The fine folks at PQube have finally announced the release date for the upcoming anime-style deckbuilding roguelite Super Bullet Break — August 12, 2022 — so I figured it was high time we gave you a proper in-depth preview of what to expect from this game. ‘Cause we’ve been playing it quite a bit, and it’s real good!
So what better way to do that than to walk you through a typical game of Super Bullet Break and give you an idea of how it plays? Even better, we’ll give you a peek at a stage from later in the game that you won’t have already seen if you played the demo for PC that is currently available on Steam at the time of writing.
Let’s crack on!
Super Bullet Break’s premise is that three girls who are hooked on mobile games — and friends with one another — are recruited to fix a problem that has been affecting the online universe. It seems the Singulaladies, bosses from the game Bullet Break, have been infecting other games with “Buggos” and causing them to malfunction.
Specifically, the Buggos have been causing the characters of the game to behave strangely, ranging from simply acting inconsistently with their canonical personality to actively attacking players and other characters. On top of that, the Singulaladies and Buggos have replaced the games’ mechanics with those of Bullet Break, meaning that the only solution is to recruit a bunch of characters from the affected games, use them as “Bullets” and kick some serious online arse according to the rules of Bullet Break.
Super Bullet Break is split into several discrete stages, each themed around one of the affected mobile games. In today’s preview, we’ll be looking at the third of these: The Aquarhythm Deep, which is a rhythm game based on elements of Japanese mythology — particularly the tale of Urashima Tarou.
Prior to jumping in to a new run, you’ll have the opportunity to draw a random “Support Bullet” from those you’ve unlocked, which will be added to the otherwise fixed deck you start the stage with. While playing through the early stages of Super Bullet Break’s story, you’ll also be restricted to using a specific player character, but later you’ll get the opportunity to pick who you do subsequent runs as. Each player character has their own distinct passive benefit — Sumire here, for example, starts with a randomly selected item.
Each of the games in Super Bullet Break unfolds across three maps, all of which must be cleared in order to “beat” the game and restore it to normality. And yes, you have to beat all three in a single run — no checkpoints here!
At each point on the map, you’ll have at least two choices of where to go next, and you can make a decision based on what you think you can handle. The pink buggo icons indicate battles — with the number of stars beneath them showing the relative difficulty — while tiles with speech bubbles indicate events. Gold boxes are opportunities to gather treasure, shopping trolleys are shops, and cups of coffee are rest stops.
You’ll be spending a lot of your time in Super Bullet Break battling, so here’s a basic rundown of how that all works. Play alternates between you and the individual enemies you’re facing, with turn order indicated by the gauge in the top left. Each Bullet you play from your hand at the bottom has an associated cost (the number in the blue glowy circle) — this will cause the turn order gauge to advance by that many steps if you play the Bullet.
Managing turn order is absolutely crucial! Certain Bullets provide you with the opportunity to delay enemy turns by a certain number of steps, but for the most part you’ll want to plan your moves carefully to ensure you can weather the incoming storm. You can always see what the enemy’s next planned move is — in the screenshot above, for example, the enemy on the left is going to attack us (indicated by the sword icon) for 16 damage after 11 steps on the turn order gauge.
To mitigate incoming damage, many Bullets provide you with the opportunity to earn Shield or Armour. Both of these absorb damage at a 1:1 ratio — i.e. if you have 20 Shield points and get hit by an attack for 20, you won’t take any damage. The difference is that Shield points expire after the enemy has taken their next turn, while Armour remains until it is used up by absorbing damage.
Status effects are extremely useful in Super Bullet Break — and can be devastating if used on you. In this battle, we’re afflicted with the “Confusion” status, which makes it near-impossible to see what the cards in our hand are. Most status effects last for a set number of turns, and they stack, meaning with a well-built deck you can keep powerful enemies in a perpetually weakened state.
The influence of the Singulaladies means that characters from all of Super Bullet Break’s different games have been jumbled up with each other — but you’ll find that Bullets who originally hail from the same game have a mechanic in common. The Aquarhythm Deep Bullets, for example, have an ability called “Combo Beam”, whereby you build up a Combo meter by playing Bullets, and every multiple of 10 this reaches, it inflicts heavy damage on a random enemy. This is designed to resemble getting score bonuses for long combos in rhythm games.
Other game mechanics include dating sim Seasons of Love’s “Heartsplosion”, which, when built up to a full charge, delays all the enemies and temporarily reduces the cost of your Bullets, and Azur Lane-alike Phoenix Gunner providing the ability to summon Drones, which attack, defend or heal you on an ongoing basis while they’re in play.
