This is a translation of Sakari “P”’s (Phantom Breaker: Omnia’s producer) third developer diary where he talks about the evolution of the gameplay system and battle mechanics from vanilla Phantom Breaker to Phantom Breaker: Omnia.
Hello again, to those who know me. And it’s a pleasure to meet all of you who don’t. I’m the Director/Producer of “Phantom Breaker: Omnia,” most commonly known as Sakari “P.”
Today, I would like to talk about the battle mechanics of this series, as they will be a vital part of the game’s experience.
For those fortunate enough to understand Japanese and who have seen the promotional material for the previous two Phantom Breakers, we’ve positioned the games as:
“A 2D fighter that doesn’t require complex inputs, making it accessible to beginners of the genre, but has enough depth in the gameplay experience to give even the most advanced players a satisfying challenge.“
And you might be wondering, “What do you mean by ‘enough depth’?” or “What type of satisfying challenge are we talking about here?” These would be really hard to explain with words. Heck, maybe even impossible.
In the end, we settled on something in the middle:
A 2D fighter with simple inputs for beginners but also enjoyable for experts.
Which, in hindsight, probably confused the audience more than it informed them. Phantom Breaker’s battle mechanics are very unique, which separates it from a lot of commonly accepted ‘2D Fighting Game Theories’. For example, the most common feedback we’ve received is that “overheads happen too quickly,” which would make it difficult to know which way to block. Likewise, the myriad of unique mechanics means players have to at least have a basic understanding of a lot of systems before they’re even at the starting line.
I can go on and on, but I’m sure a lot of Japanese fans purchased the game thinking it’d be a simple fighter with simple moves only to discover that they’d barely scratched the surface of this ‘simple’ game. Looking back, I should’ve added something to the effect of “…a very distinctive experience.”
That might have brought players’ expectations closer to reality.
Let me take this opportunity to make it clear that the slew of new game mechanics does not make this game broken, or a completely random outcome fighting game. It is a fighting tool, in which the more experienced players will generally trump their less experienced counterparts.
As you can see, there were some moments of reflection I had regarding the game’s promotional positioning, but from a development standpoint, we paid a lot of attention to the battle systems.
Since we were introducing a new 2D fighting game and intellectual property to the world, we didn’t want it to be a very “basic” experience or be compared to other games (this character is a clone of XYZ, etc.). We wanted to leave a new impression on the scene. Nevertheless, 2D fighting games have a long-standing history and can often be conservative towards change. (When the first iteration was released in Japan, some people said, “This isn’t a fighting game because it doesn’t have command inputs!”)
With that said, uniqueness–or in other words, differentiation–is a key trait in video game design, and it’s up to the developers to find the right balance. With Phantom Breaker, we prioritized uniqueness. The result is a game that’s still somehow managed to stand the test of time, so perhaps we’ve left our mark on the fighting game scene that we set out to make.
Uniqueness. I suppose you could also call it “individuality.” In this era where fans clamor for more unique and individual games…perhaps the times have finally caught up with Phantom Breaker.😅
Okay, perhaps I went a bit too far. I’m sorry. 😅
Now, onto Phantom Breaker: Extra. We took Phantom Breaker (Vanilla)’s over-the-top battle mechanics and sanded them down a bit to make Extra.
The many defensive mechanics were assigned to the individual styles in the game in an attempt to make it more palatable for the PS3 players, who would be new to the franchise.
The result was that many more players were able to master the mechanics, and we were able to retain some of what made the Phantom Breaker franchise unique, so the reception was quite good…except from the existing Vanilla crowd, who felt the game left a little to be desired. By assigning each style a different toolkit of mechanics, we’d streamlined experience but also took away some elements of the game that were previously possible. So, I suppose that kind of feedback was to be expected.
And now we come to the next stage in this long journey, the Phantom Breaker: Omnia battle system. Here, we made sure to fill the gap of what was “left to be desired” from Extra, while making each style easy to understand and unique in their own right. The differences between Omnia’s battle styles are more significant than that of its predecessors’.
I’m feeling really good about the changes to the mechanics and new styles as well as the characters yet to be revealed. We’ve also included a Game Reference that goes through the game’s mechanics for those of you who haven’t had the chance to experience Vanilla or Extra.
Needless to say, the button mashers will still be able to make their character look cool on screen. I personally think that this is the culmination of years of Phantom Breaker evolution. We’re still a little ways out to the game’s release, but I hope you bear with us and stay tuned for more information.
Now that we’ve gone through a brief history of Phantom Breaker’s past battle systems, in the next episode, I’d like to invite my colleague and battle designer, Imaizumi-kun, to join us for a deeper dive into the mechanics of Omnia.
Until next time!
Stay safe everyone.