If there's one thing I love, it's a good ol' 'this game is never, ever coming out here' story. As Gaming Hell is located in Europe, specifically England (more tea vicar, how's your father, etc.) I've seen it happen enough times- Raiden Fighters Aces, every single Arc System Works release from the pqube/Zen Unlimited era, that time Polaroid Pete nearly existed and then didn't- so I know it sucks to be at the mercy of smaller publishers. Especially if their name is 505 Game Street. However, those are stories for another day! Instead, we're going to look outside our fair PAL-Land, because every now and then, America gets stuck with a game that just refuses to get released. Stuff like Otomedius Excellent, for instance, had a right game coming out over there, as it kept getting delayed despite that glowing reception it had at E3.

This is all just a lead-up to the most curious 'localisation hell' story of recent years- Phantom Breaker.

(Screenshots nicked from the now-defunct official Phantom Breaker site!)

Developed by Delta Factory and 5pb and released for the Xbox 360 on June 2nd 2011 in Japan, Phantom Breaker is a one-on-one fighting game created by former staff members of Fill-in-Cafe, mostly known for the Asuka 120% fighting games (where girls of various school clubs like the chemistry club and journalism club fought each other because it was the 90s). Basically, girls in ridiculous costumes (and like maybe three dudes, and guest characters from visual novels Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate) battle for supremacy in the time-honoured tradition of Street Fighter II in a storyline with some guff about a phantom that can grant wishes. As Gaming Hell is the absolute last place you should visit for opinions on fighting games (I mean, seriously, no) you probably shouldn't pay too much attention to anything I say on it, but I gave the demo a whirl and, well, it's no Jackie Chan in Fists of Fire, you know what I mean? Eventually the game would garner enough of a niche (I mean, one would assume, you don't just give any old fighting game an update) to spawn a brawler spin-off and three updates, the most recent of which, Phantom Breaker: Omnia would be granted a worldwide release.

We're not interested in the game itself, though. Don't be silly!

What about the US localisation of the first game, eh?

The game was formally announced for an American release in January 2012, after an Amazon listing had appeared several months before, with an initial release window of 'early' 2012, later February 28th. What follows is the tale of 7Sixty, the publisher who picked the game up, and a look at how many official release dates one game can miss. I followed the story with great interest- sure, it wasn't coming out in my neck of the woods, but the longer it took, the more fascinating / awful it became. Our sources for this unofficial timeline are primarily Siliconera and the official Phantom Breaker Facebook page, with other sites cited for reviews and other things. I've tried to keep dates as official as possible on this list, avoiding GameStop release dates in particular, although Amazon get a few mentions with regards to cancelling pre-orders.

Here is the (probably incomplete) story of Phantom Breaker.

Date Story + Link Details
October 4th 2011 Siliconera:
Is Phantom Breaker Breaking into North America?
Siliconera spots that the game is on Amazon US, with a price of $39.99 and Southpeak Interactive as the publisher.
October 5th 2011 Siliconera:
Southpeak are "Looking At The Possibility" of Publishing Phantom Breaker
Southpeak say they're 'looking at the possibility' of publishing Phantom Breaker, suggesting Amazon jumped the gun with their listing.
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January 4th 2012 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker, 5pb's Gals Fighting Game, is Coming Here
Phantom Breaker is confirmed for a US release from 7Sixty, an Austin-based publisher and subsidiary of Southpeak. Expected 'later this year'.
January 4th 2012 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker to get Special Limited Edition Release
After confirming the US release, 7Sixty also sent over info on the Special Edition, which would include a box, a mini strategy guide, a double-sided poster, and- this is the important one- a calendar for 2012. The date changes to 'early 2012'.
Fevruary 27th, 2012 Computer and Video Games:
Phantom Breaker - Infinity vs Fin
This was one of the few places I could find to cite Phantom Breaker's original release date as February 28th.
Fevruary 28th, 2012 Official Xbox Magazine:
Phantom Breaker Review, writer unknown - 40/100
Presented as a Metacritic link here. Review synopsis: 'Though it may appeal to fighting-game greenhorns learning the ropes, Phantom Breaker is far too simplistic and bare-bones to justify its $40 price.'
Even at this early stage, the game was being sent to magazines for review, as far as we know this is the earliest to relate specifically to the US release.
February 28th, 2012 Release Date! Release Date MISSED!
March 12th, 2012 Otaku USA:
Phantom Breaker Review by Mike Dent
A fairly tame overview of the game for Otaku USA. It's not stated outright but it seems a copy was sent to them by 7Sixty. It also states that the game was showcased at that year's Anime Matsuri, held on April 6th-8th.
March 20th, 2012 Release Date! Release Date MISSED!
March 20th, 2012 PB Facebook:
Looking at an April release date
Phantom Breaker misses both its February 28th and March 20th release date. 7Sixty says the online multiplayer has bugs, the QA team are working on it, and they're looking to release the game in April.
March 29th, 2012 Siliconera:
How Phantom Breaker's Director Feels it Stands Out from Other Fighters
This has no bearing on the story of Phantom Breaker's US release, but it's here as an interesting aside, and because it describes what I think is a sukeban gang member was almost put in the game. That would've been rad!
April 4th - April 21st, 2012 Siliconera:
Win a Copy of Phantom Breaker and a Customised Eightarc Arcade Stick
Here's our Phantom Breaker Contest Winner
According to PB's Facebook page, there were five Eightarc arcade sticks with custom Phantom Breaker art produced, and two were given away in this competition. We'll find out if they were ever sent out later.
April 9th, 2012 Gamespot:
Shippin' Out: April 8 - 14
Phantom Breaker is listed as coming out on April 10th. Hey, that was a day before Skullgirls!
April 10th, 2012 Release Date! Release Date MISSED!
April 10th, 2012 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker Delayed to May Due to Bug Fixes
Phantom Breaker misses its April 10th release date. Siliconera emails 7Sixty and they say it's Xbox Live troubles again- re-inviting friends to matches was broken as was getting a match after a disconnect. A new date is set for May 8th.
April 11th, 2012 Empty Life Bar:
Phantom Breaker Delayed Again
This sets the date at May 8th again, but it's here because the game was delayed to April 24th then May 8th in the space of a day, and this site says the game has received five delays up to this point- we only count four (February 28th, delayed to March 20th > April 10th > April 24th > May 8th). Is there one we missed? Anyway, they made a joke about the 2012 calendar due to be included with the Special Edition.
April 19th, 2012 Elder Geek:
Phantom Breaker Review by Justin Johnston - 3/5
Review excerpt: 'We can't recommend this game to everyone, but fans of the fighting genre who are looking for something new may want to check out Phantom Breaker.'
A more positive review, for balance. The game's release is still set for May 8th.
April 24th, 2012 Release Date!
(This is the official release date on Xbox.com)
Release Date MISSED!
April 24th, 2012 Gamespot:
Phantom Breaker Review by Jason Venter - 4.5/10
Page 1

