Monday, August 25, 2014

Pocket Review - Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a very by-the-books brawler. This Vita game from 5pb is pure action with little to no story or dialogue, but the action is fast and the game offers just enough to not get old. Brawlers tend to be pretty solid on handhelds, and this one is too, but it's nothing impressive. It even seems like a quick port, as the development team didn't even take the time to change the Japanese button configuration standards to English ones, so even at the start you'll be trying to confirm with X and canceling out instead.

Once you dive into the game, players get to select who they want to play as. I used the DLC character Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate. The side-scrolling stages simply require you to beat all the enemies on-screen and then move onto the next area. Enemies get progressively harder from stage to stage, but thankfully you're able to upgrade your character as you go along using gems you earn during combat. At the end of each stage, or when you die, you are granted experience points to put into stats such as attack, defense, and speed or to acquire new combat skills.

Characters have the ability to jump, attack, dash, charge attack, and perform special attacks or phantom breaks. Phantom breaks and some of the more powerful skills drain your power bar, but it can be replenished quickly through connecting with standard attacks. Despite the variety, I found a couple of skills that worked and stuck with them, because they were the easiest way to plow through the tons of enemies the game throws at you. It seemed cheap at times, but trying to be fancy with my attacks got dull pretty quick, so this sped things along. It was especially helpful on some of the challenging boss fights, which otherwise didn't seem fair on my end.

The story mode is pretty straightforward, and there is also an arcade mode and online play. It's a shame that it's nearly impossible to get to play online, because players would have to leave single player mode and search specifically for an online match in order to be paired up. It's not something that Phantom Breaker alone suffers from, as many handheld games do things this way and it rarely works there either.

As for the DLC, playing as Kurisu Makise is cute, especially if you're a Steins;Gate fan as you will get the easter eggs. It's still hard to justify the $5.99 price tag for the DLC, but at least you get some easy trophies if you like that kind of thing. To be frank, it was actually the DLC that made me plow through this one at all, because outside of Kurisu I didn't care about any of the other characters. Phantom Breaker didn't really care to show me more, because in the end it was just a mindless brawler. A shame it was made even more mindless by its lack of depth.

Recommended? Gameplay is decent, but it's pretty shallow overall.
Enjoyed By? Someone looking for a mindless brawler with cute anime girls might have some fun here.

This game was played on Vita via a PSN code provided by the publisher.

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