By Justin Guillou / February 9th, 2015
|Title||Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds|
|Release Date||January 23, 2015|
|Platform||Xbox 360, Vita, PC|
Let me tell you about a game called Phantom Breaker. Ever heard of it? It almost got released outside of Japan, then it seemingly disappeared during localization. The publishers must have figured “Whatever, the sidescrolling beat-em-up spin off is much better anyways”, especially since they decided to release this one over here not once….not twice…but THREE TIMES! This brings us to today’s review: Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds.
There is an evil man named Phantom who is trying to wreck havoc with his evil powers. Our protagonist is a young woman named Waka, part of the Kumon family, which has been at war with Phantom for a long while. Eventually her sister Nagi gets kidnapped, and Waka along with three other young ladies set out to go through 7 stages to rescue Nagi and to kick some butt. These women are none other than Mikoto the sword master, Itsuki who dresses like a maid and smashes foes into oblivion with her hammer, and Yuzuha, the small yet dangerous ninja girl. Good stuff for you moe fans out there!
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is 2D beat-em-up featuring some beautiful sprites and lots of chaos and insanity on screen. This game seems to be heavily influenced by the awesome Guardian Heroes, originally released for the SEGA Saturn. It borrows the line jump mechanic, which allows you to jump between the background and foreground at will to either attack enemies or dodge attacks. Enemies can also use this, which makes for some really cool layered scenery. The game also features some beautifully animated pixel art for each of the characters. 8-bit pixel art combined with some very complex animation is a good way to make a retro style look modern. The music is also consistent with the retro style. Those of you who are into NES style chiptune music will feel right at home. Check out this song below:
You have three main attack buttons that can be combined to create ridiculous combos. It can be very satisfying to use your magic attack and you see the damage and combo counters increase at a fast rate. You also have a special button which can be used to activate special moves or your counter attacks. Learning how to dodge and counter will prove to be very important if you want to survive the 7 main stages in the game.
Should you complete a level or choose to continue after being defeated, you gain experience based on how you played in the level. When you level up, you can allocate points to improve your character’s stats or learn new abilities such as super moves, higher jumps or improved counter abilities. The game offers a fairly high challenge initially since you have to level up to gain some of your character’s more useful abilities, like the improved counters or the super moves.
So we have a 2D beat-em-up with excellent pixel art, solid tunes and multiple characters with a wide variety of moves to pull off. What is wrong with it? Well my biggest issue is that the levels feel like they go on a bit too long. I think this is due to the fact that you often fight multiple waves of the exact same enemy or exact same combination of enemies. The levels themselves seemed to take me about 10 minutes to complete, but it felt so much longer for some reason. Some foes later on can be very annoying, as it is possible for you to get stunlocked into an endless combo.
I also wish there was a boss rush mode, since those encounters were much more fun. However, once I boosted my attack stat, they ended much more quickly that I would have wanted. One boss I liked was Cocoa, who is this weird devil cat girl, who was really fast and can pull off crazy combos just like your characters. The boss battles feel like a fighting game, which Battle Grounds is based on, and as a result are a lot of fun. Not too much has changed from the Vita version, in fact I don’t even think the Makise Kurisu DLC is out for this version yet. One benefit is that you can plug in a controller and use that to play. For this review I used an Xbox 360 controller, which worked really well.
For $11.99 Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds offers a fun three hours of entertainment. If you enjoy the story mode, there is plenty of replay value in the form of unlockable characters, difficulty options and Arcade mode to keep track of scores. There is multiplayer in the form of co-op and battleground mode which is a PvP arena for up to four players. This game will not blow you away with its storytelling, but what is here is solid and at least worth checking out especially if you missed out on it beforehand.
Review copy provided by publisher
2Dbeat-’em-upchiptunemagesNOT Guardian HeroesPhantom Breaker: Battle Grounds