Thanks to Qubyte Games for the review code
Title: BREAKERS COLLECTION
System: Steam (PC)
Release Date: 01/12/2023
In this retro compilation from Qubyte, a two pack of Visco fighters are brought to the modern age! Unlike their Qubyte Classics lineup, this is made with the same sort of focus as the outstanding Vasara Collection, this time focusing on some of their NeoGeo efforts. Technically, both Breakers titles are the same, with Revenge being the Champion Edition style redux of the original entry, tasking warriors with working their way to defeating the evil Bai-Hu for their own reasons.
Breakers Collection compiles two games for Neo Geo, more specifically, the arcade MVS versions. Since most of my Qubyte Classic reviews have been for a lot of home consoles and a lot of those have been done in varyingly poor quality, you might be right to assume that these two games likely have some sort of emulation problems, but honestly, no, not really!
In a very lovely turn of events, Breakers Collection emulates both titles brilliantly, with great screen/display options, little input lag, and everything looking and playing as it should save for some minor exceptions. One minor exception seems to really only affect the Steam version at the moment, and even then, only in certain circumstances. Basically at certain displays, the in-game emulation stutters from choppy audio in Arcade mode. Unfortunately, this also appears to impact the resolution the Steam Deck goes by, but in docked mode it does not perform this behavior, oddly enough, nor in the online modes. (online play can obviously stutter in a rollback manner, but the audio was still more consistent than playing offline, I found)
Qubyte has already pledged to work on this pretty swiftly to minimize this issue since I received my review copy, and since this doesn’t happen on the console versions, it seems to be a PC-only quirk at the moment, and otherwise, the emulation is good, a joyous step up from the Qubyte Classics lineup. Even more handy, the UI has an option to toggle visible movelists on the borders, making the moves very easy to learn, and putting the border/quality of life aspects above those of the excellent Vasara Collection.
You know the compilation drill here: bonuses first, games second! And boy, Breakers Collection has a lot of cool bonuses, far more than I expected considering the recent Qubyte Classics line. You have a gallery filled with fanart and unlockable arcade flyers, concept art, sprites from the games, a sound test that even includes the Neo Geo CD songs (which are sadly not usable in the actual games, as they’re the MVS versions), and tons upon tons of unlockable titles and icons for the online multiplayer mode.
Speaking of which, the online MP mode here was easily the biggest surprise of the entire compilation just by how great it turned out! It has full-blown rollback netcode and crossplay, which I found worked delightfully well for the matches I dabbled in (though the crossplay matches seemed to be a lot more laggy than native PC ones, but luckily you can disable cross-play with a button press on the menu). It even has a tracker of how many players are online at once, leading it to be super easy to search for a match and jump on in without too much waiting.
Likewise, there are means to filter opponents based on their connections, and it even did a good job at tracking a rage quit when an opponent tried that against me, making this rather robust for a retro collection like this. There’s even a text interview with one of the original creators of the game, going into aspects such as a prototype version and the introduction of the Revenge exclusive character Saizo. You also have the ability to assign button combinations to the shoulder buttons, but unfortunately this seems to be bugged as pressing a button combo macro (for example, HP/HK) will make the individual buttons lock up until the combo is pressed again, even after the recent patch, so it’s best to just stick to the main individual buttons.
Considering how the Qubyte Classics line felt paper-thin in comparison, I’m honestly stunned at how much bonus content and care went into this package, and even when I’m just playing around for the offline achievements, I still have fun trying to go after every unlock I can think of and aiming to tackle the arcade mode with all the characters, since yep, the games do not suffer from input lag here! Nice and smooth, which is essential for fighters like these. Or, I should say, for a singular fighter, since Breakers and Breakers Revenge are basically the exact same game, with Revenge being an enhanced version with some balance tweaks and a new character. Thus, while I still have this formatted like a typical compilation review, Revenge will mostly focus on the online MP aspects and bonus modes on offer, since the core game is super similar.
BREAKERS- The base that Revenge would be built off of, this original Breakers entry is a rather typical Neo-Geo era fighting game. You have four buttons, two punch, two kick, and a roster of eight characters to choose from. While some Neo Geo fighters tried their own new gimmicks, outright ripped off Street Fighter, or just embraced full unbalanced chaos, Breakers feels like more of a combo-focused take on the traditional 1v1 format. Sure, Tia feels like a female Ryu with her special moves, but once you get into the core game you’ll realize quite a few things are different from your typical Street Fighter wannabe.
