As a fighting game fan drowning in the goodness of recent strong fighters like Guilty Gear: Strive, Melty Blood: Type Lumina, and King of Fighters XV, I’m all for more in what I would consider a new golden age for the genre. Enter Rocket Panda Games’ Phantom Breaker: Omnia: a remastered version of a popular anime fighting series that is coming to Western regions for the first time. PB: Omnia is quite a bit different from what I’ve played so far, in some good ways, and some not so good, but I think it’s another strong and interesting flavor among the bunch, even if the team unfortunately wasn’t able to implement rollback netcode.
Realize your desire and make it a weapon
Phantom Breaker: Omnia’s continuing story pits a cast of mostly high school boys and girls (16 girls, three boys, and a zombie thing) against each other at the whims of a mysterious figure known as Phantom, who grants many of them a chance to make a single wish come true if they battle for him. Becoming known as Duelists, these characters are granted magical weapons that allow them to amass power as they win fights. Unfortunately, the power also seems to bend the laws of reality and dimensions, and there are some more sinister schemes at play. And so, it becomes a struggle between those who want their wish more than anything, those who realize Phantom’s schemes and fight back, and those who knowingly work for him.
Despite what I might consider to be a cast of mostly various magical girl heroines, Phantom Breaker: Omnia still has a decent and varied roster. Mikoto is the lead as a gothic lolita with a broadsword and has your standard projectile, uppercut jump, and rushdown attacks. There are also characters like Mei, who is a singer and idol turned actual magical girl with a wand for long-range attacks, and Cocoa, an MMORPG-obsessed girl who manifested a deadly vampiric hand that allows her to rush her opponents with a barrage of slashes. As much as the cast can be considered stereotypical at first glance, they do have a good level of variety going on in both appearance and combat style. There are even guest characters from other popular anime franchises such as Kirisu from Steins;Gate and Rimi from Chaos;Head.
Technically the third game of the series, Phantom Breaker: Omnia is a refreshed and refined collection of the Japanese releases. Not only does it bring all previous characters into one game, but it also adds two more in the form of Maestra and Artifactor. It also rebalanced and retuned characters and mechanics of the game and gave it a remixed soundtrack. The original soundtrack is still there and you can switch to it freely, but I think Rocket Panda did a wonderful job with the remixed music for Omnia. Each of the remixed songs feels a bit more fleshed out than their original counterparts, adding more emotion and intensity to the overall fights.
I think one of the only issues I take with the overall presentation of Phantom Breaker: Omnia is the design of some of the newer fighters in the game. Where most of the cast's character models feature hand-drawn sprites and they look great, a handful of characters look like very subtle 3D models. When the fight is going on, they work properly like any other character in the roster, but they also look like they were made for another game with how contrasting they are standing side-by-side with any of the 2D animated characters. It’s not like this is Capcom Vs. SNK, so it’s kind of a strange thing to see two fairly obviously contrasting character design styles inhabit this roster.
Clash, counter, counter, clash
When it comes to gameplay in Phantom Breaker: Omnia, it’s got a very easy setup. Rather than inputs like quarter circles and buttons to do specials, every character has light, medium, and heavy attacks, as well as a special attack button. In neutral, the special attack button will do a Burst Counter that can absorb enemy attacks and then punish them. It can also be powered up to do a stronger counter at the cost of some of the character’s special meter. Holding forward, down, or back when using the special attack button does a special move (like Mikoto’s aforementioned projectile, uppercut jump, and rush attack respectively), but by pressing the hard attack button at the same time, you can also do powered-up EX special moves that eat special meter and act like super moves. You can also unleash an ultimate Phantom Break move at max meter to do your character’s ultimate attack.
What really makes all of this interesting is the use of styles in Phantom Breaker: Omnia. Every character has the option to choose between Hard, Quick, and Omnia styles of gameplay. Each style pretty drastically changes up what your character can do. Quick Style features a Slip Shift dodge ability and your light and medium attacks have auto combo cycles on them. Meanwhile, Hard focuses on defense and super armor, but you lose access to light and medium auto combos, leaving only hard auto combo cycles. Omnia is the balance of the two, letting you use all of your auto combos and abilities at the cost of losing some defensive options and replacing your character’s Phantom Breaker attack with an “All-Range Attack” that fires off homing projectiles and is the same for every character.
I really like the three-style system and the options it provides. There are definitely characters that benefit more from one or the other and it will be interesting to see what players favor. The game also features some of the simplest inputs I’ve ever seen in a fighting game and makes for gameplay where better understanding of your character’s attacks and the game’s mechanics will matter far more than your ability to input them correctly.
I’m a bit divided on certain aspects of the game such as Clash and Burst Counter, though. Like in any fighting game, when your attack hits an opponent’s at the same time, it Clashes with no damage done to either side. However, in Omnia, you can mash through the Clash with various attacks to try to break through, usually resulting in multiple Clashes. Clash is even encouraged because each Clash gives a potent increase to your special meter. What I don’t like about it is that it makes the game lean a little too much upon Clashing and Burst Counters. Playing through Arcade Mode, even in the early stages, you’ll see opponents spam the holy heck out of Clashes and Burst Counters any time you try to go hard to the paint on offense. For me, I just started baiting the Burst Counter out of my opponents and then punishing, but nearly any time I tried to go all-in raw, it ended up with a long series of clashes that went on until one of us would mash an attack that made it through.
As for the various modes in Phantom Breaker: Omnia, it offers quite a bit. There’s a Story mode featuring the original Phantom Breaker and Phantom Breaker: Extra storylines, as well as Arcade, Survival, Time Attack, and Score Attack modes. It also has local VS for two-player and player-vs-CPU matches, a Training mode, and Online modes. I wasn’t able to effectively explore Online play due to a lack of players available during my review period, but I can say this with certainty: Phantom Breaker: Omnia doesn’t have rollback netcode. It’s delay-based, and likely to run into traditional online problems fighting games have previously faced based on how far your opponent is from you, especially if you dare to use a wifi connection.
The price of a wish
Phantom Breaker: Omnia is a really interesting anime fighting game with an eclectic cast of characters, even if some of those characters’ art styles look strange and out of place. An interesting and easy-to-understand fighting system also means being able to specialize any given character with the game’s three systems and further boosting playstyle variety. Some might be taken aback by the simplicity of inputs, but there’s still plenty of strategy and mastery of characters to be had. That said, the open option to abuse Clash and Burst Counter mechanics feel like they drag Phantom Breaker: Omnia’s fights down. Add to this the caution that comes with being stuck on delay-based netcode and this game has some baggage. Even so, it’s also a stylish game with a fun cast and good music to go along with it, making Phantom Breaker: Omnia another welcome addition to the growing list of new fighters.
This review is based on a PS4 digital copy supplied by the publisher. Phantom Breaker: Omnia launches on March 15, 2022 on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.
Phantom Breaker: Omnia
- Solid and large cast of 20 characters
- Interesting three-style system for each character
- Great soundtrack, especially the remixed one
- Good collection of online and offline modes
- Very easy-to-use combat mechanics
- Clash and Counter Burst are very spammable
- Some new character designs look very out of place
- Netcode is delay-based