Version tested: PSP
It's been a good year for the 2D fighter crowd, not least because Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue have shown how dragon-punch and charge motions still have what it takes to thrill and enthral. Step back a year and the console scene was again being dominated by the 3D behemoths. From January to December we saw the cleanest fatalities ever in Marvel vs. DC Universe as well as a revamped Super Smash Bros. on the Wii. But the fighter highlight of 2008 was arguably SoulCalibur IV - heralding the return of demonic swords and cheap bojutsu.
SoulCalibur IV wasn't a massive evolution as Namco kept the stage of history very similar to its previous outing. The move to the next-generation nonetheless looked and played superbly. We can't imagine most people's first thoughts of SoulCalibur IV were "Hmmm… Shame it's not portable," but as it did with Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Namco has brought SoulCalibur to the PSP in the form of Broken Destiny. Some might see the inclusion of the word "broken" in the title as a bad omen, but we're happy to say that SoulCalibur has lost little in translation.
A noticeable downgrade in the quality of the visuals was inevitable. In spite of this, Namco has done a very impressive job of replicating the SoulCalibur IV visuals onto the smaller screen. Indeed, although comparing both games side by side highlights a chasm of aesthetical difference - Siegfried's armour is certainly less shiny and more angular in Broken Destiny -character animation is equally fluid on either platform. Also, most of SoulCalibur IV's stages have found their way into Broken Destiny. Namco has renamed a few, presumably so they'll seem newer, but SoulCalibur vets will find themselves in mostly familiar surroundings.
Many will be pleased to hear that Namco has completely dropped the Star Wars trio. SoulCalibur IV's other 24 main characters all return in Broken Destiny, complete with virtually identical command lists. So if you know how to play Kilik, Taki or Cervantes in IV, then you know how to play them in Broken Destiny.
But that's not to say changes haven't been made. Certain characters have had their recovery times and hit boxes tweaked to make the game more balanced, and a few names also have a new move or two. But for those who couldn't write an essay on how Sophitia is different to Cassandra, the changes will mostly go unnoticed.
What won't go unnoticed is the Ghost of Sparta. With Soul Calibur IV not only did Yoda and Vader fail to fit in with the tone, the fact that they played a tad cheaply didn't help. But with Kratos it's different. For a start, he's a bloodthirsty Spartan steeped in Greek mythology who wields a pair of flaming swords… Which are chained to his arms. You almost wonder why this character isn't already in SoulCalibur.