REVIEW: Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

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The melee attacks are a bit easier to understand because they are mostly the same with every character. If you look at the circles surrounding the characters, that is your melee attack range. There are 3 melee attack types; Main, Sub, and Special. The blue circle represents the range of your main melee attack, and when an enemy is inside of it, you can press that button and quickly close the distance, entering a melee attack animation like you see above. You can combo this attack up to 3 times. Doing so gives you more damage, but it can be risky since it can be countered. The red circle represents the range of your sub melee attack, and it is only a single hit. However, it hits harder and knocks back your opponent. The sub attack can be used in combination with the main melee attack, but it will end the combo. The sub attack can also be countered, but the timing is obviously much more tight. The special melee attack does not have a range indication because it can be used at any time. It can be used to hit an enemy that is close enough, but an even better use of it is to swipe all the bullets within its range away. This also commonly turns them into power ups or bomb and gauge boosters. The disadvantage of special is that not only can it be countered, but it also uses up one of your charge meters to use. As you can see, melee attacks may be a bit easier to describe than bullet patterns are, but they are still not simple, especially due to the rock-paper-scissors style counter system.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Story Mode

And just how does she play with you? Full descriptions are definitely appreciated.

The Story Mode plays basically just like a fighting game. Some event gets each character to travel the world seeking out the other characters to fight. With such cute girls, the story is fittingly lighthearted. The story is mostly nonsensical, but anyone who plays fighting games or bullet hell shooters should not really expect anything different. Still, it would have improved the game to have a more interesting (and longer) story mode. But at least you can enjoy some cute dialogue and enjoy some very nice artwork for your erstwhile vixens. While Story Mode engages in best 2 out of 3 fights, the Arcade Mode is single round play. This makes the Arcade Mode much quicker, typically. However, the Arcade Mode is more like Survival Mode in other fighting games. There is no real end boss or anything, you just keep on fighting as long as you can last with each enemy slowly getting stronger. You gain back a certain amount of health (and rarely bombs) depending on how quickly you finish the enemy off, as you would expect in a Survival Mode. Your performance will be uploaded to PSN so you can see how well you did compared to the worldwide leaderboards.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Boss Rush

This witch looks far too cute for the amount of devastation that she’s about to unleash.

Boss Rush mode actually ended up interesting me more than the Arcade mode did. For Boss Rush you engage in a single-round endless survival style mode, but with a twist. This time the enemy will immediately enter their Spell Mode and the objective is to either reduce their health to zero, or to just survive the bullet hell until the timer runs out. While both allow you to win, in general you will want to try to take down their health, because you will be rewarded with more health at the end of the round the quicker you defeat them. If you just time them out, you will still get some health back, just not as much. This mode is obviously a lot more difficult than Arcade mode, but it also has more excitement.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Paid DLC

It feels a little sad that a character doesn’t have a Story unless you pay for DLC.

The nonsensical story is not the only¬†criticism I have for this game, but there are not too many. The character artwork is very well done, but there is really hardly any variety to it. Each character does have an opening screen and an ending screen in Story mode, but they seem to have been done by a different artist and aren’t nearly as high of quality as the normal character art. The stage backgrounds are rather bland and uninteresting, however there is so much going on on the screen which you need to pay attention to that it isn’t a huge deal. While the characters themselves are well defined like in a fighting game, they are lacking great voice over talent or theme music that would push the game more in that direction than in the shooter one. That would be something that I would want for the sequel to this game. The music is not bad, but it’s definitely not memorable, and it doesn’t seem to change depending on which characters you are using. One last minor issue is that there is no difficulty selection. This was not a huge concern for me, but not everyone who would be interested in this title is going to be a hardcore gamer, or they could be so hardcore that this will be too easy for them. Difficulty selection is fairly common for both shooters and fighting games, so it was a bit surprising to not find it here.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Finishing Move

More games could use finishing moves this adorable.

That being said, there was still more to like here than there was to dislike. The standard edition of this game goes for $29.99, which is a pretty good price. There is even a premium edition that NIS America spent a lot of quality time on, if you really cotton on to these waifus. I do wish there was a mode that was a bit more like a bullet hell shooter with knucklehead enemies attacking in swarms before you get to a boss, but that would be a difficult mix with a boss that has a vitality gauge similar to your own, to enter that boss fight at a disadvantage due to previous enemy swarms. Eventually I just came around to accepting the game for what it was; a bit more fighter than shooter, but a mix of both. Having online and local multiplayer will give this game a long life after its initial release, so that is where you will get most of your replay value. In that respect, it’s quite possible than this game will have a longer lifespan than a typical shooter does. If that leads to a sequel, then I am definitely on board with that plan. It’s a game that I definitely enjoy, but can be greatly improved upon in its next iteration.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided By Publisher


About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.

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