About this time last year, NIS America published a shoot 'em up fighter set in the Touhou universe. Now, we have a 3D take on the Bullet Ballet / Senko no Ronde formula but does that make for a better game?
Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle looks good on paper as the gameplay featured in Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet provided a solid premise for enjoyable battles. This iteration has you and an opponent run and jump around stages while unleashing a fury of projectiles and physical attacks as opposed to merely flying around circular 2D arenas. Unfortunately, this added dimension takes a lot of fun out of the gameplay dynamic because the battles are far less intimate and intense. On top of this, the controls simply don't feel refined. Trying to aim at your opponent and hit them successfully is tricky and as a result, you'll find yourself dashing up to your opponent just to increase your odds of hitting her. This clunkiness combines with the slow pace to make the gameplay rather unsatisfying although it is simple to play and can be fun if you're open to experiencing a basic and unconventional 3D fighting dynamic.
On the plus side, the adorable world of Touhou is presented beautifully here. You'll get to fight as classic characters such as Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame, Lumia, Cirno, Meiling Hong, Patchouli Knowledge, Sakuya Izayoi, Remilia Scarlet, Flandre Scarlet, and Koishi Komeiji (once you download her). Each character has her own array of attacks and experimenting to find your favourite is a rewarding task. Even though the environments look decent and distinct from one another, there are only five to battle within. You can choose to toggle barricades for a few stages in some modes but the lack of variety is kind of disappointing. Finally, you have the option to play using a PlayStation VR headset which makes the cute world even cuter but you can only do so via the Vs. Computer Battle mode.
Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle can be enjoyed solo or multiplayer either locally or online. Having the option to play online is great although it remains to be seen if the online component will be active enough. For the record, I couldn't find a single person to play against but I hope that changes soon. The single player modes consist of Story, Arcade, and Score Attack. Story mode has you battle a succession of opponents with goofy story sequences between battles. It sounds enjoyable but the fact that each character's story feels the same as it primarily consists of a handful of battles then a giant head final boss in the form of Yukkuri Reimu makes it get repetitive after only a few playthroughs. Thankfully, the Score Attack and Arcade modes add welcome variety by providing extra challenges.
Aside from the unsatisfying gameplay, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle's biggest problem is that it doesn't feature enough content. Seeing as Story mode gets tedious fast and there's only so much fun you can have taking on the challenges of the other two modes, I wish that there was a varied adventure mode to tie the battles together or some mini-games. As it is, the only content that helps extend the replay value significantly is the multiplayer component but that relies on an active community or your ability to enjoy it with friends.
Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is a tough game to recommend. It features simple gameplay in an adorable world but the overall unsatisfying formula and lack of substantial content make it an easily forgettable fighter even for dedicated Touhou fans.
- + Cute characters and game world that's even cuter with PlayStation VR
- + Includes local and online multiplayer
- + Score Attack and Arcade add replay value
- - Simple slow-paced gameplay feels clunky and isn't quite satisfying
- - Story mode gets very repetitive
- - Could use more modes and challenges