Platform reviewed: Steam
If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I love deckbuilders. After playing as many as I have, I’m still impressed by how innovative developers can be and implement a new mechanic to make the experience feel fresh. Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is no exception. The game adds a new element I haven’t seen in deckbuilders before, making the game about drawing fewer cards and focusing on strategy instead. It feels influenced by board games, and I love it. Because of its unique gameplay and stellar art style, it has quickly become my favorite game in this genre.
Aria, the protagonist in the game, awakens and finds herself trapped in a school surrounded by demons, with no recollection of who she is and how she got there. She must battle her way out if she wants to survive and, in the process, discover who she is.
As you might have guessed, the battle system is done through deckbuilding. What’s unique about Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is how the deckbuilding and playing of cards work. In most games I’ve played, drawing the cards is done randomly - and I would rely on luck to get the card I needed to succeed. But in Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire, I get to play any of the cards I have in my hand. There are two ways that the game implements this feature. Each card has a cooldown - which requires strategy around when to play the card. Some effects can diminish the cooldowns, either through additional cards or items in the game. The number of cards I can hold is limited, and when the limit is reached, I need to dissolve (sell for in-game currency) a card.
Another element of strategy is where to place each card. The enemy cards in the play area are visible, which allowed me to think through which cards I want to play and in which order I want to place the cards. Some cards give extra bonuses, like additional damage, if the next card is an attack. This makes the game feel more like a board game than traditional deckbuilders. On several occasions, I was able to scrape by strategically placing the cards that would give me the best benefits.
Defeating an opponent will grant cards - defeating bosses on each level gives even more cards and, in many cases, grants the cards they used against me. Defeating enemies earns currency. There are also wondering merchants or NPCs that will sell cards. This is where the in-game currency comes into play. There are several different types of money. Some purchase heals at shelters, and others buy new cards from vendors. And the more rare types purchase cards from NPCs. Another key feature I love is the ability to buy decks of cards with the currency acquired in the game. I loved this game even more because the developer allowed currency to be earned throughout the game instead of exclusively purchased with real money.
Before each run starts, a decision must be made regarding creating the starter deck. Unlocked or purchased cards are included in the cards to select from. This mechanic adds another level of strategy.
The art of the game is fantastic and undoubtedly influenced by anime. While there aren’t animated cutscenes, and the animation implemented during battles is simplistic, it gets the job done.
Final Score: A+
Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire adds features I haven’t seen in deckbuilders yet - the ability to play any card in your hand and an element of strategy. The game feels like a board game, buying new cards with in-game currency and creating a deck that best suits my gameplay style. The action is fast-paced and exciting; no two runs ever felt the same. The art is beautiful and gives some anime vibes. Phantom Rose 2 Sapphire is my favorite deckbuilder to date, and that says a lot in a crowded field.
Review copy provided by Playism.