Super Bullet Break Review – Roguelike Meets Deck-Building Gacha

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Super Bullet Break follows the seeming trend of mobile game titles being resurrected once again on consoles and PC. The game bases its cast of characters as well as its themes straight out of the original title Bullet Break, which was available previously on iOS and Android from September 2019 to October 2020. As a comeback two years in the making, BeXide, the developer of Million Arthur fame has returned to the console gaming scene with this new take on the roguelike genre.

Starting up Super Bullet Break, you are presented with one of the playable protagonists, Akari Akasaka preoccupied with her handheld, cozying it up in her room. Trouble arises when her installed games start acting up and a chat message from a mysterious AI called Nayuta tells Akari of a way to fix her glitched-out games. She explains that her games have been corrupted by cybernetic beings going by the name Singulaladies, who are unleashing a force called Buggos into the digital world, effectively making the characters in the game act defiantly of their scriptings.

It’s up to Akari along with her friends Hikaru and Sumire to put an end to the Singulaladies’ meddlings in their games, as they dive into the many video game-themed maps fighting off monsters.

Super Bullet Break Review - Roguelike Meets Deck Building Gacha

New players may find themselves slightly overwhelmed, as the game very much believes in not wasting your time before throwing you into the action, albeit with a bit of a cost. There’s one thing to show too many tutorials and messages, but being on the other side of the spectrum can easily be as troublesome. Instead of showing off how players are to engage with the game, Super Bullet Break opts for the in-game-manual approach. Accessible via the pause menu, one can access the playbook to read up on the many mechanics of the Super Bullet Break.

So what DOES one do in Super Bullet Break? Glad you asked because this game takes the aforementioned roguelike genre and mixes it around with mechanics more in line with that of a traditional turn-based RPG with a card-collecting spin to it all.

Akin to titles like Slay The Spire, Super Bullet Break presents you with a randomly generated map that you must make choices and/or do combat in, and are given rewards dependent on said choices. When your HP hits 0 and you game over you go back to square one, carrying over any new progression you made by virtue of unlocking new card units and so on.

That’s more or less where the rogue-esque mechanics end. Though there is more to unpack here after we get a little more into the nitty-gritty of the game’s actual combat and card system.

Gacha Without the Free-To-Play Nonsense

A core mechanic in Super Bullet Break is its card collecting aspect. Throughout your run, whether it be from the spoils of combat to meeting a character on the event tiles, you collect character units called aptly called bullets. These bullets all come with unique art and voice acting, essentially being the cards you build your deck out of.

Places like the shops that are dotted around the map give you a chance to roll for the desired character with the gacha ticket you find in the dungeons. Pulling for a character even comes with the gacha-esque RNG system, in which you must pick two randomized tags to filter out which specific character you’d like. Just make sure to read up on who you want exactly and what tags they have under your bullet list menu.

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Character encounters in Super Bullet Break have you conversing with the girls featured as bullets, where you are given different dialogue options to converse with them. Choose wisely as opportunities could turn south if you make the wrong move trying to convince them, whether it’s to have them cooperate or come along for the ride. Some might even decide to fight you over a quarrel…

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RNG-wise, the rate at which character interactions go well or not seem to be fifty-fifty chance by my own personal experience, though the propensity at which characters showed up varied in a rarity tier of their own. One encounter that is most easily completed was a bump-in with Lanterna in the first map, as her quizzes are three choices and she only seemed to have three questions readied up, making every meetup with her a free stop for 2 scout tickets.

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Bullet Management and Combo Building

Combat in Super Bullet Break consists of a deck-building system where each bullet is slotted into your deck, effectively becoming the different commands available to you in combat. Bullets are stored in your magazine (what would be your card deck) and are played to attack your enemies, which are then sent to a discard pile upon use. When there are no more bullets to be pulled from the magazine, all cards in the graveyard are sent back to the deck.

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Each bullet possesses different abilities, which are then paired with a randomly selected cartridge. Cartridges are simply put, random attributes that your bullets can come with that enhance the bullet’s effectiveness actively or passively. These can vary from them simply hitting harder to outright giving a free pass for healing at the resting spots in dungeons. It should be mentioned that cartridges aren’t permanent and during your ventures, it’s fairly common to see identical bullets with a different cartridge slotted in.

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It only makes sense that the deck-building part of the game comes with its charms in the quest to take down the Singulaladies, as you try to build the deck with the strongest bullet combination. However, getting there can take some time and lead to hair-pulling situations. Because Super Bullet Break is a roguelike, bullets earned are completely random outside of the bullets purchased or recruited. This alongside other roguelike genre-defining features like permadeath resetting your deck and limited card quantities, makes getting to the point where everything “comes together” seem like a long shot.

Learn The Archetypes to Master the Run

Eventually, players will notice how Super Bullet Break starts introducing archetypes to the bullets. These archetypes, all themed after each game featured as maps, tie together bullets in a grouping where they all share a powerful gimmick that they can tap into.

Take for example the “Combo Beam” gimmick available to bullets from the “Aquarhythm Deep” archetype, where their bullets aim to stack up a power that upon reaching the 10th number deals 30 damage to a random enemy. Combo synergies like these are introduced and become the core mechanics revolving around each map giving you a significant edge in turning the tides.

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A Difficulty Spike Right off The Bat

An odd exception is ‘Monochrome Tactics’, the map effectively serving as the tutorial to Super Bullet Break. Though it is understandable that some of the minutiae of these gimmicks can be difficult for newcomers to grasp, not being able to access powerful mechanics the likes of Combo Beam make the first map of the game an extremely insurmountable climb for beginners. Even though it was supposed to be a tutorial map for the long run.

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When trying to look and remind yourself of what each icon represents, Super Bullet Break features a rudimentary screen overlay that shows off a chart of what each effect is doing. This wouldn’t be an issue if not for some glaring issues with its implementation.

Firstly, it can’t be used on your enemies so there’s no in-game way to access and see what enemy attacks are going to do until they hit you. Secondly, the method which you must take to see what’s going on with your player character feels unintuitive. One must open the character menu up, and then hit the R1 button to open the overlay.

As long and page-filled as the manual is, it surprisingly fails to address what each icon represents when it comes to enemy attacks and what they are about to do. Though this may arguably be the developer’s intention for players to learn through trial and error, a reminder for such things would have been a fine addition.

Super Bullet Break is a New Take to its Genre

Having beaten the first four maps of Super Bullet Break, I personally found that through the many trials and errors in attempts crawling out of the Monochrome Tactics Map and experiencing the different Bullet archetype gimmicks only to eke out clutch victories against bosses has given me a definite appreciation to the games attempt at creating an original take on the genre. The developers having framed Super Bullet Break as being a roguelike, where progress is completely reset upon replay made me realize that everything is non-committal and contained in the run you’re playing.

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Although Super Bullet Break may be light on the eyes with its rather simple aesthetics for a roguelike RPG, its predecessor plays a lot like a free-to-play gacha game where the nature of starting from scratch, along with its quick replay (or reattempt) value makes for a game excellent to play on a casual basis.

If you’re in search of a deceptively challenging roguelike game with a touch of cutesy (sometimes risqué!) character designs and possibly have a love for deck-building CCGs, Super Bullet Break might just be for you. The game gets a 3.5 out of 5.

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