Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet is a port of the PC edition of the game which was released exclusively for Japan back on August 11th, 2012; the game had since been released again in Japan for PS4 on May 11th, 2015, and is releasing in the UK on September 6th!
So, now that Genso has been localized and released in the west, what do I think of the game? As a freshman to the Touhou franchise, always seeing the franchise around and never playing a game in the franchise, this was my exposure into the strange, colourful and frankly cute world of Touhou.
And to be perfectly honest, whilst I enjoyed the game initially, Gensou Rondo failed to keep me invested deeply for longer than 3 hours. In my opinion, the main bugbear that plagues the magical girls, vampires and creatures of Genso is a lack of content. The game comes pre-packaged with 5 Stages, 10 Characters (With 1 acting as DLC, although you can play as this character in any mode other than Story Mode), and around 10 music tracks, bundled with 10 Story Modes (One locked behind DLC), an Arcade Mode, Boss Rush Mode, and Versus Modes…And that’s it.
Whilst the core gameplay is immensely addicting and fun, each of the 10 playable characters seem to have various balancing issues with each-other – For instance, Remillia Scarlett, resident Vampire and mistress of the Scarlet Devil Manor can easily devastate any opponent with ease, simply by surrounding herself with bullets and ramming into enemies, at times cutting your opponent’s HP by half. Another character, Utsuho Reiuji is gifted with massive, slow, long lasting projectiles which, if you manage to push your opponent to the side of the arena, will produce the same effects.
Another issue that affects the game is that each story mode seems trivial at best – The plot for various characters can go from setting up a battle tournament, to Remillia destroying all competitors on the first day, to Utsuho spouting endlessly about her glorious boiled eggs…
Given, however, that the art for these segments is wonderful, crisp and detailed, especially when viewing on a large screen with no sense of pixilation, rasterization or loss of quality, and each song is equally addicting, giving the desire to complete the game wholly; the issue that stops me though is that thought of just doing the same thing, over, and over, and over again, abusing the overpowered techniques and slaughtering all enemies, even on Level 7 difficulty (The highest difficulty you have at the start of the game).
One thing I will praise, however, is that the game itself with all of its bright and colourful projectiles is a visual marvel (Excluding the character models); battles are frantic and hectic when you try to not abuse some of the overpowered abilities – Especially the Spells and Final Spells, which act as miniboss segments where your bullet-dodging skills are truly put to the test, with some of the most unforgiving, challenging and harsh bullet patterns I’ve faced. The feeling of satisfaction when you ace one of these sections, or successfully break your opponent out of a Spell is tremendous, and floods your system with adrenaline, if few and far between.
Finally, there’s the Multiplayer aspect of the game, that allows for you to face off against another player, either locally or online in a 1 v 1 duel; in my opinion, this is where the game shines most since you have no way of abusing some of the game’s AI, and have to tweak your strategies to whatever your enemy is doing rather than spamming OP moves. One thing I will say, however, is that, ironically, I wish there were a way of setting up a Tournament Mode, or some form of 4-player free-for-all mode to really ramp up the franticness of the game. There are also leaderboards for each mode, other than Story, so for you high-score seekers, this ought to be a treat.
Overall, Tohou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet is a fun, but repetitive, and sadly shallow bullet-hell battler, which aims to catch the eye of Touhou fans; if you’re a fan that has yet to pick up the game, you’re more than likely to love the combat, humour and visual style of the game – However, if you’re an outsider looking into this game, I would wait for a sale or price drop before seeking this game – For fans, I’m sure the game is worth the £30 price tag alone, but for newcomers and people only hearing of the franchise now… I would have to say that the game isn’t worth £30 for the amount of content provided. Given that, however, I can’t help but find myself returning to the game over and over again; it’s like a drug, hooking it’s claws in – I don’t think it’s the greatest game ever, but I can’t help but continue to come crawling back for more.
I would rate Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet, a 8/10 for Touhou fans, and a 6/10 for newcomers.