You don't often see games that combine the excitement of a shoot 'em up with the intimate battles of a fighting game. So, let's find out how Touhou Genso Rondo's genre-blending formula fares in the ring.
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet plays as you would expect from a shmup/fighter hybrid. You move your character around an arena as they automatically aim at their opponent. You have a variety of attacks at your disposal that are mapped to the face buttons. When the two combatants are close enough, they can perform a few melee attacks that could cause some serious damage but the risk involved is significant. The shoulder buttons assist with movement as they allow you to rotate, speed up, or slow down. As you battle, your charge meter fills which lets you unleash charge attacks and powerful spells that use your stocked bombs as well. Finally, picking up power-ups increases your attack power. The balance of performing a variety of attacks while increasing your attack power and filling your charge meter then unleashing a powerful spell that devastates your opponent makes for one enjoyable formula that shoot 'em up fans will surely fall in love with.
Graphically, Touhou Genso Rondo is quite pleasing with lovely character illustrations and bright projectiles that pop off the distant scrolling 3D backgrounds. The characters look just as cute mid-battle as they do in their 2D iterations. The audio consists of satisfying effects and music that perfectly suits the hectic onscreen action. However, there are no voices to be heard at all. On top of this, the scenes where characters interact in the story mode aren't even that entertaining to read. If there was voice work either in Japanese or English and the scenes included more humour and quirkiness then it would offer loads of personality to the experience but as it is, Touhou Genso Rondo feels more flat than it should. Other than the lack of personality, the visuals and sound are well done.
One of the best aspects of Touhou Genso Rondo is its selection of characters. There are ten to choose from which is quite impressive, especially considering how each of them has their own distinct array of weaponry. Some characters require more practice to master than others but they generally seem well balanced. Considering there's such an enjoyable cast of characters to play around with, the fact that there are only five stages is rather disappointing. Because of the small selection, the environments get very repetitive quite early on.
When it comes to single player modes, there's enough to keep you busy but there also isn't anything special. Story mode allows you to play through stages and uncover each character's tale. Arcade mode acts as a survival mode where you see how many opponents you can defeat. Boss Rush mode is similar except it tests how many spell attacks you can survive. When it comes to multiplayer modes, you can play against computer-controlled enemies, battle local players, or take the fight online.
Although Touhou Genso Rondo is a very fun game, the battles get repetitive after playing for a while. This is definitely the kind of game that's best played in short bursts. The biggest contributing factor to this is the simplistic and unvaried gameplay. Once you start to master the fighting, it becomes increasingly tedious because nothing really changes. That being said, it's still a mostly enjoyable experience.
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet features a fantastically implemented mixture of two genres. It may not keep you hooked for hours at a time, but the fun to be had makes it well worth playing whenever you're in the mood for some shmup combat.
- + Unique blend of shoot 'em up gameplay and one-on-one battles
- + Charming graphics and art style
- + Wide selection of unique characters
- - Battles start to feel repetitive due to the simple and unvaried gameplay
- - Audio and story lack personality
- - Environments get stale with only five stages