Review: The Breakers Collection is a Slick, Silly, Exciting Fighter

The Breakers Collection gathers a pair of 90s arcade fighters, Breakers and Breakers Revenge, into a single package that’s a lot of fun to dig into. With inputs that will feel instantly familiar to fighting game fans, a cast of oddballs with very different movesets, and a neat combo breaker system, it’s something you can pick up quickly yet really dig deep into to play at high levels. While it may appear to draw shamelessly from other fighters from the time it released, it comes together so well, and in ways that feel unique, that it’s hard to put down.

There’s something that needs to be cleared up, though. If you’re unfamiliar with the games, you might be thinking you’re getting two different fighting games. Outside of a few small changes in art, some balancing tweaks, and a two more playable characters, Breakers Revenge is basically the same game as Breakers. At least, it looks that way to me, who has only had a few years of fighting game experience.

Those roster additions, Bai Hu and Saizo, add a whole lot to the game (although Bai Hu is beyond overpowered) and mean you’ll likely want to lean toward Breakers Revenge. Breakers is a bit brighter, visually, so I will admit it looks a bit nicer in some ways, but I’ll take more characters over nice backgrounds any day. So, if you’re thinking you’re getting two completely different games, you’re actually getting two different version of the same game with The Breakers Collection.

Not that I had any problem with that, as the game was incredibly entertaining to play for a variety of reasons. First off, I really like the character movesets. Even something like a basic button strike could do something surprising, like Alison III’s overhead kick that swings up from behind him. It’s a bit slow, but when you think an opponent is going to jump out of your corner pressure, you can bop them as they leap to put them right back down. There’s a lot of energy and creativity behind each button press beyond just doing a punch and a harder punch. It makes pressing buttons feel like exploration, and while you have to think a bit harder to figure out how to use a character, it makes them feel pretty unique.

The inputs to special moves are mostly the same quarter circle movements plus a button that you’ve seen in other fighting games, making them easy to guess your way through. Again, you see some really fun stuff here. Condor Heads has so many different, wild throws that will have him flipping you in the air for several seconds. Pielle will spin around the entire screen with his sword, roses flying out of him. Maherl will expand  into a giant ball and try to crush you. The characters have a ton of personality in their moves in The Breakers Collection, which adds so much enjoyment to figuring them out.

There’s also a playfulness factor at work here. I enjoy fighting games that get a bit silly, and these titles definitely have some goofy elements (like most of the moves listed above). Their over-the-top and unique nature adds a bit of laughter to the game, or these surprising moments when you’re getting to know it. Puffing up like a puffer fish and slamming down on your foe was an unexpected delight from trying out a quick button combination. Not that all of its moves are silly, as there are many cool-looking attacks like Sho’s fiery kicks or Tia’s take on Psycho Crusher. The game just hits this great mixture of ridiculous and impressive that I really liked learning how to play each character and seeing how they worked.

Breakers Collection

That bit of humor shows up in the game’s character grunts and effects, too. Pielle in particular has some of the funniest shouts I’ve ever heard in a fighting game. His various “oohs” while he strikes with his flaming double uppercut just add an element of fun to his character that will have you laughing while playing. Alison III’s shouts are almost as fun, but nothing matches those absurd Pielle cries. Again, not every character is like this, but it’s those moments of odd silliness that give The Breakers Collection a lot of charm.

While playing with this roster, you’re definitely going to see some Street Fighter II inspirations. Rila may look like a massive wrestler, but she plays a bit like Blanka with her claw attacks and bites. Sho feels like Ryu with an incredible boost of speed and even more effective strikes. Condor Heads feels like Zangief or T Hawk with his focus on throws. Alison III uses stretchy attacks like Dhalsim. There is a similar feel to these characters, but that silliness and creativity in their movesets makes them feel like the developers have used their inspirations to grow into something unique. Don’t discount this game just because you see similarities to other fighters.

