Hey gang, Valkor here. It’ been sometime that I’ve had the opportunity to whip out the old Playstation Vita and give a game a thorough playthrough. It’s not that I’ve given up on the system, but there doesn’t seem to be that much out there. I could back-catalog some PS/PSP games, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having such an amazing system without games all its own. Then developers 5pb and Mages. walked into my life with “Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds”. And they’ve given me new reason – even if for a brief moment – to charge up the PSV once again to give my system it’s just desserts.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds takes me back to my 2D arcade, beat-em up roots; back when I was just a small Val, shoving quarters into such stand ups as Double Dragon, The Simpsons, TMNT and more. But instead of dealing with a seedy environment or shifty characters who look to “take my last guy”, I can play to my leisure in the comfort of my own home or commute. The story behind Battle Grounds is simple: you play as one of four girls (five if you get in on the Kurisu DLC) who look to face-off against a being known only as “The Phantom”, who looks to unleash his dark powers upon the world. You kick things off by making your selection, choosing which color you’d prefer your fighter to be, then get ready to be dropped into a world of madness and endless enemy bashing.
Battle Grounds plays similar to Sega’s "Guardian Heroes", where you fight from left to right on two planes of battle (as opposed to three) by hitting the L-button. Once an enemy is defeated they’ll drop a cache of goods such as gems, coins and food that will replenish your health. And at the end of every stage is a boss battle all leading up to the final baddie. The game can be played single player in either story or arcade mode. Or you can use Ad-Hoh, connect through PSN to play with up to four players for some really frantic action.
Once the fighting kicks in, things can get pretty chaotic, but you have an arsenal of moves at your disposal. First up you have your light/medium/strong attacks as well as combo moves initiated when you press a series of buttons. Then there are special moves indicated by the flashing blue bar under the health bar and initiated by pressing the R-Button. While performing the move depletes the bar, it can be replenished by finding blue gems or wailing on some baddies.
Battle Grounds also has RPG elements attached. For instance at the end of every stage, you tally up red gems that equates to experience, which then levels you up with the quickness. You’ll also earn skill points that can be applied in a number of ways; for example towards improving special moves, your strength or defense. Even if you should die mid battle, those points can still be applied and you’ll come back into the next round a bit stronger.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds was initially released on XBOX Live last year and is an offshoot of a fighting game series simply called “Phantom Breaker”. This is my first time hearing of the series as well as getting hands on with this particular game. And as a lover of all things beat em up, this was definitely up my alley. So how does it fare? Let’s find out as we dive into the TOV Breakdown.
Battle Grounds certainly won’t rank as one of my all-time favs, but it isn’t the worst beat em up I’ve ever played. Gameplay is very smooth and intuitive - even though it’s a button masher; yet everything feels right when pounding into a swarm of bad guys. Pulling off some of the more insane moves is a bit more complicated, but thankfully I didn't actually need to be all that complex and I completed the game pretty much sticking with light/medium/strong attacks. The animation is crisp clean and very fluid for this type of game, with detailed yet cartoon backdrops. I almost felt that this is the sort of game that would be better on the 3DS given that you’re playing on two planes of battle - I think it would look pretty cool! The music is 8bit ear candy, if you can handle it and the voices, while sticking with the original Japanese (is crystal clear). One would do well to invest in Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds, if just for a quick release with a decent beat em up.
First up, the game is a total button masher (this is both good and bad); that wouldn’t be so bad, yet you’re given all these moves but you don’t really need them to get by. Again, I used light/medium/strong attacks with no problem. Next, the game needs a dedicated jump button; as it stands, when you’re in the thick of things, pressing up to perform a jump isn’t always effective and could get frustrating. This isn’t a fighting game - it’s a beat em up! So executing a jump shouldn’t be all that difficult. Finally, some of the larger characters are just too damn large – I’m talking when a bunch are on screen, the entire screen is loaded with them and that can get confusing real quick. Thankfully with enough cheesing of the buttons you’ll get through with the quickness. Still that was insane.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is available now and if you’re a PS Vita owner looking for something simple yet action-packed and enjoyable, something that’ll hold you over until the next big thing… if that ever happens for the Vita, then this is the title for you. So, out of TOV 5 stars, Phantom Breakers: Battle Grounds gets a 3.