By Steve Baltimore / June 4th, 2018
|Release Date||May 15th, 2018|
Over the last couple of years I’ve really started to get into the Touhou franchise. I’m still pretty bad at playing the Shmups, but I have a great time making fun of myself. When I saw that Azure Reflections, a side scrolling Touhou Shmup, was coming to PSN, I got very excited. When I was given an opportunity to check it out, I jumped at the chance. Let’s see if I do better horizontal than vertical.
The story here takes place not long after The Red Mist Incident concluded. Red Mist once again flows from the Scarlet Manor covering the world for some unknown reason. Reimu, Marissa, and Cirno are the first to notice the resurgence of this event. Each of them sets out to find out what sort of scheme Mistress Remilia is planning.
I love the graphical look of this one. It’s 2D but the characters, enemies and backgrounds are done with a 3D look. I was honestly shocked by how much detail was in the character models. The saturated cell-shading really makes them pop. This is really shown off as you unlock the models in the viewer and can see them in all their different poses. There is some hilarious censorship when you try to peep up the girls’ skirts. Let’s hope none of them ever Google themselves!
The music here is amazing, just like you would expect from a Touhou title. There are remixes of your favorite classic themes. These include Beloved Tomboyish Girl, Septette for the Dead Princess and of course U.N. Owen was her? There are even alternate versions of these themes that can be enabled in the options screen. The girls are all voiced in Japanese and the cast does a very good job bringing the characters to life.
Most Touhou titles are vertical shooters, but Azure Reflections plays horizontally instead. Enemies will come at you from both sides of the screen and pressing Circle or Square will shoot at them in that direction. You can choose from three different types of shots when beginning the game. These are Linear, Spread and Homing. Each one has its own perks and drawbacks. I’ve noticed Linear does the most damage, but Homing is great for taking down enemies that move in irregular patterns.
The biggest mechanic here is the barrier and Danmaku Rush. Danmaku for those new to Touhou basically means bullet, and what happens is your barrier absorbs bullets to power up as you rush around the screen. Your barrier gauge must be full in order to start a Danmaku Rush and it will deplete it quickly as you rush in each direction. All the bosses and certain enemies can only be killed in this manner and the bosses need to have their own barrier destroyed with normal fire before you can hit them with this. You can also capture the boss spell cards with a Danmaku Rush if you’ve not used a spell card, lost a life, and are within the time limit during this battle. This will not only unlock things such as more model poses, music and other goodies in Database mode, but if you gain all the spell cards in one run without continuing you will get the game’s true ending. This sounds really hard but with a little practice you can do this on Normal or Easy without much issue. There is also a practice mode that lets you fight each boss as many times as you want to learn their patterns.
Speaking of spell cards, what Touhou game is complete without some screen clearing goodness? These are also super helpful in boss battles since they will clear all the bullets on the screen and do some damage to their barrier. These can also be used for a Deathbomb. This is when you activate a card just before dying to prevent the loss of a life. This has saved my butt many times in some of the crazier areas of the game. It is also good to note that being hit with one bullet will only stun you, while being hit with second one while stunned will cost you a life.
While the odds are stacked against you this doesn’t mean there are not some perks to make your life easier. You can purchase fashion accessories for the girls in the in-game shop. These range from rabbit ears to cat paw shoes. These items have a wide range of effects from faster barrier charge times to starting with extra spell cards or lives. Each gal can equip two, and while these don’t make the game easy by any means, they do give you a fighting chance.
I have to say, Azure Reflections is a fantastic package. It’s easy to pick up and play, but offers plenty of challenge thanks to the 4 difficulty levels. This game is perfect for those just getting into Shmups since it offers some training features and will even display your hit box to help you learn to maneuver more effectively. While a run of story mode will only last a couple hours, with each girl having a unique story, the amount of unlockables and amount of fun trying to complete the game on a harder difficulty give this one plenty of substance. I feel this game is well worth the $24.99 asking price. If you’re a fan of Touhou this is a must have title for the PlayStation 4. If you’ve always been curious about the franchise and are looking for something to get your feet wet, this game is perfect for that as well.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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