The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Breaker: Battle Grounds is a pleasant surprise. I'm a huge fan of brawlers and
hadn't heard a thing about this game; it's not often that I download something
on Xbox Live Arcade sight unseen. Usually, this spells complete disaster - but
not this time. Despite some rough edges, Battle Grounds is a unique and deep
quest for fans that have maxed out all of their characters in Castle Crashers
and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Inspired by Guardian Heroes, battles take
place on two different horizontal planes. Limiting vertical movement into two
planes allows for the deeper, fighting game-style combat to shine. I don't
necessarily want this system in every brawler, but it's nice to see it in the
mix again. It's not without annoyances, however; huge enemies battling in the
foreground can completely cover up the action in the rear plane. Finishing that
one last goon who keeps hopping between planes can also be a hassle at times.
All of the characters' attacks feel unique (rather than the lame
palette swaps that are common in the genre). Weak, medium, and heavy strikes
handle the core combos while the "specials" button combines with simple
directional movements to pull off useful and impressive moves like air juggles,
screen-filling lasers, and whirling tornados.
The action gets crazy, and that carries
over to the main cast. Waka is a shrine maiden with a spear, Mikoto carries a
sword, Itsuki wears a maid outfit to complement her hammer, and Yuzuha is some
kind of ninja schoolgirl with daggers. The silliness doesn't stop there. You
fight a wide range of possessed humans, pesky robots, and huge monsters. On top
of this, most of the bosses are other characters from the original fighting
game with motives about as complex as what you'd find in a Mortal Kombat or
Street Fighter plot.
buttons will get you relatively far in the lower difficulties, but you're going
to want to take the time to truly understand the battle system and master all
the cool moves available. Unfortunately, this process is a huge hassle. The
poorly translated instructions are in a rudimentary menu, forcing you to
memorize what you can and bring that knowledge back to battle. I recommend
turning to the also poorly translated official website for more detail and the
ability to look at commands while playing.
dropped by fallen foes serve as the prime currency for upgrading characters. The
skill tree holds all varieties of fancy special moves. Some upgrades are simple
to understand, like a double jump, but many high priced options have vague
descriptions and no controller input instructions so you don't really know how
to perform the thing you just bought. Again, take to the website to learn more
about this stuff.
also invest in a separate attack, speed, and defense stat category to beef up
your character, but with the level 50 cap, you can only max out either the skill
tree or the stats. You are constantly faced with the decision to unlock more of
the battle system or take and receive more damage. Fortunately, you can respec
your points easily with no negative consequences to constantly tweak things to
your play style.
four-player co-op has its own set of plusses and minuses. Online play is a
blast as long as everyone's got a solid connection. Offline is more reliable,
but your buddies can only power up characters on the host's profile rather than
importing their own. For some reason, all of the story sequences are removed
from co-op. I didn't mind since I had already seen them in single player, but
I'd at least like the option to show them to friends. The strangest choice is
that you can't tweak your skills and stats in co-op without exiting out to the
main menu, whereas solo players can do it in the continue screen or between
part of co-op outside of the natural camaraderie boost is the ability to play
as a multitude of unlocked special characters outside of the core group of four.
These people, mostly bosses, are all just as deep as the main characters and
add to replay value tremendously.
Grounds includes a couple of other modes as well, but they aren't particularly
impressive. Arcade mode is for those who care to compete on the leaderboards, have
time to play through the entire game in one sitting, and are looking for a way
to solo with the cast of side characters. Battle Ground mode allows up to four
players to fight each other online or offline, but since you use your roster of
leveled characters, victory heavily favors the more juiced player. Having this
as an option is nice, but it's not much more than a quick diversion.
Grounds is not the super-polished experience of many of today's top brawlers,
but it's definitely worth a look if you're interested in the genre and are at
peace with familiar anime tropes.