Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 20.01.2018

Review for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on Nintendo Switch

It is anyone's guess as to whether 5pb's 2D fighting game Phantom Breaker will ever see the light of day in the West following its cancellation many years ago. Whatever the issues that held off its localisation, beat 'em up spin-off Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds had better success, along with its updated Overdrive version, which has now arrived on Nintendo Switch.

There is relatively little change on Switch, as Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive is a port of this eight-stage cutesy chibi brawler, with the story and arcade modes present as normal, as well as the option to play through in co-op and in a competitive multiplayer battle mode. Kurisu from Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes' Frau, previously DLC, feature as characters to jump into the game with from the off. The downside is that these extra battlers don't have a unique part in the story, with no cutscenes or dialogue playing out when using them.

That's not a big deal, though, since the story itself is as weird and unimportant as it gets in the grand scheme of things, featuring clones and alternate dimensions that these tough ladies find themselves embroiled in. What is a big deal is how much depth is crammed into this vibrant beat 'em up. No matter which character is picked to play as, every single one has a distinctive moveset that sets them apart from each other to the point that players will find multiple personal favourites.

Screenshot for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on Nintendo Switch

The opening stage acts as a clever introduction to the scale of mechanics and moves, as all of a character's abilities are unlocked from the get-go in this first level. Everything from triple jumping to Phantom Break specials are accessible here to give a taster of how crazy things can progress. Following this, a character is reset to the bare minimum stats, and through the collecting of red orbs from defeating enemies, can level up and spend points on attack, defence and speed, as well as choosing which abilities to open up.

There is some leeway in which abilities to unlock first, with the skill tree offering paths to pump points into, even reinvesting back into an already unlocked move to improve it further. Despite featuring four main attack buttons - weak, medium, strong, and special - combining them together in various ways shows there is a lot of meat under the surface, where characters can unleash varying degrees of powerful moves that are also influenced by a special meter. Having a 200%-filled bar paves the way for the strongest versions of attacks.

Screenshot for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on Nintendo Switch

It takes a little time of going over the tutorial and playing around with things to get a greater understanding of which attacks to use and when, as making the most out of certain moves can pull characters out of tricky situations. The developers managed to think of a couple of helpful techniques, such as when being overwhelmed by airborne enemies and ones hanging around on the two planes of field (you can jump between fighting in the background and foreground), a ranged targeted move will travel and hit all enemies in view, no matter which plane they are on.

Some moments of frustration can occur when attempting to chase down the last couple of enemies on a screen, especially when they jump back and forth between the foreground and background as you approach them, and the need to run after some foes that just seem to be dancing in a single spot and doing nothing else shows the AI might have needed some extra attention. Depending on the abilities you decide to unlock, as well, an influx of cheap enemies can also be a huge annoyance when pummelling you with constant ranged attacks, leaving little to no escape. When the tools you require to put them to bed aren't in your arsenal, this can be a sorry way to see the Game Over screen.

Screenshot for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on Nintendo Switch

However, here's the great thing. Any points that have been invested into stat increases or unlocked abilities can be removed to be put back in elsewhere. Are increased combos and attack power not quite working? Then try reinvesting those points into a stronger guard ability and defence. Normally, in other games, used up points and opened moves are locked in, but here, the player has the freedom to experiment with their tools to see what works for them, based on the amount of skill points they have acquired. Some things might work better in other stages, but as long as you keep racking the experience points up, all abilities can be unlocked and upgraded to max, with enough leftover to boost those stats.

While there are a couple of multiplayer modes, plus some leaderboards for the arcade, an incredibly odd decision has been made to only add online play once Nintendo gets its paid network service running in the future. Given the lack of information on when this will be arriving, and how many people might have stopped playing this game by the time it rolls around, it is strange to take such a risk, and there isn't a clear reason as to why this action has been taken. Surely the time is now - whilst the network is free to use - to allow owners of this title to enjoy the online component and battle together. If Nintendo delays its arrival, will this feature also be delayed, likely reducing the number of potential players even further? For such a fun little brawler, the online play doesn't deserve to be kept from its players.

Screenshot for Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Looking lovely and colourful on the TV or portable Switch screen, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive is a quality little chibi beat 'em up that deserves a chance by any genre fan. There are plenty of characters to choose from and make available through various difficulty modes, and the ability to level up, unlock moves and build stats, compete in leaderboards, and battle in multiplayer means there is huge scope for replayability that not many other brawlers have. It can take a little getting used to, but once the mechanics are down, the depth and uniqueness in terms of each fighter is second to none, and the outlandish and just plain weird enemy designs give it its distinct personality. The one major pitfall is keeping online play at bay until Nintendo launches its paid service, which hopefully won't backfire when the time comes.

Developer

5pb

Publisher

Mages.

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

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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