The old school beat-em-ups have seen a resurgence in the last few years thanks in part to the indie scene.
If I were to count up every retro styled beat-em-up released in the last two to three years, I would need more than just my fingers and toes to count them all.
Of these, I would say only a handful is worth mentioning in terms of uniqueness and quality.
While Phantom Breaker: Battle Ground’s shortcomings stop it from being added to that growing list, it’s not without its charms.
Demo Availability: N/A.
Multiplayer: Offline only.
Length: 3-4 hours for single playthrough of the story mode.
The bulk of the experience with Phantom Breaker lies within the story mode. The player is able to pick from a roster of characters which expands as the story mode is completed in each difficulty.
Each character comes equipped with a unique weapon like dual blades which provides for quick, short-ranged attacks or a Naginata which excels at attacking foes from a distance but is much slower to swing.
The characters also progress through a standard leveling/skill tree system and while there aren’t an excessive number of skills/stats to mull over, it allows the player to customize the character closer to their play style.
The combat system felt overly simple at first as I was finishing stages just by mashing on the attack buttons but after a few deaths, it soon became clear that I needed to make use of the various mechanics of the combat engine in order to come out on top.
Counters, blocks, juggles, guard breaks, bursts, overdrives and stuns are just a few of the mechanics in Phantom Breaker and I was required to make use of most of them to defeat the tougher boss encounters.
While the core experience is solid, there’s a glaring omission of online multiplayer mode. Given that the original release of this title on XBLA came included with that functionality, it makes it feel even more puzzling that it’s missing here.
It’s possible that they may patch the online multiplayer component in the future but I can only review the game as it exists when I review it, not what it might become in the future.
Also, this is as bare bones of a port as you can get without any added content thrown in from the original and no settings options worth mentioning.
The only thing you can do with the video settings is to change from windowed to full-screen mode. Some higher resolution assets or even a filter to clean out the sprites could’ve gone a long way from a visual standpoint but that’s nowhere to be found.
I think when a game is ported to a more powerful platform, it’s a great opportunity to truly make the game shine, not make it worse by omitting key functionalities.
Still, for fans of the genre who love beating down countless enemies as cute anime girls and don’t shy away from a serious challenge, they can expect to have a good time with Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.