What’s Japanese for “Fight!”?
Whatever. The game is subbed in English, anyway. Unknown Games’ Koihime Enbu, a fairly popular fighting game that occasionally makes the trip to America, offers players a legitimate cast of (all female) characters ready to duke it out across a wide variety of game modes. I’m noting early on in this review that I utilized a Steam controller rather than the keyboard set up the game defaults.
At heart, Koihime Enbu is a tale based on the visual novel of the same name. Those familiar with the Three Kingdoms lore of China will find something to enjoy here, as the characters are all reimagined Three Kingdoms entities. Presented in hand drawn anime visuals, the game itself is aesthetically pleasing. The biggest drawback of Koihime Enbu, for me, is the typical over sexualization of most of its female cast. But we’ll get back to that later.
Boasting tight controls and a “Fatal Counter” system, Koihime Enbu delivers an accessible fighting game to newbies (like myself) and a challenging system to master for veterans. The first mechanic that really drew me into this title was the Fatal Counter system, where pretty much any attack can be punished. On my Steam controller, pressing the back button in the direction of my enemy initiated a counter. Combos can be built upon this system and strewn together separately, and I found myself annihilating chunks of computerized health bars in seconds. Even with the odd Steam controller, I was able to fight my way through the majority of the first two days of the tournament in story mode before losing. I’ve dabbled in fighting games, and ever really only mastered a few characters from Evil Zone (and the counter system from the Dreamcast version of Dead or Alive), but I found myself comfortable and capable in Koihime Enbu.
In addition to the aforementioned story mode, Koihime Enbu also offers players a chance to play the original arcade mode, a versus mode, online or offline versus play, and a practice mode. Both the arcade and story selections offer players with quite a bit of content where other fighters seem sparse. Unfortunately, I was never able to find an online match with which to test the multiplayer on numerous tries over numerous days (a look at Steam only found 77 reviews, so it’s possible that the game just doesn’t have many players), so the whole point and value of the genre is nearly missing. Granted, the offline/single player modes grant the player hours of content, but after clearing the story mode of all 13 characters, the lack of a multiplayer really hits home. This would not be as big of an issue if the game itself didn’t cost users $39.99. The reason the new Street Fighter game didn’t flop completely is because its multiplayer is its lifeblood.
Now, before I knock the value and multiplayer component too much, I want to touch back upon the gameplay. As I stated, the controls are tight and fluid, and I was able to feel comfortable in a genre that I’m not particularly good at (though I do particularly enjoy). What I found to be an additionally cool feature is the inclusion of “assist” characters. Each assist character offers a choice of special abilities to use in combat, and each character can combine differently with each assist character. In other words, Koihime Enbu allows the player to choose an assist character based on their own personal style of play. This gives players maximum strategizing potential to develop a fighting style of their own.
I’m still enjoying my time with Koihime Enbu. Becoming adequate enough at the single player is an enjoyable and trying task, but I still hope to find a multiplayer match or two. The game is good enough to stand on its own without multiplayer, but the lack of any accessible games or rooms really damages the value (especially at the $40 price tag). Still, veterans and newbies (as well as Three Kingdoms fans) alike will find much to love in Koihime Enbu, and the solid mechanics and Fatal Counter system do the game justice.