Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet is the first Touhou game to come to the west in a physical format. How does the game hold up?
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet marks a few firsts – it’s the first Touhou game to come out on physical media in the west, and it’s my first time playing a Touhou game. The game is split into a few different formats – Story Mode, Arcade Mode, Boss Rush Mode, and Online mode. While you’ll spend a bit of time within the story mode completing each character’s story, the majority of your time will be spent on the other modes that are available.
Each story mode is split up into a series of battles. Overall, the story mode felt pretty lackluster and fairly easy until the last few fights. This also lead to the story modes feeling like they lasted far too long, and I always felt like I was done with that story about 4 fights before it was actually over. I’m sure folks who were extremely well versed in the Touhou universe would be able to get really into the stories, but as an outsider trying to get through them felt extremely tedious.
Touhou Genso Rondo suffers from some serious issues, including a serious lack of balance. Considering how few characters there are (there’s only around 10), one would think that balance would be one of the easiest things to accomplish, but no. This is one of the things that really didn’t help in story mode. Some characters simply felt better than others in terms of how good their attacks were and how much damage they could pump out.
Touhou Genso Rondo plays out in a circular field that you need to move around while shooting at your opponent and dodging. There is no proper aiming – your character will lock into a direction when you start shooting, and this ends up making it extremely easy for your opponent to just dodge whatever attack you were sending their way. Having proper aiming (via the right stick) is something that would’ve vastly improved how the game played, though there’s still other very glaring issues it suffers from.
There are times while you’re playing that you may find it extremely tough to actually figure out where your character is. It doesn’t help that there’s so many flashing lights going on from the attacks, and that the background can get extremely distracting at times. You can try and track your character based on the name above them, but considering how much other stuff you need to follow on the screen… good luck with that.
During the battles you can use a “Spell Card” to go into a special attack mod. I almost never actually found this useful, but it’s possible I was just doing it wrong. Every single time I went into this special mode, my opponent would smash me down instantly and I’d do hardly any damage to them. Whenever they did it, they’d end up doing some damage to me but it was still extremely easy to dodge and just get them out of it.
To control your character, you’ll basically be playing it like a fighting game. You have to use most of the buttons on the controller in order to actually execute what it is you want to do. For example, simply pressing Square will do one attack, but combining it with R1 or L1 will lead to different results. Of course, as I said, the balance in this game is extremely off so if you’ve got a good matchup it isn’t hard to just spam one attack until you win.
As for the other modes, Arcade mode is a single-win series of fights that will continue until you lose. Boss mode… well, Boss mode seemed to pretty much be the same thing, at least from what I played of it. I never did an online match during my time playing Touhou Genso Rondo, but I did do some matches against a friend through local play. During this time, we both came to the same conclusion – some characters are simply better than others and there’s an extreme lack of balance.
Touhou Genso Rondo had the potential to be a really good bullet hell, but it fell extremely short with how unbalanced the different characters were. Going through all of the story mode battles quickly became an exercise in tedium, and the Arcade mode just brought the glaring issue of balance to the forefront even more. I just can’t bring myself to recommend this game as there are definitely far more balanced ones out there. Perhaps if you’re really into the Touhou universe, but even then I’d still find it a stretch to recommend this game.
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet Review Score
I would like to thank NIS America for providing me with a PS4 copy for review purposes.