*Note the PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.*
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up based on the popular fighting game series. Though I have seen this series before, I’ve never played any of the previous games. This marks the first time 5pb has done a worldwide release for one of its titles, but the real question is whether it’s any good. Let’s find out.
The story takes place in Tokyo, where an evil man called The Phantom has been gathering his power. The field that holds The Phantom’s power has weakened, thus letting him regain his former power. The Kumon family has sworn to protect the world from The Phantom, and, when young Nagi is kidnapped, a group of heroines is formed to defeat the evil and rescue her.
This is the basic story of this game. Sure, it isn’t the deepest storyline in the world, and it has some really bad Engrish in it at times, but it is still quite entertaining. The story changes a bit depending on which of the characters you choose. You can unlock additional characters by completing Story Mode on the various difficulty settings.
Graphically speaking, this one is very retro inspired. The sprite work is fantastic, and everything looks great. The character models and enemies are very detailed, and you have a ton of colors to choose from for all of the playable characters. Lots of love went into to making the backgrounds and environments, as well. From the street levels to the caves — everything is very detailed and colorful.
The music here is just plain great. These chiptunes are catchy, upbeat and really fit the overall feel of the title. In fact, these are some of the best chiptunes I have heard in a long, long time. There is some Japanese voice work found in the game during the cutscenes and, of course, battle cries and groans of pain. This is all done nicely and feels right at home here, thus adding to this titles overall experience.
The basic gameplay is that of a side-scrolling beat ‘em up. You move around with either the analog stick or the D-pad and press the face buttons for the various attacks. Combat takes place on two rows — a front row and a back one. You can change rows at anytime by pressing the L button. You have three different attack buttons. Think of this as short, medium and hard in a normal fighting game. You can use these buttons in combinations to pull off a combo. The other face button is for special attacks. Tap in a few controller inputs and you have access to around three special moves per character.
At the end of each stage you complete in Arcade or Story Mode, you will gain some experience points. You gain these points by picking up the gems the enemies drop as you defeat them. As you gain experience points, your characters will increase in level, earning you skills points. You can use these points to unlock new skills via the Skills Tree or level up the three basic stats each character has — Attack, Defense, and Speed. As you may have already guessed, the bigger the skill you unlock or the higher you get the stat, the more points it will cost to obtain.
There are also several different modes through which to play. These modes consist of online and offline modes, as well as single and multiplayer modes. They include Story Mode which will allow players to experience the main story or Arcade Mode to play the stages of Story mode, but with no plot to get in the way. The multiplayer modes include a Co-op Mode and Battle Ground mode, where up to four players can duke in out in a battle royale. These modes can accessed via PSN or through the PS Vita’s ad hoc mode.
While I’m sure some will find the gameplay a bit repetitive, I personally really enjoyed it. All of characters played a bit differently. Some have faster combos, some have longer range and some have more powerful attacks with a shorter range. Though you can complete Story Mode, which is seven stages, lasts right around three hours. This may seem like a short amount of playtime, but you will spend a ton more time leveling up characters, challenging higher difficulties and playing in the online Battle Ground mode. You will need to level up as much as possible to defeat some of the bosses on the higher difficulty levels, they can be quite a pain. If you purchase the additional DLC character, Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate, it will break your level cap, allowing you get your characters up to Level 99.
With a great graphics and sound, a ton of replay value, and solid gameplay, I would definitely recommend Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds to any fan of side-scrolling beat ‘em ups, or anyone that enjoys a good action game. The only real complaints I have are the Engrish in the localization should have been fixed, and the O button confirms things instead of X — that just drives me nuts. For the price of $12, you get a ton of content and one of the best games of this genre I have played in quite a while.
Game was provided by the publisher review purposes.