Breakers Revenge is a sequel to 1996's Breakers. It seemed just one of so many games that flooded the market using Street Fighter 2 as its inspiration. Being among a sea of 2D fighters with such a similar look and feel, it understandably faded into obscurity.
Doesn't seem to have been ported past its generation, making the only two games in the series strictly available on Neo-Geo setups, though the characters have made cameos in other SNK titles. Now, like I said, this game is pretty obscure. I had never even heard of it before a month ago. It's more or less the same as many other fighting games that stormed arcade cabinets in the 90's. Heavily borrowing from SF2's feel? Check. Weird character that stretches? Check. Characters that throw fireballs or spinning discs for no reason? Check. Characters that do an uppercut or a spinning kick? Check. Token "ninja" character? Check and mate.
That all is probably what contributed to this game never surviving past the 90's. It just not being very memorable, combined with it coming late to the party left it behind. Not only did it have to compete with many similar titles from SNK and Capcom, which tended to have other interesting mechanics or character themes (superior graphics, samurais, monsters, robots, bloody fatalities, boobs, etc.), but it also had to go head-to-head with the rise of fighting games with 3D graphics in titles like Killer Instinct, Soul Calibur, and Tekken. Looking even further into it, from Breakers to Breakers Revenge, the update's only change was making the boss playable. It didn't simply not survive past the 90's, but it seems like it never even started to sell with such a halfhearted update.
As far as the characters go... they somehow felt like something you'd find on a ripoff bootleg fighting game, while still having a twinge of personality and originality to them. They fell in a strange "uncanny bootleg valley", if I'm allowed to make up a term and apply it to things. They were obviously original, but still not original enough to shake the sneaking suspicion that someone heavily drew inspiration from something somewhere.
Now, when it comes to playing the game, it handles pretty simply. Combos are easy to do, hitboxes feel pretty clear & simple quarter-circle motions for the most part. There were also a couple weird move inputs, like forward, back, forward+A/C not as a charge move, or up, down+ABCD. I noticed little hiccups here and there dealing with how moves interacted, but nothing more than you'd find in even some current games. Situations where an uppercut will lose to a special but beat a super were odd, though it is hard to fully explore this game due to the virtually non-existent fanbase.
I do mean that, by the way. Aside from a handful of tournaments held to date, this game has no competitive scene to speak of, and you'd be hard pressed to find casual players too. I couldn't find any high level play online, let alone in lobbies. Other than simple guides to moves and mechanics, I found nothing in terms of high level tech. It's... an unnerving experience, actually. I think Breakers Revenge is a good representation of what it would look like for a game that could be played at a high level to actually die before being discovered. It's not a pleasant sight.
While there was only so far I could take the game on my own fighting the AI opponents in arcade mode, there were a few questionable decisions that the folks at SNK decided to make with this game that I couldn't help noticing. So, with nothing else I can really talk about in game, I'll move on to that. Before I say anything else, I just want to make it clear that I really respect what this game was doing. It tried some new things, and experimented with the formula of a fighting game. I appreciate that, wholeheartedly. However, this review is strictly judging this game as a product, not as an ideal or anything more than how I felt playing it.
"Breakers" is the term for this game's focal mechanic. This mechanic basically lets the opponent get out of a combo early by mashing something. They can mash normals, specials, supers, whatever they want. You can tell if the opponent Breakered by a little green circle that appears beneath their sprite. The odd part about it is that several multi hitting moves, moves that always behave the same way regardless of player input, can be Breakered. For example, Tia has a two hit command move that can be Breakered after the first hit. It essentially makes that move and others like it not usable at high levels, because as soon as the opponent sees you doing your multi hitting normal, they can mash dp.
At low levels it doesn't matter, but that also creates a weird split between high level play and low level play. Not just how the players play the game, but how the game fundamentally works. Low level players would do combos that aren't possible, while higher levels could have only short combos for some characters and longer ones for others.
Breakers on their own I could get over, but being that this game has no training mode makes it even harder to adjust to this system. Without outside guidance, learning what is and isn't a combo is impossible. Breakers Revenge is an arcade game, so I get that is the reason it doesn't have a training mode. However, there is no indication that a combo could have been Breakered. For example, it SEEMS like Tia's j.C can be Breakered as a jump in, but her j.D can't. They're both heavies, but I had no idea until one of the AI opponents started mashing 360 where the rest of my combo (j.c, s.c, a+c (1), dp c) was supposed to go. Some later games like Blazblue and P4A have an altered combo counter if a combo isn't real, which would have been nice to have here as well.
Another aspect of Breakers that would seem to heavily effect the balance at a high level is that some characters don't really have invincible moves, like Alsion III. That means that those characters can't really Breaker out of combos that another character easily could. It feels like SNK didn't really put a lot of thought into how this system would effect the players or the characters. I can understand wanting to give players something to deal with the frustration of being combo'd, something that several games including ArcSystem titles do, but I don't believe this system was put in place with the appropriate consideration.
I can sort of see what they wanted, but I feel like this Breaker system has some clear flaws, both in itself and by extension of the game it's in. Having any multi-hitting moves be un-breakerable (that's so awkward to say) in the middle of, and making a distinct hitspark, flash, or altered combo counter when a breaker could have occurred would be two changes I'd make to the game if I could. Just those two things would have done this system a lot of good, in my opinion.
Dizzy's are a thing in this game. Like many games, take so many hits in a row and you'll become dizzy. It's a weird method in this game, though. You can mash out of it hard enough on wakeup to not be dizzied at all, completely removing any benefit the attacker might have had. Seems like a weird choice to me, along the same line of Breakers. Why even put Dizzy's in if they don't have an impact assuming the player mashes hard enough? They act as a break in combos though, which acts the same way as Breakers do and slow offense, but I feel like another system could have been thought up to achieve the same purpose without having a game that fundamentally works different depending on if the opponent mashes at the right time/mashes hard enough.
One other random tidbit to note; if you go into arcade mode with any character, at some point along the way through you'll run into a palette swap of the character you're currently using. This palette swap will have a different name, and a color that's inaccessible to the player. I can't tell if this is a clone character with actual different moves/properties, but as far as I could tell, this palette swap is identical in every way aside from a different name and a color you can't choose for yourself. It's a little odd, and I'm not quite sure what was the intention behind it. Maybe it was to entice players into trying to find a hidden unlockable? I can't really say, and I found no where online really addressing this. Some of these palette swaps are good and I would like to use them, but it doesn't seem like a thing the game allows, which is a shame.
Now, while I can see the reasons why this game died in arcades, I do feel a little sympathy for it. It's not a bad game, honestly. I had fun playing it. It's simple to pick up, easy combos, relatively simple mechanics. The game isn't without flaws, but any fighting game in the 90's had something to pick at. I can't help but wonder how this game would have been refined and perfected, both from the developers and players, had it not died in arcades. It's a little sad to think about. Despite that, it's still a fun game that I suggest giving a whirl if you have the time. You may not gain anything substantial or world changing, but you might just find yourself having fun like I did.
Just remember: Play what you love and love what you play.