Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle (Switch) Review – Bullet Hell Arena
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Vita
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 10th October 2017 (NA) / 13th October 2017 (EU)
Touhou started back in the 90s as a little bullet hell game made by one person. Quickly gathering a big fanbase and fame, Touhou evolved into one of the biggest and maybe most hidden franchises out there, featuring everything from a 16-part main game series, mangas or spin-offs. Another one of those spin-off is Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle, a 3rd person bullet hell arena game or at least how I can describe it.
Similar to the original series Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle is a bullet hell game at its core but with a “little” twist. Focusing on 1 vs 1 duels in a three-dimensional arena from third person perspective, the goal is to unleash a true bullet hell onto the opponent and dodging enemy attacks. Therefore the game offers 4 basic modes, local versus, AI versus, an online mode and surprisingly even a little story.
Yet, to get this out-of-the-way, the story is nothing to be pumped about, being nothing more than a really barebones tale of some cute girls doing everyday things and battle each other. In fact, there are only a few lines of text before this so-called story throws us into another battle. Additionally the game also doesn´t save any progress made in this 1-2 hours long excursion into cute touhou girls talking and behaving in a cute manor. The few lines aren´t even written that well. Everything feels like a poor excuse rather than a fully fleshed out story with good characters. Honestly, it was more of a disappointment than a contribution to the overall game and I would´ve preferred it if it didn´t exist in the first place.
So, let´s thematise the heart of Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle, the battle system, which is actually pretty extensive. Considering it´s the main and only focus of the game, it better be. Consisting of three basic attacks, a main- ,a sub- and a charge-attack, each with their own situational use cases and cooldowns. Where the main- and sub-attack unleash bullet hell typical rays of bullets in various formations depending on the character and serve as the main way to deal damage, the charge-attack is more of a tactical one. While it functions more of a shield for most characters and a way to defend, it charges up the “charge”-meter, basically a special attack indicator able to unleash a powerful single attack when filled. By combining these three attacks with the ability to double jump and dash, both on ground or in air, the fact bullets can cancel each other and the huge different between each character, already build a pretty fun base for little duels.
However, after a quick look in the manual, the true complexity of Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle´s battle system dawned on me. Not only does it offer the above mentioned attacks but also iterations of them depending on the current position or move. Attacks performed during a dash or in the air are different to the normal ones, to put it simple. Combined with the melee attacks available at a close range, the game´s movement and attack options are pretty extensive and due to the cooldowns of each attack the whole experience gets somewhat of a tactical undertone.
Unfortunately, there are two big flaws about the gameplay: On the one hand the charge attack is simply too powerful, able to deplete 80% of the opponent´s health if landed correctly, removing nearly every brink strategy if someone solely focuses on getting the charge bar filled up. Yet, this isn´t case for every one of the 9 characters, some special attacks are more easily avoidable or deal way less damage than others, making certain duels somewhat unfair. Especially since the characters normally differentiate themselves in a really great manner, having different attacks but never seeming overpowered.
On the other hand the button layout on the Nintendo Switch isn´t the best. For example, the charge attack, that requires good timing and no other input to be executed, so having to press A+X at the same exact time never worked as responsive as needed, resulting in off timing or losses. Otherwise the game looks and runs on the Switch as fluent as in the trailers while featuring built-in local 1v1 support with the Joy-Cons! I never had any stutters, lags, bugs or crashes and because of the quite minimalistic, cartoony graphics I don´t have anything to complain about the performance or memory usage of 1GB. Some more modes than just 1v1 duels in 3 different ways would´ve been nice, who didn’t want to play a 2v2 or 3v3 bullet hell mayhem on his Switch?
Despite the tiny almost inexcusable story mode and lack of much content except 1v1 duels in arenas, Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle is a pretty alright game for some local or online competition. The diverse combat system which offers individual moves for each character and a surprising amount of attacks comes pretty near to a more tactical approach to the bullet hell genre. Thinking about dodging the next attack, paying attention to the cooldowns and firing dozens of bullets at the opponent can be fun for a few matches. After becoming familiar with the systems and having played it with a mate for a few hours we both had some fun and actually enjoyed it most of the time but that´s it, nothing memorable, nothing special, just an okay 1v1 game for a few hours, if you´re willing to pay 30 bucks.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]