Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review: Phantom Breaker - Battle Grounds Overdrive [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]


The classic beat-em-up genre has its ups and downs over the years but in most regards it hasn’t changed substantially, probably because for the most part it has a certain satisfyingly basic appeal. Get into the thick of things, mash some buttons, try to apply some degree of strategy, lather, rinse, and repeat. We’ve already had a more ambitious brawler that also incorporated elements of weapon-based hack and slash into the mix with Wulverblade and now we have Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds Overdrive which plots a more traditional path overall but incorporates its own complexity into things.


While you can get some help trying to understand the full complexity of the controls from the How to Play menu option the main thing to know is that though the action on screen appears to be relatively simple there’s a ton of potential that you’re likely missing if you don’t try to invest in some understanding. Sporting a total package moveset and all sorts of things to know the core of the game has more in common with a fighting game than a beat-em-up but most of the time you won’t really feel it since the masses of generic enemies you generally face don’t require too much investment to knock out. In general, with the exception of the boss fights, you can get by pretty well sticking with a few key moves and combos and the challenge is less technical than simply trying to get through the hordes that continue to be thrown at you.


One nice element of the game is that the various fighters you have to choose from vary pretty wildly in style so there should be an opportunity to find something to suit most tastes. Some use weapons but others are more strictly hand-to-hand. I can’t say that all of them felt particularly viable but at the same time since I’m not fully down with all the fighting system has to offer there could easily be something I’m missing with a few fighters as well. No doubt having someone along to help can be fun and the good news is that up to 4 players can try to make their way through the masses together, which can help liven things up a bit. There is a battle mode as well but since it seems some people are generally better than others, and not all of the fighters themselves seem balanced, it doesn’t really seem that viable as a mode to go back to long-term.


For the pretty budget price what you get out of Phantom Break: Battle Grounds Overdrive is a beat-em-up with more depth than you’d expect but that I doubt most people are capable of fully extracting either. I think for an average gamer they’ll be able to latch onto enough that it can a fun distraction but with the way the challenge ramps up with bosses a few levels in it may be aggravating as well since the game doesn’t slowly ramp you up into fully realizing the skills available to you. If you’re up for a challenge and think a somewhat complex fighting system in a beat-em-up sounds appealing it may be right for you though.

Score: 7

Pros:
  • A nice variety of characters with different fighting styles to choose from
  • The difficulty doesn’t tend to feel as high when you play with your friends
  • For fans of deeper fighting systems this one is more complex than normal

Cons:
  • Levels tend towards stomping hordes of enemies repetitively and then facing off against a far more challenging boss with not too much in between
  • The instructions on how to take full advantage of the capabilities available to you only help so much, in-game methods of reinforcing core skills and techniques would have helped


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