sorry Star Wars fans. Neither Darth Vader nor Yoda make appearances in the game, but you are getting Kratos, so can your whining. The full game is expected to feature over 20 fighters, so if you have a favorite character, chances are you will once again be jumping into their battle-tested shoes.
For my match, I pitted Maxi versus Mitsurugi, for nostalgia’s sake, and after a few seconds of getting used to the controls, I was whipping my nunchucks and pulling off sick and beautifully animated combos like it was my job. The controls are as fluid and as satisfying as ever, and when combined with all the Critical Finishes, Soul Crushes, weapon/armor destruction, character customization and environmental elements found in the SCIV, it’s a pretty stunning package for a portable fighting game, and one that should please fans to no end.
Players will also be able to play against friends over ad-hoc networking, once they’ve finished embarrassing the computer with their soul-crushing skills. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try out multiplayer during my play session, so you’ll have to wait for the full review to find out more about it and everything else this game promises to offer when it's released this Fall.