Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 11.08.2015

Review for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on PlayStation 4

Phantom Breaker was a fairly obscure fighting game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms from around 2011. When 5pb decided to make a spin-off, they would incorporate many of the "overdrive" mechanics, as well as some of the signature moves featured in the original title, plus some of the depth and complexity it was known for. With a new chute/chibi style with bold and fluid animations, and a huge amount of enemies compounded with four-player co-op, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive looks like it promises a rousing action game with goofy enemies and cute girls with large weapons. It has a lot going for it on the surface, but is it all that it is cracked up to be? Following a look at the PS Vita's Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds, Cubed3 pulls up a pair of thigh-high socks and throws down in the review for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on PS4.

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive makes a very strong first impression. There is a rad attract mode intro with a catchy pop song, a colourful and striking chibi style with highly fluid sprite animation, and a surprisingly deep combat system. It certainly had many of its priorities straight, and for a game made by a team with experience in fighting games, it is no surprise that the core mechanics are top notch as far as 2D beat 'em ups go.

Unfortunately, 5pb's experience as fighting game and visual novel developers also became a limitation in some areas such as level design and general creativity when it comes to mixing things up to keep the action interesting. With regards to level design, sadly, Battle Grounds Overdrive has only interesting scenery and not much else. Typically, the game will have a big flat area that is more or less an arena, and then dump a huge amount of grunts into the scene. There is very little variation on this formula, and if it weren't for the stimulating backdrops, the levels would be very indistinct.

Anyone who has played the classic Guardian Heroes will feel right at home and be very grateful for Overdrive. Like Treasure's SEGA Saturn title, this game features more than one 2D plane to fight on, which is a graceful design choice to keep things from getting overwhelming and so player-characters can maintain some level of control over the battlefield to ensure attacks connect properly. With a touch of the left shoulder button, Mikoto (or any of the four playable heroines) will quickly switch to the other 2D plane. This is handy when the screen is teeming with goons and when distance needs to be established to reassess the situation. Sometimes this feature can seem like a crutch, particularly when long range enemies spawn on the battlefield and only know one strategy: to never cease launching projectiles that can stun-lock, with the only course of action being to change to a plane where the projectiles cannot hit.

Screenshot for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on PlayStation 4

AI is pretty simplistic; often enemies will stand around while only a few enemies will actively engage in a confrontation. This is probably because 5pb wanted to fill the environments with enemies, but as a means to keep the game balanced and fair, had to only have a few enemies at a time actually be aggressive; otherwise the game would be unplayable when there are upwards to 50 thugs on screen, wailing on poor Mikoto.

Between levels (or after death), characters can be upgraded via skill tree or can buff their stats using points earned from levelling up. This is a solid means of keeping things interesting after an initial play through, since there are four characters with their own quirks (a fifth available as DLC). Since the game itself is very rigid in terms of its flow - which is big flat rooms with hundreds of enemies and a boss at the end - it can feel like filler at times, since the boss fights are usually more interesting than half of the content of any given stage.

Older beat 'em ups, such as Double Dragon, would throw in some light platforming once in a while, and classics like Streets of Rage 2 would introduce conveyor belts and other stage hazards to keep the levels memorable and create new challenge. In a game like Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive, where the art style is so cartoony, it seems like a missed opportunity that the levels do not have much going on other than the aesthetics. What is even more baffling is just how overbearing and hard to follow the plot is for a cute looking brawler; it feels so incongruent to have such a straight-faced drama play out from the fighting games among chibi style graphics.

Overall, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive is very solid mechanically. It's fast, fluid and has a very deep combat system that is to be expected from a team that made a quality fighting game. This pretty much has everything an old school beat 'em up would want - a robust move list, counters, cancels and a variety of technicalities that keep encounters interesting. A cast of cute chibi girls with huge attacks and beautiful animation make this game a sight for sore eyes. Comprehensive skill trees keep people coming back to try to max out the characters, as well as play the harder unlockable modes. At $14.99, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive is definitely worth it; even more so with friends locally or online. While it can sometimes get a bit stale thanks to the unimaginative level design and lazy way enemies are poured into levels like too much sprinkles on a sundae, make no mistake: this is certainly a quality game with quite a bit of effort put into it.

Screenshot for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

5bp has a very solid and well put together game with Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive. It is only held back by being repetitive thanks to the lazy game design of the stages and flooding arenas with unmotivated enemies. An overly melodramatic and hackneyed story just feels out of place in a game populated with chibi characters, and big fat guys who throw pies. Any fan of the beat 'em up genre will probably like Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive, and even more so for people who enjoy couch/local co-op. Sometimes, it may descend into tedium, but, thankfully, a rousing boss fight is guaranteed to make things interesting again.

Developer

5pb

Publisher

5pb

Genre

Brawler

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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