Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle Review

Game Title: Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle
Developer: Cubetype, NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life: 4-5 Hours
Download: 1.0 GB

I’m glad that the Touhou Project is getting more video games in the console world, and in the West. It’s something I’ve really gotten into for several years, ever since I heard U.N. Owen Was Her in an RPG Maker game. The Touhou girls have a very comical and interesting lore, and the more console/handheld games we get, the more unique experiences we get on those consoles and handhelds.

The new Touhou game has released on two handhelds as well as the PS4, and I made sure to pre-order it. Although it is worth noting that the PS Vita version of this game is compatible with the PlayStation TV, that isn’t the version I am reviewing for you today.

So, for all Touhou fans out there, here is my review of Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

The plot takes place in Gensokyo, where the Shrine Maiden Reimu receives word of mouth that she has been seen attacking innocents with the Scarlet Mansion’s Vampire, Remilia Scarlet. Worried that this will hurt her reputation and, more importantly, how much money people donate to the Shrine, she heads out and investigates the rumor.

The story of Burst Battle is simple, yet complex at the same time. The base story is set as detailed above, but with each character’s own story scenario, it shows how things move about from each one’s perspective.

The big problem with this game’s story is the problem with pretty much all of the Touhou games’ stories. Touhou Project has a ton of lore that the games take for granted that you already know. When Burst Battle starts, you just kind of get that Reimu is a Shrine Maiden was her own dialogue and her relationships with everyone else mention all kinds of things known in the lore, but is not known to you.

If you are a Touhou fan or have played through Genso Wanderer, nothing to worry about. If you are not, prepare to be thoroughly confused.

Gameplay

Burst Battle is very difficult to define as a genre. The game calls itself a “Bullet Hell Battle Game”, while many Nintendo fans will immediately be reminded of the fighting game, ARMS, after diving into their first battle. I would definitely call it a fighting game at its core, with a little Bullet Hell thrown in with how most characters’ movesets rely on launching projectiles. So, I’d call it an over-the-shoulder fighter with bullet hell elements thrown into the mix.

When you first start up the game, pretty much all game modes are unlocked for you. You’ve got Story Mode for a flurry of fights with story to back it up, Arcade Mode and Score Attack for going through consecutive fights for high scores, and three VS modes for fighting AI or using the local split-screen or Online Multiplayer Modes.

The main feel of unlocking is in the form of Story Mode. The game features 9 playable characters from the Touhou Project, but only Reimu is available from the get-go. To unlock other characters’ Story Scenarios, you must first beat Story mode with Reimu, Marisa, and Remilia. Once those are cleared, you gain a Character Select from the Story Mode menu and can play through as any of the 9 characters.

The main point of this game is the combat, and it is a pretty unique way of doing things. The perspective and movement throughout the arena is very similar to ARMS. The camera stays behind your character and stays locked towards your opponent. The main difference between this game and ARMS is the variety of attack types. You have three attacks and those attacks will do different things whether you’re on the ground, in the air, far from the enemy, or close to the enemy. These attacks can also be combined with the R trigger to be more enhanced and be more effective against different opponents. You also have Ultimate Attacks in the form of Spell Cards that you can unleash once your CHARGE gauge is full.

The main difficulty is finding balance between your moves. Each attack uses a percentage of that move’s battle gauge. You can’t just spam Marisa’s Kamehameha-like beam attack over and over again. The gauge will eventually run out and need to recharge. So, you need to be able to use other moves effectively until you can use that “favorite” attack again.

Now, I really only have 2 problems with this game’s combat. The first is how sluggish it feels. Like ARMS, your movement and even jumping feels very slow and tank-like. This is probably done on purpose for the strategy and feeling of difficulty with dodging certain attacks, but it just feels slugglish to me. Personal preference, obviously, as I was not a fan of ARMs.

The real problem, though, is balancing between all of the characters. The developers really have a severe need to re-balance this game’s characters. When you play through with various characters, it’s clear that some are favored over others. I can jump into a fight with Marisa and use her X attack once and easily knock out 1/3 to over ½ of an enemy’s health gauge with ease while I can jump in with Cirno and have to land several attacks to do the same amount of damage. This is even more apparent when some Ultimate Attacks can 1-hit-KO some characters.

The attacks, themselves, are shown so you need to learn how to dodge them and that’s not terribly hard to do, but the level of power in some really makes the balance feel tipped heavily in favor of specific characters over others.

Now, what about length? This was obviously an issue with ARMS, since it came right out of the gate at $59.99 and had no Story Mode and was basically all gameplay and just working to unlock other ARMS. Burst Battle’s only real sense of unlocking is working to unlock each of the 9 characters’ story scenarios. With each Story Run lasting 5 battles and around 15-30 minutes a piece, that would bring your total playtime to around 3 hours, give or take. That’s not counting the 10th character that is shown in the roster, but is featured in a DLC Pack that has not yet been released.

Now, that’s not very long. While that game is priced lower on all platforms at $29.99 instead of $59.99, 3 hours to unlock everything and have not much left to do but work on high scores and Multiplayer, you still have to look at it and ask yourself if that’s worth it.

Controls

The controls for the game are pretty simple, though how you learn the controls is not simple.

But first of all, let’s detail the controls, themselves. The Left Analog Stick and the Arrow Buttons / D-Pad are used for moving around and directing your attacks. The Right Analog Stick is used for turning the camera or your line of sight. The L and R triggers are used for Guarding and Dashing, respectively. As explained earlier, R can also be combined with an attack button for a more powerful version of that attack.

And the rest is with the face buttons. B is used for jumping, while AXY are used for the different attacks. You also use X and Y together when your CHARGE gauge is full to launch your Spell Card / Ultimate Attack.

So, not too complex, but you have to know where to learn this. There is a Manual option in the Main Menu off to the side, but there is no Tutorial Section. It’s just like a game manual you read. Actually going into combat, you’re on your own, not knowing how to do a thing. In my opinion, there should have been a tutorial section in the beginning of Story Mode to show you the basics, rather than expecting you to see the Manual option in the Main Menu (which is on the other side of the screen by itself, away from the rest of the Game Mode options).

Presentation

Presentation is really exceptional in this game. The graphics are perfect. Every render and model is shown as a flawless representation of the characters. No jagged edges. No blurry animations. Everything looks pristine and perfect.

Music fans will also appreciate all of the classic Touhou songs that have been remixed for Burst Battle like my personal favorite, U.N. Owen Was Her. I’ve certainly heard better fan remixes, but they’re nice, nonetheless.

Performance is also quite flawless. Loading sequences are very short and the frame-rate stays a nice and perfect 60 fps whether you’re going solo, doing split-screen multiplayer, or are playing online against opponents from around the globe.

Battery Life

So, this is a 3D game. I had average expectations for Battery Life, but NIS America has, once again, shown how easily they’ve learned good Switch optimization. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 58 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 26 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 05 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 11 minutes

This is quite surprising, and I hope NISA keeps this up. Burst Battle is a 3D game, but will net you 4-5 hours of Battery Life, no matter your settings.

Summary

In conclusion, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is an interestingly-fun Touhou take on the ARMS combat formula. Even as someone who didn't like ARMS, I found Burst Battle to be as entertaining as it is adorable, though it is held back by balancing issues and a need to know the lore of the Touhou Project.

7/10

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