19th Oct2017

‘Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat

touhou-kobuto-v-ps4-cover

A spin-off from the Touhou Project, aka Project Shrine Maiden, franchise – originally a bullet-hell shmup series that now incorporates a myriad of media including over 16 video games across multiple formats, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is a 3D fighting game that pits cute anime characters against each other in a bullet hell/beat ‘em-up hybrid that has become something of a trademark of the series (there have been 6 such games, so far, in the Touhou Project to date).

The series is set in Gensokyo, a fictional realm inhabited by humans and yokai (ghosts to us Westerners), and the main protagonist, Reimu Hakurei, is a shrine maiden who manages the border, fighting antagonistic yokai. The story of Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle sees Reimu’s time at the Hakurei Shrine interrupted by visitors to the shrine discussing rumors that a vampire is joining forces with the yokai to assault human beings. Concerned, Reimu steps up and goes to the Scarlet Devil Mansion to investigate the vampire…

So that’s the setup, what about the game itself? Well it’s something of a departure from the previous Touhou game released in the West, Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet, insomuch as this game takes a more 3-dimensional view of the bullet hell action, reconfiguring the visuals from the previous top-down iteration. Which doesn’t actually work as well as I’d hoped… Yes, the idea of 3D “arena” battles are nothing new, however – as longtime gamers will know – it’s the execution of these types of games that determines their success: in particular how the camera follows you, and more importantly, your opponent. Which is, sadly, one of the failings of this game: the camera, at times, is incredibly frustrating – a quick leap in the air or a quick dash left or right and the camera can get completely lost. It’s a minor quibble but one that will frustrate some nonetheless.

As for the rest of the game, it’s an interesting mix of melee fighting mechanics and bullet-hell traditions – jump up into the air and the game turns into a shoot ‘em-up, whilst in close combat on the ground Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle becomes a more traditional 3D fighter. And it’s as a fighting game where this title succeeds… Battling using close combat melee weapons, be it a magic wand, broomstick, whatever, is a LOT more satisfying than the, often weaker, shooting mechanic – its also results is much easier fights; if you can get close enough to your opponent that is!

Where Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle differs from more traditional combat is that your attacks are limited, with gauges to determine how much of each attack is available and drains as you use said attack – use it too much and that particular attack becomes useless. Though attacks don’t got away completely, instead you have to switch to another attack whilst the other(s) recharge. And of course there’s always one attack that’s better than the rest and when that drains… Well let’s say it becomes more of a crap shoot as to how well the other attacks perform: and each character has different types of attack, some more offensive than others. As with any fighting game there are various modes to go at: story mode, arcade, etc. But to be fair there’s not really much between the modes; especially given that the “story mode” is so short – you battle a handful of opponents before facing the big boss. And then you repeat that over and over for each individual character within the game, each time seeing the story from their viewpoint.

OK, now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The graphics. For a current-gen game this looks VERY much like a PS2 or Nintendo Wii game: the character design is clunky and really screams “indie game” but there’s a quirky charm to them that reminds me very much of those Simple Series games out of Japan – and I’m a huge fan of Simple titles like Earth Defence Force and Onechanbara; so of course Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle appeals to me, even moreso to my retro sensibilites!

For those gamers that love quirky, offbeat Japanese games Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is worth a purchase. But maybe not at full retail – there’s really not enough here to justify the £30 the game sells for. Me? I’d wait for it to go on sale on PSN and snap it up immediately.

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