Out With the New, In With the Old[EU Review copy supplied by 5pb]
Updated 23/01/2015. Steam review, find it before the score!.
Brawlers have always been one of the corner stones of the arcade. You and friends probably spent many pennies and many hours trying to get past that one level and it is no surprise that they were ported over to the home consoles. Over the generations we have been treated to many good brawlers and the one thing that has always stood out with them is that they can get really hard really quickly and it did not matter if you were going solo or playing with friends. For me, brawlers are the definition of 'Old School'.
One console I would not expect to see a brawler on is the PS Vita. Why you ask? Well, they are best played with friends in the same room so you can easily communicate with each other about how you are going to progress through the current level. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is ready to prove me wrong!
Battle Grounds is a spin off from the popular Japanese 2D Fighter Phantom Break. Originally only released on Xbox 360, a PS3 and Arcade port followed after. This spin off is 2D Side Scrolling Brawler where you play as Chibi versions of the characters from the original title.
Upon starting the game you are given the beginning of a very weak story. So weak that you will be skipping your way through all message boxes just to get back into the action. Seriously, I gave it a chance by reading the first few but I found myself button bashing until I was back into the fight! Nether the less, the actual gameplay is great fun and very frantic. You have a choice of 4 characters, with six more that can be unlocked and the only real differences between them all are their weapons and their special attacks.
This game follows very true to old school brawlers in the way it teaches you how to play. Trial and error - if you go into the options you can find what each button does but I found that experimenting with the different characters and their moves to be the most efficient way. There are a few over powered moves which make the game incredibly easy and to be honest, you can button mash all the way through the game. With this in mind you can quite easily complete the game rather quickly without running into any trouble. I managed to complete it in just a little over two hours and only died a few times but I think this was because I was getting a little big headed with the moves.
The battles take place it a gorgeous retro 2D world with great character sprites. It really does remind me of old brawlers I use to play when I was younger. One thing that it does great is that the battles, enemies only appear on two planes - the background and foreground. This removes the issue of aligning yourself with enemies during fights meaning that there is a smoother transition between enemies. As repetitive as it may be, Battle Grounds makes up for the smooth gameplay. There are many times when the screen is full of enemies and the Vita handles it very well. You can be juggling about 10 enemies at once and there is no drop in quality or the smoothness of the controls.
Leveling of characters takes place through the items that you collected during each stage. There are food items which you pick up that heal you but the gems are the important things. There are three different types of gems and they contribute to your level. The bigger the gem, the more towards your level. Very simple concept and by completing a level multiple times you will soon level up. As well as leveling up you can upgrade your character too by using battle points. Upgrades include increasing your basic stats and unlocking kick ass moves! How easy you level up contributes to the point I made earlier - that it can become very easy. You can try replaying the levels on a harder difficulty but you can use you leveled up character so again, there is no difficulty spike. It is not a bad thing as the gameplay is a lot of fun and it is a great way to kill a few hours on the Vita.
As well as a retro back drop, you are treated to a very retro soundtrack. It really fun sounding game and it adds to the atmosphere it is trying to create. Put your headphones one and you will be transported back to the old days of Brawlers.
To try and extend the already short experience you could always jump online and complete the game with some one else. Sounds like a great plan but there is only one flaw, there is no one online! In the time you are waiting for someone else you could have completed the game again. There is an option to play as hoc with another player but again, you need to find someone else to play with.
If you are looking for a fun old school brawler then give this one a go. Battle Grounds is a very fun frantic brawler but fall short in the story and length departments. It has good replay values as there are many characters to try and level up but the repative button bashing and how easy it can be may get to you first!
Phantom Breakers: Battle Grounds PC rundown
Brought to you by Vincent Valentine, review code supplied by 5pb Games.
In this short update to a previous review I have taken on the PC port of Phantom Breakers: Battle Grounds. Coming almost a whole 2 years after its original Xbox360 release and 6 months after the Vita release, it brings very little new to the title, but it is still unlike many others a well done port.
I played this on two systems, my personal gaming PC which is more than capable of playing most anything. But as a further test for lower end systems I played it on my Samsung laptop which only has Intel HD3000 graphics. As expected it ran silky smooth at 60fps on the PC on what can only be called max settings as the only actual customisation option for graphics being a fullscreen/window switcher. What was somewhat more surprising is the fact that it ran just as smoothly on the laptop graphics, even though Phantom Breakers is simply an anime styled side scrolling Beat’em up I was still surprised by how well optimised it is for low end systems. I would not be at all surprised if it was able to be run on a modern smart phone.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the controls. Although clearly heavily aimed towards fight sticks and Xbox 360/Xbox One controllers I started the game using keyboard controls. Menu’s controlled with WASD and no actual mapping instruction for keyboard made learning the required buttons a matter of jabbing each key in turn to see what would happen. Once I had worked out the keys however it was still not smooth sailing as many of the keys are further apart than what is optimal. This being said though, as I said before the control scheme is aimed more towards fight sticks which it is perfect for, the 360/XBO control scheme is also perfect for what it is supposed to be, although if I was to suggest anything I would say that possibly having the key prompts display as the 360 buttons rather than fight stick buttons might be better as most PC gamers do not use fight sticks.
I personally have found this to be a great fun and technically fantastic PC port, performing flawlessly across the board. However 5pb have mentioned an issue of fullscreen not working correctly, I myself did not experience this but they hope to have it fully fixed before its release on the 23rd of January 2015
Who Should Play This?
- Gamers after a fun button bashing brawler should defintely give this a go
- Any gamer who loves a good retro looking game
- Not too concerened about a solid story? Come on in!
- Looking for a quick fix? This may cover you
Who Should Not Play This?
- Get bored very quickly due to weak story or low difficulty curve? Give this a miss
- Looking for a tatical brawler? You will not find that here!
- Cannot stand Chibi characters? This is your worst nightmare!