Breakers Collection Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Visco Corporation, responsible for shoot 'em up Andros Dunos (1992), was a Neo Geo stalwart, releasing 15 titles across SNK’s arcade and console hardware. One of its only forays into the fighting game arena was Breakers and its semi-sequel, Breakers Revenge. In 1996, the fighting game market was flooded. And, while it postdates Super Street Fighter II Turbo by two years, we always adored Breakers and felt it deserved wider recognition. Sadly, it never caught fire in arcades, struggling to be noticed, and never received an official home port outside of the Neo Geo CD.

The absolute best way to bring a 26-year-old fighting game back is by opening it up to the global stage, and on this front Breakers Collection gets it impeccably right. Featuring both Crossplay and an online versus mode buoyed by all-important rollback netcode, the game’s arrival on Switch has been a long time coming.

Where Breakers always excelled beyond the competition was in its fluidity, elasticity, and instinctive feel. It has air-grabs, super attacks, dash cancels, rolls and hop-backs, and plenty of juggle opportunities: features that would underpin 2D fighting games through the late '90s and beyond.

Breakers Collection Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Breaker’s development period took more than three years (its initial teaser appearing under the title Crystal Legacy in 1993), and it’s clear how much effort went into it. It’s utterly precise, wonderfully fast-paced, and incredibly comfortable to jump into. One aspect that deserves note is the character weighting, making jumps feel quick and movements sufficiently heavy. You can identify the years of play-testing after only a few bouts, which makes it doubly sad that it was largely ignored. Being a Neo Geo title, it only uses four buttons for light and strong punch and kick attacks. This simplification works to its advantage, allowing the player to learn faster and more easily focus their combo strategies.

Graphically, it’s excellent, with large, bold spritework, superb Neo Geo-quality animation, and bright, colourful backgrounds that travel through Egypt, Italy, Brazil, the US, and several other locations before reaching China and the final boss, Huang Bai-Hu.

The Street Fighter influence is obvious, but the characters — excellently devised around the game's various combat systems — manage to set themselves apart with original styles and combo opportunities. Condor is a superb, heavyweight grab character; Alsion III is a Dhalsim-alike rubbery-limbed Egyptian God; and Pielle is a strangely French-sounding Italian fencer touting snappy sword tricks. Weaponry also appears with Sheik Maherl, who wields a scimitar, calls on a violent genie for his super attack, and can inflate at will. Sho from Japan and spritely kickboxer Tia from Thailand are really good entry points for newcomers. Sho’s appearance may make him look a Ryu clone — and that’s his purpose, to a degree — but his flaming three-pronged rising kick (which can be broken up at will), as well as some light-footed melee attacks, make him particularly interesting. Most importantly, the balancing of the cast is impeccable, and while all are extremely easy and enjoyable to pick up and play, the depth on offer will take years to master.

Breakers Collection Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The package contains both Breakers titles, the original and Breakers Revenge, which is more an update than an outright sequel. Like the Street Fighter II series, Revenge rebalances damage scaling, adjusts the computer AI, recolours and edits certain backgrounds (in some cases inexplicably removing objects), and adds tweaks like new character portraits pre-fight. It also adds one all-new character into the fray — Saizo Tobikageno — as well as allowing you to play the boss, Bai-Hu. Personally, we prefer certain aesthetic aspects of the original Breakers over its sequel, but in terms of fighting the good fight, experts might find its augmented aspects preferable. Otherwise, there’s not a great gulf between the two.

Breakers sports unusually clever AI programming, making one-player games a formidable but never cheap challenge. Fighting Duo-Long toward the end of the game is arguably the toughest match-up of all, requiring you to pull out all the stops. Enemy characters won’t easily succumb to fireball streams, finding their way overhead, and, thanks to a smart damage balancing feature, spamming moves is an ineffective way to grasp a victory. The best way forward is attack, and Breakers features such satisfying and balletic combo building that it leaves you buzzing for more. At times it's so frenetic as you to and fro, blocking high and low chains only to retaliate in a split-second opening with a devastating comeback, it often resembles kung-fu movie choreography in a way even Street Fighter never quite pulled off.

Breakers Collection Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Aerial supers and ground-slamming grab attacks roll beautifully off of tap-combos, and the game is bursting with creative strings that feel incredibly rewarding to pull off. The sheer volume of options in approach and combo building make it both deep and absorbing, allowing the player to continually mine new ideas, using its building blocks to achieve increasingly effective results.

Breakers Collection comes with plenty of bells and whistles, too. Screen filters, wallpapers, art galleries, training modes, full movelists, leaderboards, and options to adjust speeds and difficulty levels are all present and correct. QUByte Interactive has also added an all-new and rather excellent Team Battle Mode, transforming bouts into a King of Fighters-style match-up. Here, you choose the size of your team and head into either arcade or versus modes with a group of combatants. When one is taken out, you rotate to the next, the victor of each regaining a little bonus health. It’s a simple but thoughtful addition that works excellently owing to the cast’s diverse and interesting catalogue of moves. At the same time, it's this mode where you may feel the ten-character roster is slightly limited compared to today's mammoth fighting game assemblies.

Breakers Collection Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The online crossplay and rollback netcode features are arguably the most important aspects of this release, and have been carefully implemented. As well as being able to see ping and connection speed information, you can also enjoy ranked versus match-ups and downloadable replays of your most prized victories. Breaker's destiny was always in head-to-head versus play, and now the opportunity is finally here, it's time to shelve your Joy-Cons, drag out your fighting stick, and go at it with gusto.

While there are only ten characters available, at least none are locked behind DLC paywalls, which is one of the issues we had with the recent (albeit excellent) release of Rumble Fish 2. Here, everything is on board and present from the moment you fire it up. And, while the package only consists of 1.5 games with general additions that modernise the experience, they're possibly the best non-SNK fighting games in the Neo Geo library.

QUByte delayed the release for several years, postponing it since 2019 in order to buff it to a gleaming shine. It’s been worth the wait.

Conclusion

Breakers Collection feels like a passion project. It delivers a game that still feels incredibly modern and visceral to a new era of players. When mining its combos and developing its dizzyingly broad array of tactical options, new players will no doubt be surprised by the high bar of Visco’s work. While its menu presentation is somewhat less explosive than the game itself, the level of thought that’s gone into its modernisation through crucial up-to-date features can’t be spoken of highly enough. This kind of treatment should be standard when revisiting bygone classics, yet so often it isn’t. Breakers Collection, to that end, gets it very right.