Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Review
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is an old school, 2D anime-style beat ’em up by developer MAGES. You can choose from four anime heroines: The sword-wielding Mikoto, spear-toting Waka, High School ninja Yuzuha, and hammer wielding Itsuki. The team is on a quest to save their kidnapped friend from a villain named Phantom. The cast of Phantom Breaker is varied and unusual, as you would expect from anything that has to do with anime. They’re colorful, quirky, with fully voiced (subtitled) dialogue.
After choosing one of the female protagonists, you are dropped into the brawling world of Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds. You can only move left, right, dash, and jump on a single, linear plane. There’s a foreground and background plane that you can hop to with the simple click of a button. Enemies appear in large, clustered groups, and the object is to wail on them until they fall. After each enemy dies, they burst into a flurry of coins and gems, which are used to level your character up.
There are three standard attacks: weak, medium, and strong, which you can string together to create different combos. As you fight, take damage, and deal some pain, a bar underneath your health will slowly fill up with light blue. This bar can fill twice, allowing you to unleash some serious special moves. Overdrive allows you to attack rapidly, the Outrange Attack will unleash lightning onto every enemy onscreen, and the Phantom Breaker skill allows your heroine to deal their own signature technique.
Each girl fights and feels different, gameplay wise, whereas in most games in this genre, each playable characters usually feels the same; there isn’t much in terms of attack and execution that sets them apart. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds does a good job making each character feel unique, while giving them special moves that drastically set them apart.
The art direction is vibrant. All the anime-inspired characters and enemies look great, and animate fluidly. Battles are quick and chaotic while explosions and special attacks frantically light the screen. It gets pretty crazy, but I never found myself lost or too overwhelmed by the visuals. Landing hits was always exciting and extremely furious.
As for the music, I instantly felt myself drawn to the old school sound of the chip tunes. Right away, my mind thought of the original 8-bit Mega Man when Phantom Breaker first booted up! While there wasn’t a single song that stuck out to me, the overall sound and music was enjoyable, and kept me engaged in the game aurally as I progressed from stage to stage.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds controls very well. Everything is fluid and responsive, and button mashing through the melee is easy to pick up, and quickly becomes second nature. And yes, you will mash those buttons, but in a good way. With a huge arsenal to mess around with at any given moment, combat never felt repetitive or dull.
However, enemies and stages are really random. For the most part, you’re making your way through different cityscapes, sewers, schools, and other industrial areas. Monsters come in a lot of different types, but there’s nothing that ties them all together. Sure you’ll come across a lot of different stages and baddies, but it would have been nice if there was a theme tying them all together; the game feels like a mishmash of enemies and locations. Which is a shame cause everything looks awesome, in a wonderfully pixalated way.
The story of Phantom Breaker is straightforward, and enemies and heroes speak in standard kuwaii/anime terminology. Which is okay, but they also reference things I had no idea about. Things I think that are specific to this game, and this world, only? That you never see. It would have made more sense if I, as the player, had any concept of what they were referencing. Also, the story gets kind of convoluted as it delves into other dimensions, characters in other worlds, etc.
Skill Sets are a nice way to level your character up, but there really isn’t a clear description of what they do. I mean, Attack, Defense, and Speed are self explanatory. But what does the next level of Phantom Breaker, an Ex Attack, of Overdrive Level 2 even do? Or look like? You can’t really know until you purchase the skill, and see for yourself. It isn’t totally bad, but I would like to know what I’m purchasing with my points before wasting it on a technique that doesn’t suit my play style. A small animation or just a short description would help ease this issue.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a great, action-packed throwback game that will definitely keep you entertained. You can beat the story mode in one sitting, but there’s enough character variety and different modes to keep you playing long after completion. Playing with other people is a must! If you enjoy old school arcade beat ’em ups in the same vein as Scott Pilgrim, Castle Crashers, or Golden Axe, Phantom Breaker is definitely a game worth looking into.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds was published Degica and developed by MAGES. It’s available on Steam for $11.99.