Page 2
Review excerpt: 'Sluggish animations and easily countered attacks make your assaults feel ineffectual, and the recharging life bars further underscore this sense of impotence. If you're looking for fun fisticuffs, you can pick plenty of better fighters than Phantom Breaker.'
Aside from OXM, this is probably the biggest outlet to give the US version a review. Of note, this review goes out of its way to mention the poor translation, what I wouldn't give to see that script...
May 1st, 2012 7sixty Blog:
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
You'll have to scroll down to see it but this blog has photos of the Anime Matsuri event where Phantom Breaker was showcased, showing that at least one of the Eightarc custom arcade sticks was given away at this event. They also set the game up in an arcade cabinet, even if the game would have to wait for an official arcade release.
May 4th, 2012 Empty Life Bar:
Phantom Breaker Delayed for 6th Time
Phantom Breaker is announced to be missing its May 8th release date. Gamestop and Amazon change the date to June 12th, with more news about game issues coming from 7Sixty 'in the next few days'.
May 8th, 2012 Release Date! Release Date MISSED!
May 15th, 2012 PB Facebook:
Phantom Breaker is Coming!
7Sixty reiterates the problems with online play, and that they have been looked at by the game's coders in Japan, but this has delayed the game. A new release date is set for June 12th. Also of note here: this seems to confirm that the customised Eightarc sticks were actually sent out. Someone get them and flog 'em on eBay for buttery monies!1
June 1st, 2012 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a Throwback to Arcade Beat-Em-Ups
In an odd twist, a Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World-style scrolling brawler spin-off, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is announced for XBLA, featuring super-deformed versions of some of the PB cast. Jokes about this spin-off reaching the rest of the world before PB itself are made instantly.
June 12th, 2012 Release Date! Release Date MISSED!
August 6th, 2012 GameFAQs:
Amazon says new date september 26th.
I know I wasn't going to include Amazon / Gamestop-created dates but I included this because one particular user displays powerful psychic abilities by predicting the game won't come out until next year.
August 24th, 2012 PB Facebook:
Amazon.ca customers have been receiving emails...
Amazon.ca customers start getting their pre-orders cancelled, 7Sixty assures them the game has not been cancelled, but there are some issues they are working on that they can't comment on at the moment.
August 29th, 2012 PB Facebook:
We're hot off the heels of a Phantom Breaker status meeting...
7Sixty confirm that things haven't been moving as quickly as they'd hoped regarding PB's release- they're working with Microsoft to get 'the business end' sorted before launch. They put the slow progress on all the shows they've been doing. No new release date confirmed.
September 12th, 2012 TrueAchievements:
Phantom Breaker Cancelled for North America
TrueAchievements reports that people who pre-ordered the game from GameStop have been receiving phone calls saying their pre-order has been cancelled.
November 30th, 2012 PB Facebook:
First and foremost we apologize for the lack of communication from us...
7Sixty refer to 'factors going on behind the scenes' preventing them from talking about Phantom Breaker, and that 'its fate is uncertain at this time'. This was their last update for quite a while.
December 17th, 2012 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker Coming to Arcades on Guilty Gear XX Accent Core R Hardware
Phantom Breaker: Another Code is announced for Sega's RingEdge2 arcade hardware, with an imminent loketest. It's assumed to be a rebalanced version of the game, so this basically means that even before it comes out in the US, the 360 port of PB is outdated.
February 7th, 2013 PB Facebook:
We want you to know that we appreciate your continued support of "Phantom Breaker"...
7Sixty state that 'the current boxed game business model and shifting digital gaming trends have made it difficult to bring this game to market as originally planned' and that 'This is not an official cancellation notice of the game, but it is a heads-up that it is at a point where it is difficult to release the game as planned'. In the comments they also clarify that 'Due to contractual stipulations a digital release is not in the cards. It is an option that has been brought up, but cannot happen.' They say they will update as soon as possible.
February 27th, 2013 Xbox.com:
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is released on Xbox Live Arcade worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points, just a day shy of a full year after the original Phantom Breaker was supposed to be released in the US. This is, ideally, where the story should end.
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May 4th, 2013 Facebook:
"We haven't made any new posts..."
