We've been excited to get a deeper look at SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny, the Japanese developer's portable installment in its fighting series, since the game was announced and we got a brief taste of what to expect with the Electronic Entertainment Expo demo. Like most fans of the series, we've been hungry to see more of the game to get a proper feel for it. Fortunately, we recently got a chance to get an exclusive hands-on with a more full-featured work-in-progress version of the game, which let us explore all the modes it will offer and, most importantly, let us try out the two new additions to the roster of fighters, Dampierre and Kratos. While the game wasn't 100 percent finished, it made a very good impression on us and was packed with a meaty selection of features, stunning visuals, and solid controls.
The version of the game we played let us try out all the characters and poke around the various modes. The roster of fighters tallies up to 28, most of which were seen in last year's Soulcalibur IV for consoles. There are a few omissions, such as Angol Fear and the Star Wars characters. However, the roster evens out some thanks to the inclusion of two new characters: Dampierre, a blade-wielding fancy lad with a questionable mustache, and Kratos, Sony's God of War. In addition, the game will feature a robust character-creation feature like its console cousin so you can make your own fighter. As in SCIV, you'll unlock more content to use in character creation as you play.
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny has a solid assortment of game modes to play alone or against a friend. The single-player modes are Quick Match, The Gauntlet, Trials, and Training. Quick Match pits you against an opponent that you choose from a pool of custom characters created by the development team. The Gauntlet mode is a story mode broken up into chapters made up of a handful of fights. In a change of pace from previous SoulCalibur games, this story mode has a tutorial aspect to it that is designed to teach you the game's fighting system. The story is set up by the game's dramatic intro cinema that shows everyone trying to stab one another, which is how you want a SoulCalibur game to kick off. The game narrative plays out as you'd expect: some setup for the fight via story screens and you're off.
Trials mode features three different trials to test your skills, the trial of attack, the trial of defense, and the endless trial. The attack and defense trials will task you with clearing a series of fights, while the endless trial is a test to see how long you can last against a never-ending wave of enemies. Finally, Training mode lets you set up battles against computer-controlled opponents to hone your skills. Versus mode is SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny's multiplayer option that lets you take on a friend in head-to-head fighting. Unfortunately, the game doesn't feature the infrastructure for proper online play.
Combat is exactly what you'd want in a SoulCalibur game. The game sticks to the four-button system that has been refined over the course of the series. Broken Destiny uses a tweaked version of the system introduced in Soulcalibur IV, so those familiar with the combat in that game should be fine on the basics. You'll have three attack buttons--horizontal, vertical, and kick--and a guard, which you'll mix up to perform combos and special moves. We're pretty intrigued by the new stuff the team has added to the mix based on feedback from Soulcalibur IV. There have been some balance changes and all-new moves added for characters, which may require some strategy tweaks for veteran players. Most of what we were able to catch seems to fit in well. For example, Ivy has a new whip attack that's very handy at midrange.
The new characters click with the tweaked combat system and have their own unique feel. Dampierre is as quirky as he looks. He's a close-quarters character who feels a bit like Talim but with some of Voldo's randomness, which is handy for throwing off opponents. Kratos, on the other hand, is death in a skirt. The Grecian butt kicker has some easy-to-pull-off moves that are right out of the God of War games and devastating. Our first impression of him is that he's a bit overpowered. He does a lot of damage, and it feels like his attacks are pretty thorough at doling out damage to an enemy at varying ranges.
Kratos, Dampierre, and the rest of the roster pop thanks to SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny's gorgeous visuals. The game appears to be on its way toward matching if not surpassing Namco's last high watermark on the PSP, Tekken: Dark Resurrection. The visual quality of the character models is incredibly sharp. While there have been some necessary compromises in the number of polygons being thrown around to compensate for the PSP's more modest graphical horsepower in comparison to the PlayStation 3, the game is doing an outstanding job of hiding it. The only thing to nitpick about is that the fighters' shadows look a little rough, but that's not really an issue. Besides the characters, the game's backgrounds, which offer different lighting to reflect the time of day, look great. SCIV fans will recognize many of the backgrounds from that game, which are smartly re-created on the PSP. In addition, there are some new stages on hand to keep things interesting. Despite all the visual flash, SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny purrs along at an impressive frame rate.
The high level of quality even reaches to the game audio, which features the expected array of voices and effects. The game's soundtrack plays out much like its stages, with some tunes from SCIV being used for the corresponding arenas and new tunes being dropped into the mix as well.
From the look of things so far, SoulCalibur PSP seems like it's easily going to match Tekken: Dark Resurrection in terms of visual quality and even surpass it in terms of features. The game is packed with an impressive array of content to unlock and explore that should make it a fixture in your PSP for a while. We're bummed out by the lack of online multiplayer, but considering the current landscape of PSP fighters, we're glad to have a quality fighter to play around with. SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny is slated to ship this September for the PSP.