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Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive won't win over gamers sick of 2D brawlers, but its fast-paced gameplay and fun multiplayer mode make it a cut above the rest. With all kinds of characters to level up, a cool art style and deep gameplay, this is one PlayStation 4 beat-em-up worth fighting for. Rating: 71%
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive
  • Review Score:

  • B
Some people love cheesy horror films and dumb pop songs, but my guilty pleasure is old school beat-em-ups. As simple as they often are, I get a kick out of beating up random street thugs and unruly gang members. There's something liberating about walking across town picking up random weapons, fighting bad guys and eating out of garbage cans. I know the stories are paper-thin and the strategy usually devolves into hammering the same button until everybody is knocked out, but I can't help but enjoy old school brawlers.

The funny thing is that my admittedly silly guilty pleasure is starting to be taken seriously by other game critics. We're beginning to see a rise in quality beat-em-ups that not only look and act like the old school games we grew up with, but go a step further by adding deep gameplay mechanics and a leveling system. If all this sounds good to you, then you're probably going to have a great time fighting through Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive on the PlayStation 4.

The story is as goofy as ever, featuring a mysterious man named Phantom and his attempt to take over the world. Who could possibly swoop in and save the day from the dark forces that threaten Tokyo? Four teenage girls, of course. But don't worry; these aren't your ordinary schoolgirls. Mikoto is a sword master, Waka is the shrine maiden, Itsuki has dubbed herself the Ally for Justice, and Yuzuha is a powerful ninja. Together they set off on an adventure to fight the dark forces and reduce Tokyo's demon population.

The adventure begins in the bustling Akihabara district, full of game shops, arcades and tourists looking for hot deals. But all that can wait, because these four girls are too busy fighting off bionic street thugs. It won't take long for our heroes to get sucked through a portal and forced to survive a series of challenging levels. We're spit out on the Daigaku university campus, where it's off to fight even more demonic forces. We then head to the Odaiba docks, cross the Ikebukuro district, up and elevator in Shinjuku and past a picturesque shrine. And that's when the game stops treating us to Tokyo's most memorable hotspots and sends us into a hellish landscape the girls may never escape.

There are a few things that set this game apart from the usual 2D beat-em-up. For one thing, all of the action takes place on two separate planes that the girls can freely jump between at the push of a button. They are either in the foreground or background, never able to freely walk around like in Final Fight or Streets of Rage. At first this felt limiting, but then I quickly realized how much freedom it gave me to pull off very specific moves. And with three different types of attacks that can be aimed in a number of different directions, the combat mechanics are surprisingly deep for a brawler.

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Like most beat-em-ups, you'll be able to power your way through the first few stages by simply mashing on buttons. But don't think that will carry you to the end of the game, because these fierce schoolgirls will run into several types of enemies that will require more precise aiming. Some enemies will be low to the ground, while others will fly high above the stage. In both cases, players will need to use their different attacks wisely in order to defeat these tricky baddies.

In case you don't derive enough satisfaction from watching enemies writhe around in pain as you smack them about, then you'll be excited to learn that gems pour out of the bad guys. Depending on how long you keep the combo going, increasingly expensive jewelry will line the playing field. Forget the carnage that comes with many fighting games, because the gore has been replaced by a steady stream of gems. This gives the term "blood diamond" a whole new meaning.

Collecting the gems does more than increase your score; they also work towards leveling up the different schoolgirls. Between levels, players will be able to put experience points into increasing each character's stats, as well as learning new combos and special moves. And since the leveling carries over from one session to the next, it gives gamers an incentive to go through the story multiple times with different combinations.

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

If Phantom Breaker looks familiar, it may be because the game hit the PS Vita last summer. Now on the PlayStation 4, this beat-em-up is more chaotic than ever. The game manages to fit an army of enemies on the screen, all spewing gems and coins when they die. This new PS4 version also offers additional routes and new skills to purchase. And best of all, it introduces a new audience to this endearing brawler.

Phantom Breaker takes a lot of its visual cues from twenty year old games. The art style uses pixels to great effect, creating the type of 2D action game you might have played on the Sega Saturn in 1996. Each level is overflowing with charming details, from the authentic advertising on the streets of Akihabara to the bizarre new batch of villains that pop up late in the story. The animation is also captivating, and I like how the boss fights keep ramping up from one stage to the next. Although short, Phantom Breaker is full of quite a few memorable moments.

Of course, none of this will mean much if you're not already a fan of fast-paced beat-em-ups. Even with the added depth and leveling system, there are times when this PlayStation 4 game devolves into little more than repetitive button mashing. Longtime fans of the genre will find the pixel graphics and old school gameplay charming, while everybody else may be left scratching their head. Whether you like this kind of thing or not, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds - Overdrive fully delivers on its goofy premise.
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