Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny

The art of miniaturisation is one at which consumer electronics companies excel.

After all, the PSP is effectively a small PlayStation 2 and even that’s being shrunk again with the arrival of PSPgo.

Doing the same thing with games is a much more difficult task, however. And when it comes to the ambitious attempt to squeeze lauded weapons-based brawler Soul Calibur onto PSP, the odd limb was going to be amputated along the way.

Still, what’s impressive is how Broken Destiny visually dazzles. It's more than just the highly detailed graphics - smooth animations also elicit believable movement from the fighters. There's no question that this is one of the best-looking games on PSP.

The same can be said of the fighting mechanics, which have been inherited from its console counterparts, notably Soul Calibur IV.

Light and heavy attacks can be levelled with taps of the Square and Triangle buttons, and varied with presses on the D-pad into low, mid, and high hits. Additionally, evasive manoeuvres are possible by double-tapping the D-pad or guarding with the X button.

An extraordinary range of attacks, evades, guards, and combos can be pulled off from a relatively basic set of moves.

The game wisely avoids overly complicated button combinations, instead making many moves dependent on timing. Powerful counters and effective guards are a matter of split-second timing, rather than memorising ridiculous button combos. In this way, it rewards skill over button mashing.

Using these mechanics as a foundation, Broken Destiny also extends the work of Soul Calibur IV in terms of tuning fighting style variations within its roster.

Drama ensues from pitting one fighter against another, watching how the differences in style play out. While many of these dramatic confrontations have been played out before, two new characters offer something fresh.

Kratos, from God of War, is the most notable and compelling addition, and one more easily handled than the game's other newcomer Dampierre. A suite of mid-range attacks ensures versatility and Kratos's brooding visage fits in well with the rest of the cast.

French conman Dampierre augments the eclecticism. Beyond his comical handlebar moustache and bright yellow jacket, his fighting style focuses on speed and deception. He's more challenging to play, but grants a range of quick attacks and feints that benefit the skilled player.

Exploring the characters and their fighting styles is best through multiplayer. Head-to-head competition via ad-hoc mode is supported, and Bluetooth play could find its way to the game when it arrives as a downloadable title on the PlayStation Store later this year.

Even limited to local bouts, multiplayer far surpasses the underwhelming assortment of single player modes. Lofty promises of a compelling new single player adventure were nothing but a feint, as Broken Destiny knocks out a disappointing campaign.

Entitled the Gauntlet, the mode chronicles duels against the various fighters spread across more than 30 painfully drawn-out chapters.

Instead of presenting a series of rounds however, each chapter breaks down into short tutorials lasting a few seconds. The intricacies of guarding, executing critical finishes, how to use the new active purge system - all are explained via these short missions.

It's highly informative, but a total bore. You spend more time flipping through narrative text and explanations for each mission than you do actually fighting.

Fortunately, there's a decent alternative in Trials mode.

Similar to Arcade mode (which is has been omitted and actually replaced by Trials), it sees you fighting through several progressively more challenging rounds. It splits into three tiers - Trial of Attack, Trial of Defence, and Endless Trial - each of which awards points based on the type of combos you pull off.

The lacklustre slate of modes sticks out all the more when you consider how great the fighting is.

Still, add in a large ensemble of interesting and varied characters - not to forget the ability to make your own characters in Creation mode - and Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny contains all the necessary fundamentals of a phenomenal fighter.

Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny

Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny brings much of the fighting spirit of the console version to PSP. It’s only let down by the weak single player modes.