Review: Touhou Kobuto V lets fans down

There are so many good Touhou Project games out there. I mean, Team Shanghai Alice has created some revolutionary bullet hell shooters. Touhou Genso Wanderer is an enjoyable roguelike. Even Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, though a bit rudimentary, is fun. So why is it we keep getting games like Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle, installments that do nothing but tarnish the reputation of the series?

Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle revolves around an unexplained incident, as all Touhou Project games do. Reimu Hakurei has heard rumors someone has seen her working alongside Remilia Scarlet. Since this is cutting into her shrine’s donations and tarnishing her reputation, she goes to check it out. What follows is a story mode that takes a look at each character’s side of this new incident, sending them to fight against six opponents before you can see another person’s perspective. In a rather annoying twist, you can’t choose who you play as from the very start. The game forces you to play as different people. So if you only like Marisa Kirisame or Flandre Scarlet, too bad. You’re seeing everyone’s side.

You get Story, Arcade, Score Attack, VS Com, VS Human and VS Online modes right from the very start, though all of them feature the same flawed gameplay.

Some of the most important Touhou Project Heroines are represented here in Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. Reimu, Marisa Kirisame, Lumia, Cirno, Meiling Hong, Patchouli Knowledge, Sakuya Izayoi, Remilia Scarlet and Flandre Scarlet are all available to play from the start. Though, it is a little unfortunate that the game shows you Koishi Komeiji, but with a reminder that she is locked away unless you purchase her DLC. You get Story, Arcade, Score Attack, VS Com, VS Human and VS Online modes right from the very start, though all of them feature the same flawed gameplay. This means your choice comes down to whether you want to hear the characters spout some rather inane and unmemorable dialogue between fights or not. (Finding someone to play against online is rather difficult, as the online community isn’t exactly hopping.)

A rather odd attacking system is in play in Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. Your character has three attacks tied to three of the four action buttons. Each one has a gauge next to it on-screen. If you press that attack too many times, you can not use it anymore. Likewise, if you dash too often, a gauge will deplete and leave you temporarily exhausted and panting. Basically, you become a sitting duck if you attempt to button mash or rely on certain attacks. Which in a way is good, since it encourages creativity, but there are also moments where I could have really used the ability to use my main attack more than a handful of times in a row to counter an opponent, but couldn’t.

There are also Spell Cards in Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. If you press certain buttons when all of your attack bars are full, you can use an incredibly strong special attack. How do you use this special attack? Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle doesn’t tell you! Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle has no tutorials; it does absolutely nothing to help you learn exactly how you are supposed to play the game. I only figured out what I was supposed to do by accidently button mashing. So let me share this sacred knowledge with you: press all three attack buttons at once. That is all I know. Maybe it will help you, should you choose to take on this challenge, I don’t know.

What I do know is even if you can’t figure out how to trigger Spell Cards, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle can feel incredibly unbalanced. If you can manage to get close enough to an opponent, your ranged attacks automatically turn into physical ones. I noticed it was possible to end a battle in moments if I achieved this, especially if I shifted between the three possible attacks when an enemy was prone on the ground. If you can manage to keep track of where an opponent is, you can speed through the six battle story mode in under a half hour.

Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle has no tutorials; it does absolutely nothing to help you learn exactly how you are supposed to play the game.

If you can’t manage to get close, then everything feels sloppy. As I mentioned earlier, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle wants to be a game that relies on projectiles. Which doesn’t work well when there is no way to lock onto an opponent. I’m not even suggesting a manual lock-on for attacks. Just a camera lock would be nice, since every character is so floating and capable of using an occasional dash attack that swiftly puts them out of sight for a moment. Someone can move just so, perhaps behind an obstacle or even strafing around you, and suddenly you lose any possible advantage. Something especially unnerving since the block button doesn’t always make you block an attack. The camera is absolutely terrible.

Though, the floatiness is a close second when it comes to things that bother me the most about Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. Nothing feels precise. It is like you are swimming through a pool of Jello, rather than fighting in a fast-paced arena. I hated trudging my way across battlegrounds. It especially doesn’t feel true to the series, since the actual Touhou Project games emphasize precision when it comes to avoiding bullets and moving across a field. Being bogged down is the opposite of what you want in one of these games, or in a fighter in general.

I suppose Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle’s character models look nice? Everyone looks the way they are supposed to. Some of their introductory animations or knocked down poses do a good job of showing off their character. Cirno’s shows her pretending to be a snowman, which is cute. And Patchouli’s conveys her fragile health by showing her coughing a bit. Each of the various CGs unlocked via completing the Story mode do a good job of setting the stage. Unfortunately, the pleasant art does not expend to the arenas themselves. They aren’t especially detailed or spectacular.

I do not like Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. Moreover, I have a difficult time thinking of anyone who would enjoy this game. The camera is horrible. The system is designed to punish you for attempting to use certain attacks more than two times in a row. It does not teach you how to use its strongest Spell Card skills. Everyone seems to be wading through some sort of unseen, gelatinous goo. Also, that camera is so absolutely terrible that I really do have to mention it again. The character designs aren’t bad, but people who really want to see the Touhou Project characters in a game could absolutely find a better title to play.

Score: 3/10
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Developer: Cubetype
Platform(s): Switch, PS4, Vita
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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