A comment from 7Sixty themselves, responding to a fan, states that the reason there's been no updates on the FB page is because there have been no updates behind the scenes. They state again that the current boxed game business model is not working for this title- there is vocal interest in the game,'BUT there was almost ZERO retail interest in the type of game.' They give this statistic to further their case: 'We would need roughly 13,300% of the current number of people who like the phantom breaker page to buy the game for it to make financial sense.' (I calculated this as about 45,000 buyers). They ask people to reach out to retailers to demand Phantom Breaker.
May 21st, 2013 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker: Extra Announced for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Famitsu announces a new game in the series, Phantom Breaker: Extra. No details at this point, but later it is revealed the game adds enhanced graphics, new characters and new stages. Once again, even if Phantom Breaker makes it to the US, it will be too late. Also, an interesting tidbit- Siliconera say they have one of the English builds. There must be more of them.
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July 5th, 2013 archive.org:
7Sixty Main Page
This is the last available archive.org snapshot of the main 7Sixty website. As of the time of writing, it is no longer available.
July 8th, 2013 Siliconera:
What’s Going On With Phantom Breaker? And What Is Mages Planning For The West?
Siliconera has a chat with Masaki Sakari, producer at Mages, about various things including Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds and the upcoming Steins;Gate localisation, but their first question is about PB's US release. He laughs and says that 'The deal we have is 7Sixty has almost full control of the project... If we try to put pressure on them, it's on their table. I know it's not good to keep fans waiting. We're going to hope for the best and keep our fingers crossed that they get it through'. When asked who could be handling a US release of Phantom Breaker: Extra, he replied 'I probably won’t use 7Sixty this time'.
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September 19th, 2013 Siliconera:
This Week In Imports: An Extra Phantom Breaker On An Extra Console
Phantom Breaker Extra is released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in Japan. Surprisingly, the Xbox 360 version is region-free, so it can be safely imported. The Phantom Breaker Facebook page has not been updated this whole time, but fans have noted the existence of PBE.
October 8th, 2013 7xixty:
7xixty Phantom Breaker website
This is the last available archive.org snapshot of the 7Sixty Phantom Breaker website. As of the time of writing, it is no longer available.
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May 19th, 2014 Siliconera:
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds For Vita Heading To The West
The Vita port of Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is rated by the German ratings board USK. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds has actually lapped the original Phantom Breaker in the West, and beyond an actual release of the original game, this is where I'm ending the story because it's too precious a conclusion to this drawn-out saga...
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March 14th, 2022 Rocket Panda Games:
Phantom Breaker: Omnia
Official website
PSN Xbox Marketplace Switch eShop Steam Store
... Until 2022. Just a couple months shy of Phantom Breaker's originally-planned Western release on Xbox 360, Phantom Breaker: Omnia- yet another update to the game with new characters and all the balance changes and bells and whistles you expect- is released worldwide on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Switch and Steam. The official website by new publisher Rocket Panda Games refers to the game as 'THE LONG-LOST 1-VS-1 2D ANIME FIGHTER' which absolutely has to be a nod to its original cancellation.

As one final brutal gut-punch of a punchline, the game does not have rollback netcode.

Obviously, this is not quite an authoritative history. 7Sixty have apparently closed up shop and so have their parent company SouthPeak Games, so all we have on the issues the game was having are their previous Facebook posts rather than anything from themselves. Although they mentioned running into technical issues, honestly it seems the real problem all along was a lack of interest- the final few Facebook posts really point to this, and it doesn't help that there were quite a few significant fighting game releases throughout 2012 (it started off with Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, I mean damn) that I'm guessing 7Sixty didn't want to even go near. The weirdest thing is that in this interview with 7Sixty it seems they were mostly going to focus on digital distribution.... So I would've thought they'd only go into the Phantom Breaker deal if they could get digital distribution from the get-go. But these are just my idle thoughts. It's telling that when a version of the game did finally make it out of Japan, it was primarily digital except for a small print-run by Limited Run Games. I guess that shows how much the market's changed in the space of a decade, huh.

By the way, the final count was 6 official release dates that the game missed.

Anyway, I hope this was interesting. If there's anything I've missed or is incorrect, do give me a bell, won't you?

80% of my body is made up of missed Phantom Breaker release dates! (Joke nicked from @Zerochan)