I'm not much of a fan of fighting games, but the SoulCalibur franchise has always impressed me with its ability to satisfy both casual and hardcore players. They let button mashers (like me) have a great time performing gratifying, over-the-top moves without forcing them to learn wildly complex button combinations. Meanwhile, they also sate the appetites of die-hard fighter lovers, providing them the opportunity to hone their skills with advanced defensive moves and deeper strategy.
This holds true for SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny, the series' first PSP game and one of the most visually stunning titles I've yet seen on Sony's handheld. I was able to jump in and start dishing out impressive looking beatings on my digital opponents within moments of powering up.
Unfortunately, developer Namco Bandai seems to be trying to nudge casual fans like me toward hardcore territory by converting the game's primary mode-dubbed Gauntlet this time out-into a series of training exercises designed to teach players how to defend and counter a wide variety of attacks. Each challenge sees players trying to dodge or block a new kind of attack and follow it up with an attack of their own. There is virtually no freeform fighting. If you don't do exactly what you're supposed to do when you're directed to do it, you fail the challenge. Needless to say, I failed a lot.
I'm all for learning, but I don't much like when a game's primary mode does nothing but teach-especially if that game is a fighter. All I want to do in SoulCalibur is mess around, beat folks up, and giggle at disconcertingly translated character taunts (example: "Futile wishes are meaningless"). I've no interest in training to become a professional player.
Luckily, there are a couple of secondary modes, including Trials, which is a bit more like a traditional tournament ladder, and Quick Match mode, which lets you pick single fights with AI challengers based on their win/loss record in order to earn wicked titles like "Narcissist Swordsman" and "Death Roller". Not quite the same as a good, solid single player story mode, but better than nothing.
Inexplicably, there is no online mode. However, should you have a pal with his or her own copy of the game you can go head-to-head via an ad-hoc wireless connection.
Following in the footsteps of previous games in the SoulCalibur franchise, which have let players step into the shoes of non-canon characters such as Link, Darth Vader, and Yoda, Broken Destiny allows us to don the sandals and loincloth of God of War's muscle-bound, sword-slinging Kratos-and to highly satisfying effect.
I felt almost unstoppable while playing as Sony's Greek demigod, who is quick, powerful, and has some potent grappling moves. I'd say he was a bit unbalanced, but my expertise in these games isn't such that it allows me to make such estimations with any authority. All I know is that I was able to defeat plenty of computer controlled opponents while playing as Kratos who mauled me when I was playing as other characters.
Not that I minded much. As I've already made clear, all I want out of a fighting game is a bit of accessible, visually gratifying brawling action, and that's exactly what Kratos delivers.
It's just too bad Broken Destiny's developers seem intent on forcing casual fighter fans like me into learning the game's intricacies. They need to be careful, or risk pushing too hard and losing us altogether.
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny
Developer: Project Soul
Publisher: Namco Bandai
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