As you can probably imagine, when building your deck in Super Bullet Break you’ll want to try and synergise Bullets together as much as possible. In The Aquarhythm Deep, since your starting deck contains mostly Aquarhythm Deep Bullets with the Combo Beam ability, you’ll want to do your best to acquire more.
You can acquire new Bullets in several ways. Firstly, every battle you’re victorious in provides you the option of acquiring one of three randomly selected Bullets — or if none of them appeal, you can choose to skip this.
Pick the right box on a Treasure space on the map and you can get a new Bullet, too. Rather pleasingly, the first time you acquire a new Bullet, you get a screen similar to the one above, featuring gorgeous Live2D art of the character in question, along with the ever-satisfying “GET!” notification. It’s straight out of a gacha game — but without you having to pay a penny.
You can also acquire new Bullets from the Shop spaces on the map. You don’t get free choice, though; instead, you buy Scout Tickets, which allow you to indicate two preferences for the type of Bullet you’d like to acquire, with no guarantee that you’ll receive both (or, indeed, either) of them. Shops also sell items, which can be used at any time during battle without consuming any steps on the turn order gauge.
Despite the gacha-esque risk factor in using the Scout Ticket system, it’s worth engaging with, as the Bullets you can acquire this way are generally a bit more powerful and more rare than those you’ll get as battle rewards. Yes, it can be a pain when you blow a bunch of Scout Tickets and don’t get any of the traits you were after — but ’twas ever the gacha way.
One other way you can get additional Bullets is on Event spaces on the map. Sometimes these will feature a character that challenges you to a fight, and usually defeating them will allow you to acquire them as a Bullet. These Bullets are generally very effective, so if you think you can survive the battle with them, these are opportunities worth taking.
You do have to be a little careful, though — your Magazine (deck) can only hold 30 Bullets in total, so if you acquire more you’re going to have to let something go. This is usually a good thing, though; trimming your deck allows you to get rid of dead weight that just clutters your hand up. With this in mind, you can also trim your deck voluntarily at the Shop spaces for a small fee.
At the end of each map, you’ll face a boss. The boss fights generally introduce new mechanics to you; this one here, for example, demonstrates how certain enemies are able to transform or respawn into other ones when they are defeated. It also highlights the importance of prioritising targets and, with the Confusion effect depicted above in mind, the importance of memorising what you’ve got in your hand if at all possible!
After defeating a boss for the first time, Super Bullet Break’s story will advance with a short dialogue sequence. On subsequent runs through the same game, this event won’t occur again, so pay attention first time around — and no need to skip when playing through again!
Defeating a boss also “unlocks” them, which adds them to the pool of Bullets you’re able to draw as battle rewards and from the Scout Ticket system. This means in subsequent runs through a stage, you can potentially defeat a boss using themselves, which is always satisfying.
The final important mechanic to be aware of in Super Bullet Break comes in the form of rest stops on the map. Each of these provides you with three options: a free rest, which restores 30% of your HP; a paid rest, which restores 50% of your HP; or a free replacement of the “Cartridge” attached to one Bullet, which confers either an additional active ability on to them when played in battle, or an additional passive ability which comes into play immediately simply for you having them in your deck.
These passives are super-useful, as they mean you can start battles with Shield and Armour in place, immediately afflict status effects and heal yourself. It’s easy to ignore the Cartridge effects, but Super Bullet Break pros will pay attention to them as much as the Bullets themselves!
Don’t get complacent, though; Super Bullet Break is a roguelite at heart, and as such even the weediest of enemies can knock you down a peg or two if you’re not suitably prepared for them. There’s no need to fret, though — while getting a Game Over means you’ll need to start the stage all over again from the first map next time you play, everything you unlocked along the way remains unlocked, meaning you’ll have a wider pool of Bullets to pick from as you progress.
In fact, you’ll find that regardless of success or failure, you’ll unlock new Bullets and Cartridges with each run, meaning that the game gradually gets more complex, interesting and varied the more you play. The nice thing about this is that the wider range of cards doesn’t necessarily make things easier, but it does make it more straightforward to tailor your deck to the ways you prefer to play.
And finally, between missions, don’t forget to check the messages app, since Sumire, Akari and Hikaru are all in this together — and they all have their own thoughts on the unfolding situation!
So there you have it: what to expect from Super Bullet Break. Believe me, this game is monstrously addictive, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final version. If you’d care to join me, you can preorder now ahead of the August 12, 2022 release on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, or add to your Wishlist on PC via Steam.
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