There was a time long ago when fighting games seemed like they were dying off outside of the established community…but then Street Fighter IV came along and shook things up, bringing the genre back to prominence. Since then, we’ve seen all kinds of fighters show up as the genre’s evolved into a real force to be reckoned with. With Phantom Breaker: Omnia, we’ve got a Japanese arcade-style fighter finally making its way to the West, but it struggles a bit in the face of some stiff competition.
It must be tough to organize fighting tournaments. You’ve got to find competitors, hope they don’t kill each other before the tournament starts and, as as the mysterious Phantom intends, grant people’s wishes when they win. Who has the time? Who has the money? Well, Phantom does, and he’s gotten battlers from all over the place with all manner of crazy powers together to go at each other’s throats in the hopes of getting their wish fulfilled – or of doing something about Phantom himself. Naturally, you’re going to take control of one of these fighters and get to butt-kicking as you climb your way to the top.
Omnia is an expansion, update, what-have-you to the original Phantom Breaker, a Japanese Xbox 360 fighter which you’ve probably never played. C’mon, admit it, you didn’t play it. You might have played its side-scrolling brawler spinoff Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds which has been around on Steam for a while, though. Either way, this is likely to be a lot of people’s first experience with Phantom Breaker, so it’s nice that Omnia offers plenty of features to put it on par with what we’ve come to expect from modern fighting games.
What can I say? BlazBlue, Mortal Kombat and Guilty Gear have really spoiled us when it comes to the amount of content we’ve come to expect from fighting games. Omnia doesn’t have the polish of any of those, but it does have a solid amount of options to keep you fighting. You want story? You’ve got it. Training modes? Present and accounted for, though sadly there’s no trials which tend to be a pretty popular feature these days. Naturally, there’s online and couch combat as well. If you end up falling for Phantom Breaker’s fighting system, Omnia’s got you covered for hours.
Of course, you have to actually fall for that system first, and, well…Omnia’s not always willing to help. Case in point: you know how most fighting games these days allow you to access a character’s move list and perhaps some system guides from the pause menu? Not this one! You’ll have to haul yourself all the way back to the main menu and, I guess, get a picture with your phone or something if you want to reference later. Simple flubs like this one do a lot to hurt a game’s overall feeling of polish. It’s hard to imagine it would be hard to patch this in, so we can hope we’ll see it one day.
Let’s say you get past this hurdle and decide you want to learn Omnia, though. Good news: you’re going to be spoiled for choice when it comes to character options. My preference ended up being Rin, who actually just kind of stands in the background while her hulking zombified brother Gaito fights. He’s strong as hell and gives those warm grappler feels, she’s voiced by LilyPichu, what more could you want? There’s options from every sort of player, from zoners to rushdown, and what’s more you can choose between Quick, Hard and Omnia styles for each.
Quick style is fast and great at long cancel combos, Hard style feels a bit more defensive and encourages a more considerate style of play and Omnia style is great at throwing out multiple super moves and has a unique laser swarm super – choose whatever works for you and your fighter and get to training.
Someone really loved Phantom Breaker and spent a lot of time spiffing up Omnia. It’s an anime fighter in the same style as the aforementioned BlazBlue and, well, it looks great. Whether or not it sounds great is really up to you and your taste. There’s a lot of the usual anime dub suspects here, as well as a bunch of YouTubers, and I completely understand if that’s not really doing it for you. Mercifully, there’s Japanese voice acting available.
Less mercifully, there’s no rollback netcode! Prepare for lag city if you’re playing online. Fights tend to devolve into a sluggish mess. This is a game that’s all about combos and precision, so the lack of rollback is really nasty and really disappointing. I guess it would have been too hard to implement without rewriting the entire game…and I can say, with very little sarcasm, that it’s time to rewrite the game in that case.
That’s a pretty cruel blow to a pretty good game, unfortunately. We’re competing with games like Guilty Gear Strive and BlazBlue, after all. If you’ve got someone to play with, interested in learning a new system and, perhaps, like the aesthetic and want to check out the story mode, you might be well served with Phantom Breaker: Omnia. If you’re mostly interested in playing an established fighter with reliable netcode, however – like many players – you may be better off with one of the other heavy-hitting punch-and-kickers that are floating around these days.