By William Haderlie / May 19th, 2016
|Developer||Unknown Games, M2 Co.|
|Release Date||May 19, 2016|
|Genre||Doujin Fighting Game|
|Age Rating||All Ages|
What a time we are living in. We are starting to see a lot of games that would have never graced our shores in decades past, and this title is definitely among that pack. Koihime Enbu is another doujin fighting game, similar to Melty Blood or Nitroplus Blasterz, and it is set in the world of Koihime Musou, an adult visual novel that has been translated and published by MangaGamer (warning, this link is NSFW and for Adults Only). That visual novel was one of my early favorites when I started to get into the form, and it also showed that a VN could have a lot of gameplay elements in it as well. The source Adult Visual novel is almost as much of a strategy game as it is a standard VN, and it is huge, requiring many hours to unlock all CG and erotic scenes. So, being a large fan of that game, I was very excited to learn that the doujin fighting game based on that property was heading west.
Koihime Enbu, and the source VN Koihime Musou, take place in an alternate history of China during the Rise of the Three Kingdoms period of history. Possibly the most noticeable change to that history is that all the famous Generals and Heroes of those stories are now cute anime girls. They honestly do not get into the story very much at all for the doujin fighting game, so if you have no reference for the characters from history or especially from the visual novel, you will probably have no idea what is going on. In Scenario Mode there is more story than there is in Arcade Mode, and both have text interactions between the characters. They never really reference the events that occurred in Koihime Musou, but it’s very obvious that this takes place after that story. Characters have formed some of the relationships that took place and some of the injuries that occurred during that story are still present. However, the protagonist of the VN is not referenced at all, nor did the ending scene (either individual or 100% clear ending) occur in this world. That does put the story in a strange place where you will not really understand what is going on if you didn’t play the VN, but if you did play the VN than you will be regretting that you do not see a continuation of that story. But, regardless, it will never be mistaken for a visual novel with fighting game matches between. Despite its origin, several fighting games (like BlazeBlue) have far more story than this one does.
That being said, the personalities of all the girls are very much intact. And that gives a very good reason by itself to get this title, for those of us who have played Koihime Musou. I couldn’t tell whether all the voice actresses made it over in this title, but I doubt it given the years that have passed between these releases. But they definitely kept all the translation congruent with the MangaGamer release, and I appreciate that attention to detail. Of course, with so many strong personalities, if they didn’t, it would definitely be noticeable. One interesting way that the Visual Novel story also impacts the fighting game is the presence of tacticians. Each army had Generals that fought on the front lines, and tacticians that would give you tactical boosts to your strategic warfare. In this title that translates into the Generals fighting one on one in hand to hand combat, and each nation’s tacticians being selectable as assist summons. A few of the assist tacticians do damage, but most of them provide stun effects to leave your opponents vulnerable. So I really like that the story itself provided a gameplay mechanic, not the other way around.
There are thirteen characters available to select and you will see the special moves list whenever you select them, which is a nice addition for beginners. The characters are grouped together by their nations, so the tacticians for each row will be the same two characters, although different by column. Lian gets her own row because she is not really attached to any nation, for story reasons, and is generally considered the most powerful warrior in China. The last boss, depending on the story, is usually either Lian or the Yuri Demon Queen Soso, but they are all selectable to play in either mode. The buttons are fairly standard with only light, medium, hard, and special (A,B,C,D), and the characters each have some nice variety to the hitboxes of their normals. One thing that you will notice rather quickly is that the Special Move list will only change by names of the moves, not by motions. There are 3 special moves per character, 1 Ougi Move (super move), and one Hiougi move (flashy finisher move). There is only one bar for this game and building it up is the fairly standard array of blocked normals, special moves, and receiving damage. Upgrade special moves cost one bar, Ougi costs 3 bars, and Hiougi uses up all 4 bars. So that makes this game fairly simple, especially compared to other doujin games like Melty Blood. So overall I would say that this is a very beginner friendly doujin fighting game, dashing is not even a large part of this title, unlike most of them.
You cannot choose the difficulty for Scenario Mode, it is set at Medium, but for Arcade Mode you can set it to one of three difficulties. I would say that Beginner is pretty standard, but Normal Mode is a bit more difficult than most other modern fighting games. But most of that difficulty can be attributed to this not being a very balanced title. In fact, if I was to play this game for a tournament, I would consider banning Soso from selection. While she’s not nearly as powerful as Akuma from Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, there is the issue that her powerful moves do not have any appreciable recovery frame disadvantage or health disadvantage, so she’s absurdly more powerful than many other characters. But she is not the only one, each character may only have 3 special moves, but the active frames and hit boxes are much better from some than for others. So all around this title would seem to be built for fans of the Visual Novel more than for fighting game fans.
That being said, there are still a lot of modes that will make the fighting game players happy as well. There is local Versus Mode and Online Mode also includes both casual play and also Ranking matches, and for Ranking they use the similar Dan ranking structure that you may be accustomed to from the Virtua Fighter series. The Training Mode has some good options and also includes a Challenge Mode within it, which was a pleasant surprise. All around, they didn’t have to make so many modes and bonuses (like the Gallery Mode) for this niche title, but the fact that they did showed that they really cared about making a good fighting game along with something for the fans of the series. Where they really get held back was only that the fighting mechanics are not that deep and the game is not very balanced. Those are things that could, and likely would, be addressed in a potential sequel. So for a first entry this is actually quite reasonable.
The music is just okay; it doesn’t have nearly the appeal of the Melty Blood fighting game series, but it also hasn’t been going on nearly as long. But, as you would expect from the setting, the music all around has a very stereotypical Chinese sound to it, so its not like it’s bad or not fitting. Some of the backgrounds of the story dialogue bits are quite rough approximations of scenes from the visual novel, but that VN is also getting on in years. But that is also in comparison to possibly my biggest highlight of this title, which is it’s character sprite art and fighting stage background art. Not only do the characters look beautiful, but they also move very fluidly as well. In fact, this little title may sport some of the best character art you will see in a fighting game this side of Guilty Gear Xrd. If they ever do make a sequel to Koihime Musou I seriously hope they consider hiring some of these people to help them with the art, because it’s better than the visual novel was, and even after that many years, that’s not a common thing to say. So really, I could recommend this title based on the character style alone.
However, when taken all together for a full review you must also take into account its price point. Honestly $39.99 is a little rich for my blood for this game. That’s not to say that the developer didn’t put a lot of effort into it, which they did, or shouldn’t be rewarded for their effort, they definitely should. But this is noticeably a first entry into a potential fighting game franchise, and it also has to compete against other doujin games that can be purchased on Steam for a lower price. I do kind of worry about that race to the bottom for price point, but there is no getting around the fact that a 13 character roster, and with all of them having the same basic move set, it will seem like a bit of a small title for that price.
But, that being said, if you have the money and you are a fan of the Visual Novel or of doujin fighting games, then by all means go for it. I was definitely glad to have played this one, and intend on playing it more when I want to take a break from the complexity of Melty Blood, or to spend some more time with these waifus that I have had a romantic foundation with from the VN. But in the end I hope that, as we look back in the future, this will be a solid first entry into a fighting game franchise. And I cannot stress enough how great it is that we are seeing titles like this come over here without a huge amount of begging from fans, or Kickstarter campaigns. So I do hope it sells well enough to convince them to go back and make an even better fighting game next, it was really great spending even more time with these gorgeous girls.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
Adult Visual NovelDegica Gamesdoujin fighting gameKoihime EnbuKoihime MusouMangaGamerUnknown Games