Boredom is poison to the human psyche, and is the wretched backlash of having an organ that requires entertainment and arbitrary desires. Yet, in our culture, we are constantly juxtaposed by this idea of being bored yet simultaneously being inundated with amusement.
So we alleviate it temporarily. Some people choose alcohol, while some choose video games, yet I opt for a good mix of both. As a species, killing boredom is our business, and with the likes of Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds, business is good.
Battle Grounds will rekindle your lost days of simple arcade magic in what is possibly the most adorable side-scrolling beat ’em up around. It actually marks a first for me, as this humble PC game has been around for a few years now, having begun its digital life on Xbox LIVE in 2013 before a PSP version launched a year later.
In fact, the whole game is a spinoff of the 2D fighting game Phantom Breaker, which was developed by 5pb and released in 2011. For good or ill, this is a franchise that is being kept alive, but it does beg the question of why there is a PC port of the game nearly two years after it enjoyed a console release. But let’s not dwell on the whys and concentrate on the whats.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a collaborative effort from MAGES and Degica. However, while Degica are an established publishing house responsible for launching many Japanese-style games, including Skyborn and A-Train 9, not a lot of information can be found regarding the former. That said, according to this article, MAGES was formed from the remnants of developer 5pb.
The game itself is a high-octane Streets Of Rage-influenced arcade title where players take on the role of one of the re-imagined characters who have been given a chibi (child-like) do-over. Utilizing various fighting skills, you control your avatar against several cartoon backdrops through a multitude of Japanese-esque 2D levels.
The story goes that Mikoto, Waka, Itsuki and Yazuha must wage battle through the streets to recover the innocent Nagi from the elusive Phantom so they can continue the Kumon family legacy. I’m not exactly sure what all that means, but my word processing software has just gone insane with red underlines typing all that out.
Enemies are numerous and, on the easiest setting, putty in your nimble hands. There is nothing complicated about the game, but as a means of a speedy fix it handles fun in quick and colourful bursts.
While special moves appear to be abundant, I found myself unable to perform beyond the most basic of attacks, which ranged from a hi-power hit to a low-power hit, the latter of which was also a blocking move for some reason. This may have been the fault of my own USB game pad, but tinkering with the settings yielded nothing and the buttons didn’t match up to what the game was showing. On I pressed regardless.
You’ll want to note that the developers have assured us that key-mapping is something that is going to be patched shortly after the game is released. That’s a nice bonus, but it sadly doesn’t help me at this stage.
And, yes, you will most likely benefit from using a game pad, as attempts to use the keyboard were akin to learning how to spell in ancient Hebrew with my face. What kind of game asks you to navigate the main menu using the W,A,S,D keys?!
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds features an array of modes, including a main story, arcade (same thing but without the gripping tale that holds it all in place) and multiplayer. Story and arcade mode are seamless, with the only notable difference being that the latter is missing the narrative and the ability to upgrade your character.
Going further, the multiplayer was unfortunately unavailable, perhaps due to the game only being launched this week. However, I’d wager it works in a similar way to the other two modes.
All in all, Battle Grounds was actually able to hold my attention for quite some time. Its fast action and accessible gameplay make it a quick and fun romp. That said, the story itself held little to no interest to me, and taking on a slew of enemies at once became a bit of a mess at times.
With its bright setting, adorable-yet-tough host of characters and a barrage of weird-looking enemies to dispose of, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds will keep you glued to the screen for a little while but probably won’t hold your attention for too long. On the plus side, at least you won’t have to keep depositing coins.
This review of based on the PC port of the game, which was provided to us.
With a tidal wave of cutesy nostalgia and high-octane action thrown into the mix, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds ends up being a relatively fun beat 'em up.