For starters, while you do have a meter that builds up to several levels, you cannot unleash the full meter all at once for a super ultra attack. Rather, your super moves always take up one meter, and it even carries over between rounds, meaning that the meter is more or less a means to stockpile a powerful attack out of desperation, rather than the timed rage meter from say, Samurai Shodown. The other big aspect to Breakers is that your light attacks have really, really easy combo potential, and you can chain even ordinary moves to pull off long combos to trip up your opponent.
I was absolutely stunned by how in Revenge, online players who’ve played this longer than I have were able to chain ludicrously long combos, from short attacks all the way to a jump and crouch combo, sometimes even ending with a super special move for 10/20+ hits! If you manage to master this system, (and I was able to come up with some basic combos for the characters I gravitated toward) you’ll easily be able to stun the opponent, which will come especially handy if you play the Arcade mode, since yep, it’s a typical Neo-Geo game in that regard too, meaning that the AI can be outright abusive, especially on later stages.
Even lowering the difficulty won’t help you too much until you learn to combo and break through enemies trying to pull one on you, and the final boss Bai-Hu is the definition of a ridiculously overpowered obstacle, with moves that easily combo and stun just from button presses, along with super special moves that decimate through health bars like a sheet of paper. Still, with persistence you can best him, and I definitely found the Breakers experience to be rather enjoyable, even if this original entry feels a little rough in spots. There’s even a team battle option available, which basically has you picking two or three team members and going through 2V2 or 3V3 matches in place of the usual nine fights, but it didn’t really do much for me.
BREAKERS REVENGE– Now this is a neat tune-up! Breakers Revenge came out in 1998, and adds two new playable characters: Saizo, a brand new Ninja made for this revision, and Bai-Hu, who’s playable in offline modes with a dual controller input. To say Bai-Hu is immensely satisfying to fight the AI with would be an understatement, but it absolutely makes sense why he’s barred from the online mode, which uses this game as a base.
In terms of the arcade mode experience, not much changed, outside of the gauntlet now lasting for ten fights due to Saizo’s inclusion, along with some minor polish I noticed here and there. The endings are all the same, and Bai-Hu doesn’t even get one, or a color swap, even! I found team battle mode a lot more fun here though due to the added characters, and yes, you can use Bai-Hu here as well.
Most importantly, is the training mode, which is the perfect place to try out all the characters and their specials, and just goof around trying to make your own combos. It would have been really helpful for some sort of Trial Mode to be added, akin to the 3rd Strike Online Edition one, but this training mode has enough options to still be worth your time (and is now even available as you wait for online matches, which is super handy!). As noted above, the online multiplayer is enjoyable with ranked and casual matches, along with a whole bunch of unlockable icons, titles, and other goodies to go for, providing enough incentive to keep at the Arcade Mode.
Playing through the various modes of Breakers Collection for several hours, I was pretty impressed by the amount of care that went into this collection, despite some visible faults still poking out. The sheer amount of unlockable content is more than enough to give single player fans a reason to jump in and duke it out with the AI, and crossplay + rollback netcode make the Online experience a lot more fun than you may be expecting, although who knows how long this community will last. Still, I had little to no trouble getting matched with players in my skill range, and it was incredibly fun to have such a shockingly smooth online mode that manages to run better than some big scale delay-based fighters; you can really tell why this compilation took so long to develop just by seeing all the options on offer and how they really aimed to make this the most accessible version of the games available.
Still, there are a few quirks in Breakers Collection that need ironing out, and at the end of the day these are two pretty tough Neo Geo fighting games that can be outright hair-pulling in single player, and while the training mode is immensely helpful, I still advise newcomers to approach with some level of caution, and to be wary of how these game will break you until you learn the crazy combo system. While emulation is far better than anything seen on Qubyte Classics, there are still some stuttery audio problems in the offline arcade mode, at least when playing this on the Steam Deck undocked, and it appears to be based off the compilation’s resolution scaling, since the online multiplayer and team battle modes didn’t give me those troubles, oddly enough. I still feel the Vasara duo is the more approachable Visco series, but Qubyte definitely did the best they could with Breakers, and I’m pretty eager to see how the general Visco Collection pans out; Andro Dunos with QOL features like these? Yes please!
I give BREAKERS COLLECTION a 7 out of 10.