By: David Tavernier
Phantom Breaker Battle Grounds Overdrive (we’ll just call it Phantom for short) is the work of 5pb, Japanese developer and record label, responsible for the creation of many video games as well as anime music. As it turns out, Phantom is very much a combination of these two artistic types, incorporating anime music and dialogue within the side scrolling beat ’em up video game genre. Does Phantom harmonize anime and old-school beat ’em up gameplay together to make a fun and addictive game? The answer is… well, sort of. Read on to find out why.
The controls in Phantom are fairly simple; you’ll often resort to button mashing, which, along with the use of one or two special moves, is enough to get through the game’s various battles. You can use light, medium or heavy attacks, but often light attacks are enough alone to clear the levels.
There’s a surprising amount of depth in the way the game controls, but without a rigorous tutorial mode to teach you, button mashing becomes the de facto approach — there is a small tutorial within the options menu, but it isn’t enough to adequately teach you the ins and outs of Phantom‘s controls. This undercuts the fun factor for those hoping for more variety.
On the plus side, there are several playable characters, each with their own attack animations for normal and special moves. For instance, pressing down and “X” for an uppercut with one character will trigger a series of spikes that shoot out of the ground for another. These differences make the game more fun and give each character their own style.
Visuals are very anime-like. Both characters and enemies you fight are well-crafted sprites. The backgrounds are 3D and cel shaded. This combination is easy on the eyes, although the main character sprites could’ve been more detailed than they are. They seem a little bit too low resolution compared with other sprite-based games like BlazBlue or earlier versions of Street Fighter. Characters are also very much anime styled with big eyes and hair cuts that are spiky, flowing and exaggerated.
Another treat for anime fans that Phantom offers is original Japanese voice acting. There is no clumsy dubbing to be found here; though, of course, you’ll have to read subtitles if you don’t know Japanese. While I don’t know enough Japanese to judge the voice acting, it seemed emotional enough for the occasion (the main characters are tasked with saving the world and their long lost friend). The music reminds me a lot of games like Mega Man 2; it’s catchy and suits the brawling that goes on much of the game.
The gameplay in Phantom is akin to old-school side scrolling beat ’em ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men classic arcade games. The game has a story mode that gives you unlimited continues as well as leveling options such as attribute points (i.e. added strength or speed) and a skill tree that allows you to upgrade your skills as well as gain new ones (such as a double and triple jump).
Additional game modes provide the game with some replay value. There’s arcade, which allows you to play through the game without sitting through all of the story mode’s cut scenes and dialogue. Arcade mode allows you to die only one time, however, so it’s sort of like Diablo 3‘s hardcore mode (only veterans and serious gamers need apply).
There is also a co-op mode where you can play with up to three other buddies and a versus mode where you can play against other players. These modes help give the game longevity, which is well needed due to the game’s short run time.
Additionally, there are quite a few characters to choose from. This also helps give the game some longevity because you will want to level up each character, completing their skill and attribute trees. It’s also fun seeing how each character plays with respect to others.
Although it’s not a particular long (3-4 hours) or diverse title, Phantom Breaker Battle Grounds is a solid anime-based brawler cut from the same cloth as games like Double Dragon or Final Fight. If those evoke fond memories, this should be right up your alley.