Thank you Rocket Panda Games for sending us this game to review!
Phantom Breaker has an interesting history. It first was released in Japan on Xbox 360 in 2011, and there were expanded releases Another Code and Extra, but those, like the original, never came West. Interestingly, the beat 'em up spinoff Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds was released in the West, despite being this game's sequel of sorts. (We reviewed it here: https://www.christcenteredgamer.com/reviews/pc-mac/7953-phantom-breaker-battle-grounds-pc) Battlegrounds was very well received, and many hoped to play the original, but that never happened until this latest Omnia release, nearly eleven years after the original.
The story behind Phantom Breaker on a basic level is fairly straightforward: a powerful being called Phantom offers people he turns into warriors called Duelists power so that they can have their wish granted. In order to have this happen, they have to beat up all other Duelists, where thereby Phantom can grant them their wish. As one might expect, making a deal with Phantom is more of a Monkey's Paw situation - one does not just get their wish granted without some sacrifice - if it's even granted at all. Each character plays a role, either to resist Phantom, begrudgingly help him based on their perceived inability to choose, or support him in his evil. The titular 'Phantom Breaker' is one who is supposed to be able to stop him.
Phantom Breaker is what one might call an anime-styled 2D fighting game. For those who have not played many fighting games, it's become a fairly common genre since the popularity of Street Fighter II back in the early 1990s. Each character faces each other in whatever level they happen to be in, and each has a set of attacks that they use to whittle down the opponent's health bar down to zero. Whoever is left standing, wins. In this game everyone has a weapon of some sort, and they are usually magical in some way; these weapons are called F.A.s. When the Burst Gauge is raised, some special attacks become possible, and super moves can be executed when it's maxed out. Each character can choose between one of three styles, Quick, Omnia, and Hard, which also impacts how they play. Learning and understanding these combat systems is key to doing well.
MAGES does an excellent job with art and storytelling, if their other popular properties are any indication, so it should be no surprise that this one also have good looking anime art, and an interesting story. Each of the characters has a personal motivation as to why they are a Duelist, and what they are fighting for. The reasons range from trying to heal a loved one to bringing back someone from the dead - to even pure bloodlust. Several of the characters naturally team up, and one of the endings leads directly to the story of Battlegrounds (and the achievement name cleverly notes this). Most of the story is, naturally, located in the 'Story' mode.
In Story mode, you can choose to play through as one of many characters - almost the entire roster is represented. Most of the Story mode sequences are from the original Phantom Breaker, which has your character involved in visual novel-style sequences where you speak with whoever you run into, and then (most often) fight them, and move onto the next one. Everything is fully voice acted, and I absolutely love most, if not all, of the English voice acting. Some of the characters really stood out to me - Itsuki's voice is my absolute favorite, with some other wonderful ones as well.
Some characters have the alternate endings, and are hidden behind failures - you have to lose a battle, then continue, and beat them on the second try. If you always win on the first try, which I had no trouble doing, then you may need to lose to progress. A small number of routes also offer choices, which also lead to different endings. After the main character's routes, there are a few Story mode sequences from Phantom Breaker Extra. These are quite a bit more difficult to progress through, and I got frustrated with the difficult challenges for a few of them. These challenges are not just to win - you have to perform some combos, execute certain actions, and so on. I was able to do many but not all of them, leading me to completing all but a few of the character stories. This is quite frustrating, but it's what happens when you put character stories behind a skill wall, and I would be lying if I didn't admit I resented that more than a little. I do not know if there are any hidden stories or unlockable ones as a result of this, and that irks me quite a bit. All but a few characters have Story modes available right off the bat.
Despite a few locked story modes, the vast majority I was able to see, and I have a pretty good picture of what's happening in the story behind this game. It's pretty interesting honestly, and I appreciate Battlegrounds a lot more now, since I now know why people would possibly side with Phantom; long story short, he offers people what they desire the most, and entices them with power. The process of granting them their wish alters the very fabric of reality, with effects that reverberate throughout the universe and beyond. He's a pretty archetypal villain, and reminds me quite a bit of a certain serpent - and the sin which followed that wrecked our universe.
