Title: Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita, Switch
Publisher: NIS America
Release date: October 13, 2017
Price: £25 / $30
TL;DR: If this game had a tutorial and a less dodgy camera, it might’ve been passable.
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Before we start, I should be upfront; this is the first Touhou game I’ve played, so I have no familiarity with the series at all. While fighting games aren’t really my bag, I’ve played my fair share of them, and even enjoyed a couple! So, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?
When I picked this up for review, I had a quick look at the trailer and, hailed as a “3D Bullet Hell Battle,” it looked kinda fun, in a colourful, cutesy sort of way.
I was horribly, horribly wrong.
The load time is quick, and the title screen, rather jarringly, shows off some Japanese text which appears to link to the game’s official site – also in Japanese – which is clearly not needed and in no way helpful to the average player. Aside from that, the menu gives you several options; Story, Arcade, and Score Attack, while other “vs.” options are also available. Naturally, I jumped straight into the Story mode.
The story – for what it is – is told by means of a static background with dialogue that you need to scroll through (or skip if you’ve seen it before). While the intro didn’t seem particularly engaging, it did give me a vague interest in where the story might be going. Flash forward to the Misty Lake, where you meet your first opponent. The encounter quickly turns into a childish argument and you are then launched straight into your first fight, which is basically a “best of three,” scenario.
Attack buttons are displayed on the bottom right your screen with a corresponding recharge bar (?) next to each, and they seem to shoot projectiles of varying colours and shapes when pressed. Beyond that, I was lost. Somehow I survived the first round, lost the second, and won the third. Still feeling somewhat dazed as to what had just happened, I progressed on to the next fight. And got my ass handed to me on two consecutive rounds. Was there an elusive tutorial level that I’d missed on the title screen?
Nope. The game just doesn’t think you need one. To be fair, with a lot of fighting games, you can get a long way with button mashing alone – unfortunately, Burst Battle is not one of them. While there is no tutorial, there is a controller configuration section in the options which helpfully tells you what each button does – I have the option to guard? – but not in any great detail. And there’s no mention of how to activate a special move that your opponents seem to have at their disposal which, more often than not, will knock you down and leave you vulnerable (for an eternity) to further assault.
When you’re forced to scour the internet in a desperate search to gain some insight into the controls of (what should be) a simple enough game, you know something’s wrong. Even after having looked up the controls, the combat is still terrible. The camera feels sluggish and you often lose sight of your opponent, leaving yourself wide open to attack. The characters move stiffly around the square arena – unless you use the Dash command, which is something else I only found by checking the controller configuration in the Options. When you are knocked down, which you will be, and often, it takes several valuable seconds to regain control of your character. The attacks themselves feel sloppy – whether the attacks connect with your target feels almost down to luck, and is incredibly hit and miss.
The story itself is pretty flat and uninteresting. As you move from battle to battle, the arenas change their backgrounds, but otherwise stay essentially the same. The snippets of dialogue in between do little to endear the characters to you and the fights seem to develop from tantrum throwing and/or brattish behaviour. The only vaguely interesting thing about the story mode is the look of the boss at the end, which has a colourful creepiness about it.
Visually, the game isn’t great either, looking more like it would be at home on last gen consoles. The backdrops for the dialogue are nice enough, but the character textures look flat and angular and out of place on the PS4; Reimu’s weapon is a good example of this, looking more like a previously-folded length of paper, rather than whatever-it’s-supposed-to-be. The music isn’t bad, but it’s not great either and becomes rather annoying after a short time.
The other modes have little else to offer. Both Arcade and Score Attack allow you to choose from nine characters, whose attacks don’t seem to differ a great deal from your default choice. Arcade’s objective is to see how many fights you can win consecutively, while Score Attack wants you to rack up the highest score possible. Basically, the Story mode but without so much nice artwork to look at between battles.
I can’t think of the last time I had difficulty thinking of something positive to say about a game, but this is definitely one of them. Having to put so much effort into figuring out how to play ruined it for me, so even once I had grasped the basics of the combat, it just wasn’t fun, and the buggy camera did little to help.
Perhaps if you’re familiar with the Touhou series, you might find something in this game to enjoy, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
- The artwork from the dialogue sections look nice.
- No tutorial. Nothing!
- The camera positioning and response to movement is bad.
- The story is flat and unengaging.
Rated PEGI 12/ESRB Teen; the game contains some animated, unrealistic looking violence. And not a lot else.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.