Maybe just play a shoot ‘em up…or fighting game.
So, I know of bullet hell games, a lot of people do. I also know of fighting games, one of the most popular genres out there. But then there are bullet hell fighting games. That’s right, I’m talking about a game that pits two characters against each other while shooting hundreds of projectiles in the hopes of whittling down each other’s health bars.
Touhou Genso Rondo is just that. A bullet hell fighting game. As strange of a concept it is, these two genres mesh together for a very interesting title. Unfortunately, due to some choice design decisions, it doesn’t work out as well as I would have hoped.
Price I’d pay: Maybe $10?
Simple enough, players are tasked with bringing an opponent’s health to zero. This is done through three different attacks that can be altered depending on how the player chooses to move. Let’s start simple. There are three main attack patterns for each character: main, sub, and charge attacks. These vary depending on the character the player uses. They also have different looks and patterns depending on the movement. There are three types of movement in the game: Dashing, regular, and slow movements. So depending on the situation and how I am moving, I was able to dish out multiple attacks at different patterns. This is where the depth comes into play. Knowing what to shoot at the enemy and when to shoot is very important.
Along with that, there is a charge gauge that will fill. This can be done by using the slow speed to slight graze bullets shot at the character along with lading hits. Using the charge meter can initiate spell attacks. These change up the structure of the fight into a more traditional bullet hell game, with the initiator at the top of the screen and the defender at the bottom. The defender can move and fire normally, the attacker can’t but has access to some very powerful and difficult to dodge attacks. If the defender can bring the attacker’s health down to zero during this phase, the phase ends and it’s back to the fighting game style.
Along with all the bullet hell stuff there are also melee attacks that can be used if the characters are close to each other. Doing a melee combo can charge up the charge bar as well as knock the opponent back. Defending against this takes some timing and skill, but can be done and actually turn the tables in a fight.
This is all well and good, but unfortunately it isn’t implemented very well. The movement is a bit too slow for this style of game, and the special spell attacks seem to be rather useless for the attacker. Every single spell phase I was in, I was able to just take the damage and unload on the attacker since they can’t move. I would never lose that way.
It doesn’t’ help when the tutorial is done and handled in one of the most convoluted and uninformative way I have seen. It is done through a cut scene that has to be clicked forward. It describes things in a brief way, and if I didn’t catch everything shown in the tutorial, I had to re-read the entire thing. All of which was not hands-on. For a game with some complex mechanics, I was really hoping for more. Instead, I was left to my own devices for the most part and had to figure out how things worked (I still don’t think I know everything.)
In the end, with the movement and the overall action the way it is, the gameplay feels both slow and clunky. It’s a shame because Bullet Ballet feels like it has a lot to offer in a really niche way for certain people, but the execution is off by a mile.
Bullet Ballet offers a story mode for each of the 10 playable characters (11 if you count the DLC one), a boss rush mode, and online multiplayer. Good luck finding a match though, I’ve had this game for two weeks now and have attempted to find an online game each time I played only to find it a barren wasteland.
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet has something going for it and it is honestly something I had never seen before, but the way it plays mixed with a confusing tutorial that doesn’t explain things in the best way it could really make this game feel like I’m slogging through an interesting game while in the dark. Sometimes I see something that is really nice, but many times I find that the execution is just too far off the mark. Really, only fans of this style of game will get the most out of this, and even then, you may want to wait for a decent price drop.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.