The Touhou Project series was started by a man called ZUN. It has multiple games to the series, primarily being Bullet Hells, with some Fighters in the mix. The cast of characters is primarily female, with only 1 male character currently. The series began 20 years ago and is still going. With Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet, the series makes it first official trip to the US and Eurpoe. This version of the game is a remake of the original Genso Rondo for PC that released in 2012.
The gameplay is called a 3D Arena Fighter; a better description might be a shoot’em up with fighting elements. The primary attacks of the characters are the different forms of Danmaku – a Japanese term for “curtain fire” or “barrage of bullets”. There is the main attack that be held out or done in short shots: more direct with a need to aim. Then, sub attacks can act more passively and linger in the arena. When within range of the blue or red ring around the opponent is when the melee skills can be used.
This type of mix reminded me of the indie game FURI. The difference lying in the mechanics that surround it how it actually plays. It did not work well with this game. The character movements are slow, even when dashing or moving normally. The arena itself is larger than the screen shows, and I found most matches would stick to one corner or move from one side to another. The enemy patterns are almost entirely random.
There are ‘Spell’ attacks that call to the main series of Bullet Hell games, and that’s all I got out of them. When the other person is attacking, I would dodge and hit them as much as possible, but when out of the Spell attack they’ve taken no damage. Yet when I use an attack and they hit me during it, I can walk away with little to no health remaining. And they have full health despite not dodging any of my attacks. I sat through the tutorial, hoping to make sense of it but got none.Each character’s move set will differ slightly in looks and how they behave, which is something that would be found in the main series of games. Still, there were issues in the attack coloring to me. The primary color seen on most bullets is white, possibly with some mild coloring on the side. The bright white coloring of the opponent’s attacks mixing with my own made it harder to discern the differences of what I needed to dodge. The more bullets on the screen, the worse it would get. And I personally believe one of the character’s move set to be broken. Sanae has an attack where 4 snakes will appear and basically pincer the opponent and track. I could never fully dodge this attack, which is the worst part to me. Even if I avoided them one side, the other would track me.The character models look good. From what I know of the series, the characterization of them was fine. The part that can be confusing is when the characters mention and talk about others that aren’t fully included in the game. The game does a decent job of explaining the history of characters not fully involved in this game, but it is difficult to put a name to a face.
The story mode had little story, too. It was basically characters running around and fighting for little reason. Granted, this mind set of ‘Shoot first ask questions later’ isn’t far from what can be found in some of the main series of games. In those, there is still some goal or plot that the character’s will go on and travel through, going through a gauntlet of battles along the way. This title feels like the characters are simply running errands or making something of nothing.
Overall, it just doesn’t work. I have some experience playing the Touhou games. I was super excited to be able to really support the series making an official jump to North America, but looking at this as an introduction to the series doesn’t work. The game does not do enough to give the series a proper entry. The gameplay is clunky and loses enjoyment quickly. The characters are enjoyable, but they lack interesting exposition to keep players engaged in the narrative.