Phantom Breaker has been a key niche fighter for quite some time but has yet to break out. Although Mages (formerly 5pb) is more known for their extensive visual novel library (such as the massively popular Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate franchises), they have also notably experimented with fighting games from time to time. Phantom Breaker was the company's very first effort, and although it has seen a variety of different updates over the years it's never quite made it outside of Japan. That means that international fans have only been able to look at it from afar. And given that the last update was seen in 2013... it looked like it was going to stay that way. That was until Phantom Breaker: Omnia not only revived the series for a brand new entry but one that will be hitting outside of Japan for the very first time.
It's essentially the first impression that many fans will get from this long-dormant franchise, and it's likely going to be the best one. Stacking on the improvements made for each previous iteration while making many more adjustments for a better amount of approachability, Phantom Breaker: Omnia is a great introduction for those looking for another fighting game fix. It just might not work completely for everyone else.
Phantom Breaker: Omnia is a 1-on-1 fighter that's an updated version of a long-running series, so it might have a lot to take in upfront for many. There are 20 distinct characters (with two made specifically for Omnia) and three types of gameplay styles that can add certain benefits. Quick Style, for example, gives you a double jump and can give you the "Clock Up" ability which temporarily speeds you up. Then there's Hard Style lets you hit harder at the cost of not being able to chain attacks into combos, and finally, the brand new Omnia Style gives you simpler combos at the cost of some specials.
Each style also gives you certain speed or strength buffs, and it adds another layer of strategy on top of picking whatever character appeals to you the most. In terms of the actual roster, There is a variety of fighting characteristics (bigger slower characters, speedy rush down types, for example) among the selection here, but it might take a while to find not only what character you most gel with but also which of the three control styles works with each character best. It warrants a level of experimentation that dedicated fans will likely dig into further.
There is a story mode for a majority of the cast, but since this is the newest chapter in a long series that fans haven't been completely privy to prior, it's unfortunately relegated to nothing more than a window dressing to the fights. There is a brief prologue that fans can read through, but it's still very much throwing you into the deep end. The story mode fights do shake things up with a series of special challenges you need to complete (such as using certain moves a certain amount of times, etc), so that will ultimately be what drives players to complete these respective stories.
That sense of being thrown into the deep end, unfortunately, resonates with the rest of the package as well. It's clear that the adjustments to its gameplay with its additional simpler combo style and new English dubbed audio is making Phantom Breaker: Omnia as approachable to curious new players as possible. Unfortunately, there's no real way to support those willing to learn more after they jump into that aforementioned deep end. The single-player modes include a story mode, arcade mode, survival, training, and more, but there are scarce options to actually teach players how it all works.
Explanations for not only the game's more complicated mechanics (such as cancels), but simpler ones such as the actual button layout, meter explanations, and functions are relegated to a section full of in-game manuals. The lack of an introductory tutorial, combo mission mode, or even an ability to access these manuals from the pause menu means that all of that approachability is unfortunately tightened to a very niche audience despite all of the efforts to the contrary.
Phantom Breaker: Omnia is a long-awaited release of a dormant niche fighting game franchise that many players will be jumping into for the very first time. It's the best first impression you'll get for this fighter, but it's also one that can be overwhelming and hard to sift through for those not completely ready for it.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Phantom Breaker: Omnia releases for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on March 15th. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model Nintendo Switch.