There are certain games that appear to come out of nowhere. Especially for those who aren’t fans of the series. Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is one such game. After doing some research it becomes apparent that the game comes from a Japanese Dojin series mainly consisting of 2D shoot-em-ups. For the uninitiated a Dojin game is effectively an independent game or at least something close to that.
You might make the mistake of thinking that Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is the fifth game in the series. This isn’t the case, however, and no one seems to be quite sure why the V is there at all. Instead, the game is actually the second of its type in the Touhou series.
The game follows the story of several different characters, usually spiritual beings of some kind. They each have their own storylines and motivations, and none of them seem to tie together into a grander arc, at least as far as it’s possible to tell.
A little honesty is probably necessary before we proceed. This game is bad. Really bad. It is ugly and horrible to play. Obviously, more detail will be necessary, but it suffice to say that the game isn’t very good, and you should keep that in mind as we begin.
The main gameplay of Touhou V: Burst Battle consists of arena fights between ‘Moe’ or ‘Kawaii’ characters. Basically, this boils down to: here are two cute, innocent looking girls, now watch them beat the crap out of each other with lasers.
Your character has three different attack buttons: square, triangle and circle. They are used to attack at both short and long-range. Each button has its own bar which fills to show how much energy that attack has. When you get close enough to your enemy, the colour of each gauge changes to signify its change to melee attack mode.
This effectively means that you have 6 basic attacks. Your three long-range attacks tend to consist of various lasers, bullets or waves. This means that combat from a distance feels a hell of a lot like a bullet hell shooter, which makes sense when you consider most of the other games in the series. The close range attacks are all simple swats or kicks with whatever each character happens to be carrying/wearing.
You also have a few movement abilities, such as dashing, jumping and landing quickly. The primary uses for these is to keep away from the various bullets that your opponents will fire off during the course of the battle.
The controls for the game are at least functional. It is technically possible to play the game after all. The only issue is that it feels so bad to play to that point that it’s not immediately clear why anyone would want to. Running around the arena feels stiff, even when jumping or dashing.
Your attacks also feel incredibly sluggish, and most of the time there is very little to no way of making sure that your attacks will actually hit your enemy. The controls are also incredibly unintuitive. While it’s quite easy to figure out your basic attacks, it is considerably more difficult to figure out the special moves. It is clear that they exist, as the opponents use them relatively often. During a few hours of trying to play the game, however, it became increasingly apparent that without knowing how to do them, you were unlikely to ever figure it out. In case it isn’t already apparent, the game feels horrendous to play and is one of the best examples of bad ‘game feel’ in modern gaming.
This mechanical ugliness is accompanied by a quite stunning visual and auditory ugliness as well. Even though the game goes for a ‘cute girl’ aesthetic, the characters are incredibly bland in their designs and have very badly constructed character models. Considering how good modern technology can make things look, it’s a surprising to see even an indie game with models that would have looked like they were at home in an early PS2 budget title.
The sound also presents some pretty large issues. Half the time there is no music at all, and you feel like you’re trapped in a void of laser noises and little girls shrieking. When the music does manage to kick in, it is usually droning and repetitive. It feels like music that was made simply because it was necessary. Honestly, when the music stutters its way out of the speakers, you almost wish for a return to the void you were trapped in before.
There isn’t really much that can be talked about with a game that is this bad. We could try to explain each of the individual storylines. Once you start on the one with the shrine maiden leaving her shrine to get either free food or to expunge some sort of rumour about her, you immediately either stop caring or start hearing a constant, repetitive droning noise. To clarify, that is a different constant, repetitive droning noise from the music.
Publisher: NIS America
Platforms: PS4, PSVita, Switch
Release Date: 10th October 2017 (US), 13th October 2017 (EU)