Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 8

Even after completing all of the modes in the game a few times I’m still not tired of it and will probably end up maxing out the levels of all the characters while waiting for the DLC to (hopefully) arrive. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds has a beautiful and unique art style, rocking soundtrack and polished gameplay. If you are a fan of the genre and don’t already own this on Xbox or Playstation Vita this is your chance to add another great side scrolling beat ‘em up to your collection.

Gameplay: Polished, entertaining and with a bit more depth than your typical side scrolling beat ‘em up.

Graphics: Beautiful retro style visuals with huge sprites and excellent character designs.

Sound: The game features a rocking chiptune inspired soundtrack

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Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds

Developer: Mages. | Publisher: Degica | Release Date: 2015 | Genre: Action / Side Scrolling Beat ‘Em Up | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

Side Scrolling Beat ‘Em Ups are traditionally the domain of arcades and consoles, but lately an increasing number have been making the leap to PC. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is the latest brawler to arrive on PC after a successful stint on both Xbox Live Arcade and PSVita. There are a couple of things about PB:BG that sets it apart from the pack though. The game is based around the characters and settings of a traditional 2D fighting game, called Phantom Breaker, but features cute chibi versions of the characters. You don’t need to have experienced Phantom Breaker to appreciate the craziness of Battle Grounds though.

The Battle Grounds story is a bit bizarre, which is saying a lot seeing how off the wall most fighting game plots are. It appears that an evil wizard, named Phantom, is trying to recover his dark powers which have been sealed away. He does this by giving something called Fu-mantion Artificats to girls, granting them power and letting them fight with the promise of granting the victor her wishes. Unfortunately, the power of these battles are so extreme that cracks appear in the space time leading to the shadowy world where Phantom’s power is sealed. You step in as one of four girls that are on a mission to save another girl from Phantoms clutches and beat up as many of his minions along the way.

Apart from the eight stage story mode, which can only be experienced on the single player setting, Battle Grounds also features an Arcade mode, co-op campaign and battleground for pvp skirmishes. You have access to four characters right off the bat, with a further six waiting in the wings to be unlocked. Arcade mode features the same levels as story mode, but challenges you to rack up the best combo, highest score or fastest completion, while the co-op mode strips out the story elements and allow up to four players to join forces. Despite the multi-player elements the game can only be played locally and features no online support. This is a shame for players who don’t have the luxury of nearby friends who can pop in for a game, but hopefully the developers will be able to work out how to add this feature in the future.

Battle Grounds has a very unique visual style and features chunky 2D sprites along with bright and detailed backgrounds. The all-female cast of player characters are adorable, while the enemy designs range from strange and freaky all the way to disturbing. During the course of the game you will beat up demonic looking businessmen armed with golf clubs or umbrellas, flying robots, bikers, dudes in sunglasses and speedos and even a dragon. The variety on display is quite impressive and each level has something new to offer.

Most of the levels in the game are inspired by famous Tokyo districts, but with a surreal twist. You’ll be battling through Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Odaiba, Shinjuku and many other memorable locations. The game isn’t afraid to use huge, pixelated enemy sprites and the amount of chaos that can happen onscreen is truly impressive. Anyone who grew up in the arcade era where huge sprites usually meant flickering or slowdown will love the reckless abandon with which this game can throw around gigantic sprites without incurring a performance hit. Of course, players used to the latest flashy 3D visuals will probably be less impressed by the retro charm of PB:BG.

It’s not just the visuals that impressed me, but the gameplay as well. Traditionally in side scrolling beat ‘em ups you get maybe two standard attacks and one special attack, but Battle Grounds is packed with moves for your characters. Each of the girls has her own unique weapon and can pull off a weak, standard or strong attack. Then you have the ability to dash, throw enemies, perform a back attack, perform a back step, revive partners during co-op play, nullify enemy attack using a slip shift, repel attacks and perform counter attacks. There is even an “emergency mode” move where you can sacrifice a bit of health to knock opponents back if you are getting beat down too badly. In addition you have access to an over drive move, counter burst, critical burst, phantom break, ex attack and various special attacks. The game has 25 pages of text outlining how to use all of these techniques, but don’t worry as it is also very button mashing friendly. Taking the time to learn all the moves and techniques will help you to rack up the points and combos, but this is also a game where anyone can jump in and have fun.

Something else I really liked about the game is that it is played across two lanes, which you can jump between at the touch of a button. This means that you will always be able to hit enemies in the same lane as your own and there is none of the hassle of watching your combos hit thin air because your alignment with enemies were a couple of pixels off. As always, a gamepad is highly recommend for this type of game, but I was also able to complete it using a keyboard. Using a gamepad felt more natural and responsive, but I was able to bust out the same combos using a keyboard.

Defeating enemies and collecting the goodies they drop improves your character level and rewards you with skill points. These skill points can then be used to upgrade the attack, defense and speed of your character or to unlock new skills from their skill tree. Your character level is persistent across all game modes, which is really cool, but your level is capped at 50. Other versions of the game features DLC, which not only added Kurisu Makise from Stein’s Gate as a playable character, but also upped the level cap to 99, so hopefully we will see this added to the PC version soon.

Complementing the visuals perfect is a rather nice chiptune-inspired soundtrack with plenty of catchy tunes. The sound effects are also very good and the game features the original Japanese voices for all the characters. Obviously some of the battle cries can become a bit repetitive, but you can adjust the background music, sound effects and voice over volumes independently from the settings menu. With only 8 levels it doesn’t take very long to complete PB:BG, but the persistent character levels and different game modes does add some longevity. Playing the co-op mode is a lot of fun, but if you can round up three other friends it is easy to lose hours to the Battleground mode. The game also has unlockable Hard, Nightmare and Nightmare+ modes if you really want to test your skills.

If you are a fan of the genre then you should without a doubt add Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds to your collection. The game is very entertaining and about the only downside is that it can become somewhat repetitive after a while. Throw some friends into the mix though and it is easy to lose track of time.

System Requirements

  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista or better 
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 2GHz or better 
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM 
  • Graphics: nVidia Geforce 210 or better 
  • DirectX: Version 10 
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space 
  • Sound Card: DirectSound-compatible
  • Additional Notes: Game controller strongly recommended
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista or better
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 2GHz or better
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia Geforce 210 or better
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectSound-compatible
  • Additional Notes: Game controller strongly recommended

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2 Comments

  1. Ren10ten January 24, 2015
    Reply

    I would be this in a heartbeat if it meant steins gate being released on steam

  2. Prefix666 January 24, 2015
    Reply

    nice

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