When a review is marked as ‘in progress’, it is done on the basis that enough time has been invested to obtain solid impressions even though we have been unable to beat it. This may be down to an extreme length or brutal difficulty, but either way it is a title that has overcome us… at least for a period of time.
Games marked as such will receive the usual review treatment, plus some additional footage to help give you a general idea of what to expect. These games will likely be finished at some point, and the review will be updated accordingly. As such, keep checking back if you want to keep a track of our full final thoughts when we have them!
Many thanks to PQube for the review code.
There are a lot of deckbuilders on the Switch at the moment; so much so, that you could probably describe it as somewhat of a ‘glut’. What used to be a refreshingly niche genre is now something that many roll their eyes at. It’s a shame really as there are some great ones out there that are well worth playing.
Super Bullet Break is one of them.
ALL THE SINGULALADIES
Super Bullet Break does have a storyline, but it’s equal parts barebones and incomprehensible. The general gist is that our protagonist boots up her computer to find that all of her games are corrupted. It turns out that they’ve been infected by bugs produced by entities known as ‘singulaladies’ from the game Bullet Break. You’ve been notified of this by the systems AI, who has requested that you go into the computer in order to clear them out. The story does develop via NPC conversations and emails between missions, but the majority of them consist of pointless and lengthy dialogue that just adds to the confusion.
It’s a good thing then that the gameplay is what really shines. Despite billing itself as a unique deckbuilder that fuses anime bullets with gatcha, the game is actually nowhere near as complicated as all that sounds. The gameplay, at its core, is largely similar to that of a normal deckbuilder except that the cards are in the all in the shape of beautifully illustrated waifus that are referred to as bullets for … well, reasons I suppose. Even the ‘gatcha’ elements seem to be a weird marketing move that only really relates to the game having an in-game shop – that uses in-game currency. Very controversial!
Despite all that though, the game still does feel pretty unique, so don’t let the confusing (and somewhat off-putting) description stop you from trying the game.
GROW YOUR DECK
There are seven game worlds in total and, even though the game genres are supposed to range from dating sims to shoot ’em ups, they all play out in a similar fashion. Each game world has three maps that you need to chart your way through, with a boss fortress lying at the end. Along your route, you can get into standard fights (that offer you bullet and monetary rewards for clearing them), shops, rest locations, mystery box prizes, and NPC interactions. The latter of which are particularly interesting as they can result in conversations that lead to rewards, fights, or even quizzes! Each type of space has their own benefit depending on your current needs, so pick and choose carefully to make sure you’re ready for the boss fight.
Combat encounters work on a semi turn-based system of sorts, with a wait timer at the top indicated how many bullet points you can use up before the enemy attacks. Each bullet comes with a cost indicating how many slots it will use up (although selecting the bullet will also show on the timer too). You can use as many bullets as you like until you pass the allocated number, but after that the enemy will hit you with their next attack. It’s a great mechanic since you can save up the expensive ones for the end to make the most out of your turn.
There’s a lot of strategy involved too with the bullets on offer, since you know exactly when each enemy will attack and exactly what they will do. Shields only last for a single turn but are generally cheaper to form, whereas armour will stay for longer – don’t be silly and waste your shield if your opponent isn’t going to attack you. There are loads of other status effects too, from bound to delay to poison, and so on.
All of this can really make for some really great combo builds, especially in the gimmicky worlds that focus on bonus abilities. The fourth world, Phoenix Gunner, has a drone gimmick where you can gain summon drones to attack, heal, or form shields. There’s a bullet that builds in power as you replace your drones that really synergises well with this gimmick – especially as there is a card that will destroy and replace all your current drones. For longer boss fights, this can result in an attack that deals hundreds in damage! It’s great fun finding combos such as this, and they really help take down the pretty challenging bosses.
SCOUTING FOR GIRLS
Unfortunately that leads us to the games problems, and that lies with some of the game’s balancing. Many people have commented on the game’s difficulty, which seemed harder than that of a normal deck-builder, but I’d say that the difficulty is primarily an issue in the first world. The first world is hard. Whilst it may not be too difficult to clear the first map once you get the hang of things, defeating the second boss is a real trial by fire. It’s a mountainous jump in difficulty that I was unsure I was even going to pass. And then I did… clearing the rest of the world, along with the following three, first try. That first world seems strangely difficult for the start of the game, and it’s something that is going to turn a lot of players away.
There are some other issues too that are sour the experience a little, and they mainly relate to the actual deckbuilding. Your starting deck is always the same, and it’s so varied that it lacks any real synergy. Considering how expensive it is to discard bullets in the shop, it makes it pretty tough to keep the fluff out of your build.
The worst part about building a deck though relates to one of the core features located in the game’s shop: the scouting function. If you have a scout ticket, whether purchased or gifted, you can try and find a bullet that fits well with your build. The problem is that it requires you to search using vague adjective parameters that you need to have memorised from the bullet’s description; however, given that there are a lot of adjectives to choose from and it just picks a random few, it means that you are going to be almost always disappointed. That in itself isn’t that much of an issue due to the RNG nature of these types of games, but you can’t reject any shitty ones. Considering the post battle offerings give you an option to skip, this omission in the scouting function is baffling. It’s a horrible system and just makes you not want to ever use it – which I didn’t after realising just how bad it was.
Despite these issues though, the game is incredibly addictive. Even though my early runs almost always ended in failure at the second main boss, I still kept wanting to play on, determined to push through – mainly because even when I didn’t, I was still having a lot of fun. After getting past that early game roadblock, the game suddenly got even better with some extremely fun worlds that followed. Combined with the gorgeous visuals for most of the enemies, and the upbeat music that drills its way into your brain, the game is hard to put down.
Overall, Super Bullet Break is an excellent game, but it’ can be hard work getting to that point. It doesn’t explain its systems very well (heck, the publisher even released a video guide for how to play!) and the first world is absolutely punishing, but it still offers some unique and engaging mechanics that make it an addictive experience. There may be some balancing and deckbuilding issues (especially with the scouting system), but they’re all issues that could easily be patched out. If they do, I can confidently say that it will be one of the best deckbuilders on the system!