Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds is a cute and frantic brawler for the that has now arrived on PS Vita for US & EU fans to try out after getting a Japanese release early this year. Released by 5pb as a follow up to the fighting game Phantom Breaker, Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds debuted on the Xbox Live Arcade last year, but was recently ported over to the Playstation Vita and localised for english speaking audiences this summer. There are multiple play modes including story and arcade mode, as well as options for local and online cooperative and head to head play, and it’s a fun jaunt through old school styled arcade fun.
The story of Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds is nothing to write home about, with the story mostly comprising a mission to save your character’s sister from the mysterious Phantom. You meet several other characters along the way, but really, this game’s strength is in the gameplay.
Upon starting Story Mode, you have four characters to choose from at the beginning of the game: Mikoto the magical sword wielding gothic Lolita, Waka, the shrine maiden who is armed with a giant spear, moe maid Itsuki with her massive hammer of doom, or Yuzuha, a ninja school girl with daggers, who bears an eerie resemblance to Mikasa from Attack on Titan. Each character also has a further 6 colour ways to choose from and as well as these girls, you also can unlock a further 6 characters by playing through story mode on various difficulties. This helps pad out what would be an otherwise short game as you work to replay and gain the other characters.
Gameplay is fast and furious, with four main buttons to utilise to dish out punishment. These span from soft to hard attacks and throws, and further combos and move sets are unlockable through the skill tree upon levelling up. Enemies across the first few levels are mainly otaku, gals and golf club wielding businessmen, all with alien growths across their faces. As you progress through the game these morph into harder versions with improved move sets. Also thrown into the mix are also a hefty set of demons, mecha and mid bosses to keep you on your toes. Churning out combos is easy and fun, and is rewarded by a steady rain of coins, gems and power ups. The action can get pretty hectic at times, so the ability to use the left trigger to switch between sections of the screen is a godsend as you flip from one track to another to avoid being pummelled.
The soundtrack for Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds embraces its old school roots and feels right out of a 90s arcade, whilst the graphics really embrace Akihabara’s geek culture with nice little touches such as the otaku breaking out into the wotagei when left to their own devices. Playing through the first level, it’s great to see parodies of all the major Akihabara landmarks, and the feel of each town in Tokyo is apparent through each of the levels.
The character leveling system is basic but works well in that when your character levels up, you can choose to allocate points to either stats or skills. It’s up to you whether you end up going for a well rounded character or shove all your points into Strength stats for a super powered character.