Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 8.0

(+) Pros: - Deep combat system that very easily appeals to fans of the fighting game genre, - Superb character progression, - Varied character choices, each of which spots their own unique play styles, - Plenty of enemy varieties, - Incredibly high replay value with the high amount of characters and multitude of difficulty levels, - Incredibly worth its asking price IMO.

(-) Cons: - Mainstay game is very short for those only looking to play through the game once, - Lack of online play is highly questionable.

Gameplay time: -

This is a game I never expected to invest so much time into. I was never a brawler kind of guy, and if I must say it, this is probably the first 2D side scrolling brawler game that I invested so much time into. Its not like I've never played brawlers in the past, but they were never my thing. They were always these 1 trip ponies that I played once to experience it and then never go back, because I decided that I've seen everything that it had  to offer. Combat in brawlers were mostly simple and repetitive...until I played "Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds". The moment I started and finished my first run on Yuzuha...I decided that I had to play all the characters this game had to offer, I just had to. THIS is, IMO, the first great brawler that I've played, there's just not too many amazing ones out there ATM (other than "Castle Crashers", even so, that one was also just a one trip pony to me). Enter the world of "Phantom Breaker"!

In a world where select individuals were chosen by the great overlord Phantom to do battle with mystical powers against one another for having wishes granted...things aren't going so well. Following the story of the original "Phantom Breaker", which we never saw an English release of, 4 brave, female warriors decide to rescue an important girl by the name of Nagi that was kidnapped by Phantom's forces. These 4 girls are Mikoto, a college student studying music, Waka, an ally of justice that dresses in a maid outfit, Yuzuha, a ditsy ninja girl, and Waka, a shrine maiden, who also happens to be Nagi's elder sister. All 4 are gifted with powers of their own, and together they tackle the evil forces of Phantom to rescue Nagi from their clutches.

Kunoichi power!

I'll be very honest and say that "Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds" is a relatively simple game to review. Being a 2D side scrolling brawler, there's not a lot to it than just beating up bad guys that flood the screen and then moving on to the next area. Rinse and repeat for the entire stage until you meet a boss, then you kill him/her to finish the battle. Its a very easy formula that's mixed in with occasional platforming and some weird puzzle-ish segments, nothing else too crazy here that's not been done in other brawlers. Well, most, if not all brawlers are like this, in that sense, "Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds" doesn't innovate enough to add anything different here to its main formula. However, what stands out the most, is its deep combat and characters.

"Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds" plays very much like a fighting game, with fighting game controls, mechanics and even has its control in the numbered fashion in which fighting game nerds use oh so often (12345678 + ABC). Everything from light, medium to heavy attacks and the many different directional inputs you can use, the game feels like you're beating on tons of enemies at once in a fighting game. There are also specials, a super meter that drains as you use EX specials and many other functions, like break bursts or guard cancels. There's A LOT to the game in terms of mechanics, but fighting game fans can very easily grasp everything in a matter of stages. While the game is a very simple button masher on easier difficulties, higher difficulty levels require you to manage meter and use high damaging combos to take out opponents quicker and more efficiently, making it a satisfying experience to learn the many different characters properly.

Nothing like stuffing a big ass bullet bill to the faces of your enemies.

"Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds" brings an assortment of different, varied characters to the table that you can play as. The game starts you off with the main 4, Mikoto, Waka, Itsuki and Yuzuha, while unlocking the rest as you continue to play more of the game. Each character plays very differently, other than the obvious clone characters like White Mikoto or L, and its a massive joy to learn each one. While the unlocked characters are meant to be harder to use and the starting 4 are meant to be easy, Waka is actually one of the most difficult characters to play as, so I recommend to NOT start with her. Mikoto spots a heavy hitting play style with slow to moderate attacks, and having a nice assortment of a ranged attack, a gap closer and an uppercut. Itsuki is pure melee with armor on some of her moves and a full on onslaught of melee specials. Yuzuha is fast with all of her attacks and specials, which consist of both ranged and melee attacks, though her damage is a bit on the low side. The game has plenty of styles for you to learn and adapt as you play through the campaign and try to score for the leader boards.

Of course, having fun characters isn't enough, progression is the real thing that keeps the game going and its also the one thing that keeps players motivated to keep playing with their waifus. Every character has their own progression tree, and you can level up by playing through the respective stages. With each level you can invest points into the progression tree to either learn new special moves, increase character efficiency (with combo boosts, double jumps, air grabs and the like), or gain new mechanics like guard cancels or overdrives. At the end of every progression tree lies the Phantom Break, an ultimate attack that consumes all meter for a ridiculous burst of damage...its sort of like the hyper of said character in a fighting game. Needless to say every character's combo sets, special moves and Phantom Breaks are different, so there's actually incentive to invest time into grinding for the characters that you like.

Nothing like a pair of cheap ass, gank happy bosses to start off the day!

"Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds"'s 8 levels have you roaming the streets of Japan and the demon realm. You'll be running into a ton of enemies, while all of them are Phantom's servants, they come in 2 major types. The humans and well as robots. Enemies look differently from one another and attack differently. From the human side we have the standard brawler and grappler enemies, while the demons have more rushdown-centric behaviors and tend to be a lot tougher to take down. Being swarmed by a variety of enemies has you taking on different strategies to take them down together so that they don't stunlock you into oblivion, though most strategies will have you grouping them up together so that you can take them out all at once. The game can be BRUTAL on higher difficulties, even with your high leveled character.

Needless to say, the game has...a ton of difficulty levels (even after normal, there's hard, nightmare, and nightmare +), so the replay value is off the roof, especially with the amount of characters you can play as. Other than the "Story" mode there's also an arcade mode for you to challenge the leader boards. There's even local PVP and Co-op if you ever get the company. For its asking price...I'd say this game is worth it, considering I got it on a steam sale for $2 (don't get me wrong,even at original price, I'd say its worth). Plus the level cap increase and Kurisu DLC, you're forking out $15 at most for a game that you can pour about 20-30 hours into if you're hardcore at brawlers or fighting games...its quite worth it.

Co-op is always fun if you can find the guys.

"Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds" has some very obvious flaws. For one, if you aren't hardcore into brawlers...or aren't willing to learn too much, this game can lose its appeal quite quickly. If you're the kind of guy that beats games like "Devil May Cry" or "Vanquish" once and then just never goes back to it...then you're not going to find your time's worth in this game. As a score attack game its MEANT to be played multiple times, if you can't see yourself enjoying that, even with the varied character're better off looking elsewhere. Secondly, the complete lack of ANY online play is disturbing. You put Co-op and PVP in A PC GAME, and yet you DON'T HAVE...ANY ONLINE FEATURES AT ALL?! Why even include these if there's no online compatibility? Couch co-op is fine on PC, but we're in an age where connecting with others worldwide is commonplace...this is poor PC porting when all is said and done.

"Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds" at the end of the day, is a simple, fun and addictive brawler experience. I've never had much fun with brawlers until I played this one, and that's saying a lot. After having scored into the leader boards myself and clearing Nightmare + with my Level 99 Kurisu, I'd say that this game was well worth it for more. Fighting game enthusiasts can find their time's worth here with the deep combat system, and brawler fans can be pleased to know that there's a lot to do here.

Happy Gaming!