The mechanics in battle also add some nice flavor. You can build up to three meters by doing just about anything, including blocking, so you’ll always be building up bars to use your special moves. Each special move costs one bar, so you can stock up a handful to do several in a row. These also persist between rounds, so even if a round goes south and you don’t use them, you’ll be able to do some special moves right at the start of the next round. You can cancel a basic move into a command normal or special move, letting you set up sharp combos as long as you land the hit. Some can even be cancelled on a miss, though, so again, The Breakers Collection encourages you to play around to see what you can string together.

Breakers Collection

That said, there is a great training mode you can use to play around with this stuff. Breakers Revenge has a training mode that allows you to look at hitboxes and damage data so you can see how your moves interact with other players and how hard you’ll slam folks with that combo you’re trying out. You can also set the opponent to a couple of different states as well. As you’re learning, you can enable a move list on the side of the screen the whole time you’re playing (so long as you stay in standard view, and so long as you UNCHECK the box in Settings for showing the move list, strangely enough) so you can always see what your abilities are. It’s a really great touch when you’re learning, and it’s really impressive to see hitboxes and damage data available for a game this old.

I’m glad there’s some good options in training, as there are some elements you will want to practice in The Breakers Collection. The moves are things you can likely figure out during regular matches (which is how I did it), but “Breakering” is a bit hard to learn. I am not very good at it, but Breakering basically involves finding gaps in your opponent’s combos where you can hit them back or do something to get yourself out of the way. You can do just about any move during these gaps, but not all of them will be helpful and you might get smacked anyway if you choose the wrong ones. Invincible reversals, Dragon Punch-like moves that give you a bit of invulnerability, or tossing out some throws with Condor can break an opponent’s offense if your opponent’s inputs have any gaps in them.

I largely did this by accident as I feel like you need to have intimate knowledge of the game’s systems and the fighter’s moves to really take advantage of this. However, I really like this idea as it allows you to get out of trouble if someone is all over you. If there’s a spacing gap, a combo that ends in a fireball at range, or an input isn’t quite timed right, it gives you some wiggle room to get out. It’s well beyond me even after spending a few weeks with the game, but I think it’s a great way to find further depth in the game and give yourself some good tools to deal with a relentless (but imperfect) enemy.

Breakers Collection

While the online matches were not available during the review period (so I can’t say how well the online works), The Breakers Collection has a good single player arcade mode. It’s hard as hell, though, even on the easiest of settings (I feel like the difficult settings did almost nothing as I was still getting kicked around at the same frequency no matter what I set things to). Dealing with Sho near the end of Arcade Mode can be a real nightmare. Also, as expected, last boss Bai Hu has absurd power and attacks that will keep you from beating the game for some time.

Team Mode is a fair bit easier to deal with, though, and adds a neat idea to the game. Instead of doing two rounds with single opponents, you can play through a mode where you and your foe each have a team of three to work with. It’s a lot easier to only have to beat Bai Hu once, so I found this mode to be much less stressful to work through. Also, you get to experiment with more characters, so it adds a lot more of those fun moves to each match. Since your meter carries forward between characters, you can build up a few bars for the second character to make use of when your first one falls, setting yourself up for some vicious comebacks.

Another neat touch here is how the teams are handled in The Breakers Collection. You don’t get to call in assists or anything like that, but when you beat one of the three opponents, your health will persist to the next round (with a minor bit of healing). So, if you can get one of their characters close to dead, you can probably finish them with your next fighter. It made for some exciting fights with what felt like a simple change of mode. It’s also less discouraging to almost kill a tough character and lose, as you’ll still be in a better position at next round start.

The Breakers Collection may really only be one game with some variance, but that one game is a really good time. The small, seemingly uninspired roster has a ton of variety and creativity in its characters, rewarding your experimentation with some wild attacks to discover. Its Breaker system means you’ll continue to find a lot of depth as you really get to know it, and its sense of humor (intentional or not) mixed with impressive moves mean you’ll be hollering with laughter or excitement as you play. It’s such a wonderful treat of a game, and a real gift to be able to play on modern consoles.

The Breakers Collection is available on January 12, 2023 on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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