Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds

This game is cute as hell, and looks and sounds very nice overall. You’ve got some beatemups like Scott Pilgrim, where it’s clear more animators than actual beatemup designers worked on it. But here, you get awesome fluid animations AND pretty deep, solid beatemup gameplay.

Gonna talk a bit about the mechanics, cause there aren’t any good guides that I can find, and despite a 25 page “how to play” section in options, the game doesn’t do a very good job of explaining itself. Every character has special attacks as well as a main combo. The combo can be started from the light, medium, or heavy stages of it using that button, but if you just mash light attack, you’ll automatically start the combo from the beginning, progress through medium and heavy attacks, even if you just keep pressing light attack.

Each character’s special attacks vary widely, and they’re handled with the fourth button coupled with directional inputs (down, toward, and toward-toward are the 3 you get). You’re going to want to focus on putting skill points toward “Special Attack” in your skill tree before anything else, as without those points you can’t do special attacks, period. The game is much harder and less fun without that skill. EX versions of each special attack are done with Special + Heavy, and have anime-looking cut-ins and bigger damage and animations. They take a full meter to do, and you need a point in the EX Attacks skill on your skill tree. Again, you’re going to want to focus on getting there ASAP instead of putting points into your stats. Stats don’t alter the game much; specials and EXes do.

Same goes for Phantom Break and Overdrive, but you won’t have those back for a while. Something worth noting that the game doesn’t explain: your meter charges up twice. Phantom Break and Overdrive consume 2 meter, EX attacks and your “outrange” attack’s strong version consume 1. Blue gems recharge your meter, red gems are XP, coins are just for points.

There’s some bullshit you’ll run into later on, with the hovering homing-magic enemies that can endlessly chain you until you die. I’ll share with you the thing that took me forever to figure out and made the game fun again: Dodging from plane to plane can help you shake their magic, and if you hit them they have to be grounded for a while, and they can’t use their homing magic from the ground.

There’s more characters to unlock, 2 each for easy, normal and hard story mode clears. You can actually play those characters in story mode in this version, it skips dialogue and you can level up between stages as normal. You don’t have to play the unlocked characters in arcade mode!

So, it’s a fun, beautiful beatemup with good mechanics and lots of characters, good music, a nonsense story, and local co-op. Get it right the hell now, and armed with what I’ve explained here, you’ll be able to immediately have some fun.

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