Outside of the Story mode, which is where I suspect many players will dedicate a fair amount of their single-player time, there is 'Single Mode', where you can play Score Attacks, Time Attacks, Endless Battles, or Arcade mode. These are fairly self-explanatory; you play aiming for a high score, clear the game as quickly as possible, win as many times in a row as possible, or just play like in an arcade. I did notice that Arcade mode has you playing against all of the characters one after another, with not much story content included. Other modes include Online, VS., and Training modes.
Often, niche anime fighting games like this have a dead online. While I didn't see a large crowd when I checked it out, it wasn't dead - so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say that it has a small but dedicated community. That's a good thing! I only played one match, but despite a ping just over 200, it worked well enough that I didn't feel cheated; I earned my defeat fair and square.
VS. mode is pretty much what you would expect; you can play with another player locally, or against the computer. If you really want to just watch the CPU fight itself, that's an option as well. Nothing new or groundbreaking here. Same with the training mode; it's quite bare-bones. You can fight against a dummy enemy, while testing out your moves. This is useful for certain things, but at the same time, the actual attacks themselves are mostly consistent between characters - SP + H is the super move for all characters, for example.
Combat itself seems simple at first, and indeed button mashing can get you quite far. One common complaint of this game is that the deeper combat systems, as well as each character's move list, are only accessible from the main menu, not while playing or even from Training mode. I agree this is a significant oversight that I hope they will patch in at some point. As you learn to play the game more, there are lots of less obvious game systems that makes high-level play possible, and encourages players to learn more. I don't want to get into all of them here, but suffice it to say that the combat is quite enjoyable, and has a lot for more skilled players to take advantage of - even if the basic moveset is easy to learn. It's also very fast paced, so most new players should enjoy it as well.
Graphically, I would say it's good - not exceptional, but good. One common complaint is that there are no resolution options; it renders at 1080p, whether you like it or not. I currently cannot verify this, because my house is torn apart from some major remodeling, so I am limited to my laptop's 1080p screen at the moment. When I once again have access to my desktop, I'll be able to confirm or deny this. Strangely, the first few times I played this game, it crashed constantly - every three minutes or so. I attempted to stream the game, and it was a disaster - it kept crashing. When I went back to play the game the next day, it stopped crashing. I don't know what the cause was, and I wasn't able to reproduce it, either. I'm not sure what to do with that, so hopefully it doesn't happen to you. I was able to fully enjoy the game once the crashes stopped.
The music is quite good - especially the intro and ending songs. It is my understanding that they could not get rights to the Japanese originals, but took extra care to make sure the replacements were well done - and they certainly succeeded. Just like the top-tier voice acting, they made sure that the English localization was done well, and they absolutely succeeded. Bravo!
Morally, there are a few things to note. Obviously, there is fighting violence - you fight with enemies, and they don't get up (if you win). Punching, kicking, blasts of magical or technological weapons, and so on. The character roster is solid, with all but 3-4 being female. One of the four males is a sister with her dead brother fighting in her place via a resurrection stone. He's basically a zombie, for all practical purposes. Another of the males has long hair and wears clothing that could easily confuse the first-time player into thinking he was a girl; the voice is deep and male-sounding, though. Some of the female cast members wear really short skirts or midriff, but no panties are shown. A few do show significant cleavage, and some also have jiggling breasts.
In the story mode, most battles result in a winner or loser, but with some it's clear that the enemies are killed, even if that is not shown. One character wears bandages that show blood. She says it's part of her cosplay setup. Curse words are used occasionally, with words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', 'b*st*rd', and '*ss'. God's name is used in vain. Other parallel universes exist.
Phantom Breaker: Omnia is a fun, relatively lighthearted anime-styled fighting game with an excellent localization, but not without flaws. I would say that I enjoyed it more than not, and I look forward to playing it with friends if they find interest, but some people have technical issues, like their controllers not working properly, or issues like not being able to set graphics settings at all. I also had the crashing issues, that went away without explanation. Thankfully, my fight sticks worked perfectly, though my DualSense controller has odd button placements. I hope these and other small issues are resolved soon, though nothing that I experienced was a deal breaker for me once it stabilized - I enjoyed Phantom Breaking plenty. If you enjoy 2D-style fighting games, it's definitely worth a close look, flaws and all.