The TouHou Project is a series of bullet hell shooter games dating back to 1996. Popular in Japan, developed by a one man team, they have spawned countless sequels and have huge popularity among shooter fans.
As I read a bit more about this series, I learned that for the West, the Touhou series often licenses the name out to other developers to build games based on the popular franchise. This is what we have here with TouHou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. Immediately it shows, as it’s a very shallow game which feels like a cash-in off a popular name.
As you begin, the artwork you’ll notice is decent. Anime girls are the protagonists here, and are fighting each other in order to learn about strange incidents which are occurring in Gensokyo. Billed as a ‘bullet-hell dance battle game’ you’re pitted in one-on-one matches against another girl in a 3D winner, fighting to the death.
So far it sounds a bit weird but fine, then the game starts. Wow. This was released last year on PS4 in Japan, but also for Vita and at that point it becomes clear why it looks the way it does. Reminiscent of early 3D Vita games, it looks all but terrible on PS4. Basic 3D models look nothing like the detailed 2D drawing adorning the menus. The arenas look similarly bad, and if this wasn’t enough it flows through the presentation of story mode and the in-game UI.
Without knowing anything I started my first game. There is a bar for your health, you opponent’s health and the ‘power’ of three attacks, shown as bars by three Playstation buttons. It’s the most basic UI you’ve ever seen, and whereas many other games feature detailed icons which deplete/fill with power usage, this simply is shown by a line.
All could be forgiven if the gameplay was essential. Sadly it isn’t. You’ll strafe and fire and jump to avoid getting hit and fire your own damage towards the opponent. In fairness, once I figured out that it’s more about creating a bullet hell environment for your opponent than directly targeting them, it gets slightly better as you want to create as much chaos as possible. However, it’s odd then that most characters have a blocking or defensive ability, a bullet ‘spam’ attack and a direct ‘missile’. I found these missiles so effective and the timing on the power recharge so light that I could spam this and win every match easily.
A jump ability is also a strange addition. From how the game looks, I found it really hard to tell the affect this vertical space has on the game. You can fire while jumping, and jump to avoid the bullets but it didn’t ever seem to be a complete safe zone, nor an area you can stay in as the gravity is strong enough to make it not feel too floaty.
Modes are what you’d expect and nothing more really – a story mode, an arcade mode (the story mode without the story) and a score attack round out the options. There is online multiplayer but as of yet, I have not been able to find one single match so cannot attest to how this works.
For those that have it, Burst Battle also supports PS VR which I imagine would be fairly psychedelic once you get jumping about, and it’s nice to see games support this without having to be dedicated VR titles.
Unless you’re a huge fan of the TouHou series or in desperate need for something a bit different to one-on-one fighting games, I’d probably give this a miss.
Reviewed on PS4