Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire Review
The first game in the Phantom Rose series released in 2019; this sequel, called Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire, is a very similar 2D roguelike card builder full of young, scantily clad girls. I say girls, as I am pretty sure they are, for the most part, high school age, as they are attending the Marion Magic Academy. There are a few unique mechanics that make this card battler different from a lot of the others that I have played, as every card you play has a cooldown period before it can be played again.
Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire has you playing as Aria, along with her talking cat named Sylphy, as they try to survive and defeat the evil phantoms that are taking over Marion Magic Academy, Aria’s school. You are trying to clear all the rooms from one side of the building to the other, collecting treasures, powerful cards, or battling in any of the purple enemy spaces you encounter. To defeat the phantoms, you duke it out in a good old-fashioned card battle, where each character plays two cards for each phase. Most of the fights against the normal enemies last for three phases, but if you encounter a stronger Phantom or a boss, the battle may last longer. You select two cards from your collection; the ability on them can replenish HP, act as a barrier, or attack the foe. If you run out of hit points, you are defeated, and you have the option to rechallenge the fight again or quit if you choose.
There is a lot of strategy involved when selecting which cards you want to play, as some build off of the others you lay down. There is no random card draw here; instead, it is up to you to figure out what will work best and try to stagger what you play due to the cooldown period that occurs after playing them. These will be activated from the left to the right, usually alternating between what you played, then the Phantom, and back to you. There will be the odd time when your cards are played two in a row, but this doesn’t happen very often. Once you play an action, you won’t be able to use that “action” again until the cooldown period is done. The length of time is determined by the level of the card; the higher it is, the longer you will have to wait. When that is over, you will be able to add it back to the rotation.
By defeating the Phantoms and searching through the school, Aria will acquire new cards to add to her collection. There are over 200 different cards to collect and add to your deck. Unfortunately, there is no artwork on the cards, just a small symbol. It would be a lot more exciting to collect cards with cool pictures on them! The character and enemy artwork in the game is great, looking like it was hand-drawn with thick markers, giving it an angular look that you don’t see very often. It would have been nice to have the beautiful artwork from the cutscenes and the character design used here, making you want to collect all the cards available in the game.
Phantom Rose 2 offers a variety of game modes. The story mode is a linear experience that has you playing through harder and harder difficulties and unlocking new endings. It feels like the challenge ramps up at a reasonable rate, not something that is soul-crushingly hard right from the beginning. There is also an arcade mode, or if you want something really different, you can create your own challenges in custom mode. Phantom Rose 2 has also added a new class system that wasn’t in the first game, giving you a choice between the Mage and Blade classes that gives each unique cards and mechanics that will add replayability to the experience.
As you explore the school, you will encounter other students in distress being attacked by Phantoms and other survivors. You will learn their stories and interact with them, selecting which action you will take. By being helpful to them, you may receive a special item or helping hand when you really need it as you progress.
Control-wise, the game does not support controllers, so you will be using a keyboard and mouse if playing on the PC or the touch screen on the Steam Deck. I can see how it would be a lot faster to play if you just clicked on what you wanted instead of having to scroll through your full collection of cards to find the one that you want to play. Be sure to have a cleaning cloth ready if you are playing with the touch screen, as you will quickly have a tonne of fingerprints making your device dirty!
Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is a fun deck-building game that is full of strategy and makes your choices feel like they matter. You have to think about the cards you want to play and not just click on whatever random attack cards you have. The art style was very nice, and it was cool to see something so unique with its angular feel. The soundtrack is full of piano music that conveys the feelings of the environment and characters quite well. To complete the game, it will probably take around eight hours for your first run-through. It takes a bit of time to figure out what exactly to do as the game doesn’t really have a tutorial to teach you the ropes before you are thrown into action, but if you have played games like this in the past, it shouldn’t be totally foreign to you.
Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is a challenging roguelike deck-battling game that makes you think and strategise before attacking. With nice visuals, a fun soundtrack, and multiple modes to check out, you may want to check this one out.