Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Feature Image
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet Title Screen
Title Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet
Developer CUBETYPE
Publisher NIS America
Release Date September 6, 2016
Genre Bullet Hell Shooter Fighting Game
Platform PlayStation 4
Age Rating ESRB E 10+
Official Website

Anyone who has read enough of my reviews will know that I’m a vocal fan of fighting games and bullet hell shooters. Both of those genres do require a certain amount of twitch reflexes that will always relegate them to niche status. And if they took away that requirement, fans of both of those genres would not enjoy them nearly as much. For the most part my love of these genres has been a bit separate from each other, despite the combined skill requirement. That is basically the only aspect that they shared between them. Then CUBETYPE had those two genres make sweet passionate love together and produced this child. But with two genres that are so different, where is the meeting point? Does she have more of her mother’s genes, or more of her father’s?

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Character Select
The character select screen is definitely right out of a fighting game.

For the purposes of that analogy I will call fighting games the father, especially since attending a fighting game tournament is still a bit of a sausage fest. If I were to come down on one side or the other as to which this game is most like, it would be the father, fighting games. What this brings to the bullet hell shooter genre is a much larger list of characters with a higher variety of abilities than I have ever experienced in a standard shooter. The girls also have a lot more personality and character than your typical shooter ship, robot, or pilot. One of the ways that this game owns that genre is that certain characters have a bullet pattern that works better against some characters than it does against others. In other words, you have some pretty hard counters. Given its bullet hell shooter roots, though, it’s not quite like facing Dhalsim with Zangief. They all move around equally as fast (or as slow, more on that later) and they can all shoot an array of bullets, just with different bullet patterns and speeds.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Bullet Hell
Just when you think it’s a fighting game, she shows her claws.

If you look at the screen above, you can see that dichotomy at work. The Vitality and Charge meters are right out of the fighting game genre, while the bombs and power upgrades are out of the shooting game genre. But on the screen, it is all bullet hell. In this screen Alice is casting her spell, which uses a bomb and some of the Charge meter to create a zone of bullet hell madness. You can get out of this mode by surviving long enough for the timer to expire, or to remove enough of the casting character’s Vitality. Think of this mode as the Super or Ultra moves from fighting games, although you can counter them and they last much longer than a standard fighting game. There is even a Finishing Spell version that allows you to live a little bit longer and possibly mount a comeback.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Tutorial
I would strongly suggest going through the tutorial first.

Like a fighting game, there are no trash enemies that you would mow down in a typical shooter. The game is made up of successive rounds against a specific fighter/witch/ghost/vampire. In Story Mode or Versus Mode (online or local) it is typically a 2 out of 3 round fight. To restore your bomb uses, you will need to pick up upgrades. After each round only your vitality is restored. To build your Charge meter, you will need to pick up upgrades, shoot the enemy, or engage in glancing maneuvers. When an enemy’s bullets are very close to you, you will gain more Charge meter. And if you specifically hold the L1 button to slow yourself down intentionally while you avoid those bullets at a close proximity, you will gain far more Charge meter. You need to use the Charge meter to dash and you need to use it for your charge attacks as well. So having Charge meter uses is one of the primary focuses of this game. You will need to get used to movement, much like a fighting game, and learn when you need to get out of dodge with a dash, or when you need to slow down and build your meter.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Laser Beams
She has a doll with fricken laser beams.

Once you get used to moving around, then you also have to get a handle on the different shot types. Much like a fighting game, I would strongly suggest you play around a little bit with several different characters to decide who you really want to play. Then just really burrow down on that specific one because each character has 9 different shot types, which sounds a little insane. But, when you factor in how many moves a typical fighting game character has, it isn’t quite as bad. It definitely feels new for a shooter, though. And even newer is that you are going to have to use pretty much every button on your DualShock 4 controller. Shooters typically only use between 2 and 4 buttons, so it may take some getting used to. There’s the R2 button to change directions, which you will typically only use in Spell mode, but you should also know that in Spell mode all 9 of your shots change characteristics as well. It is difficult to describe without creating a whole strategy guide, so that’s beyond the scope of the review. The last thing I’ll say about the different shots is that practice makes perfect.

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet | Melee Attacks
Getting up close and personal with your waifu.

More Waifu Bullet Hell on Page 2 ->

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.