Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle Review – Say No (PS4)
For various reasons, spinoffs of the Touhou series (yet weirdly, none of the actual shoot-em-ups) have been coming out at a fairly regular pace on PlayStation 4. I’ve reviewed a number of these, and while I wouldn’t categorize any as great games, there have been some pleasant surprises and really great ideas in some of these titles. When I booted up Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle, a fighting game that is supposed to remind players of the shooter’s gameplay, I was hoping I would find some good fun.
The first Touhou title I reviewed, Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet, had a very similar premise to Kobuto V: Burst Battle. While both games aim to make a fighting game out of the series, they go about it very different ways. Kobuto takes place from a behind-the-back perspective, rather than the familiar top-down look for Bullet Ballet, and that’s just the start of problems for the game. The camera for Burst Battle is absolutely atrocious. Despite being one-on-one battles, the camera regularly gets lost if the opponent dashes away or the competitors get close together. Nearly every melee exchange was met with the camera looking away from my opponent, and then slowly fixing itself while I got blasted with projectiles.
Despite being different genres, the gameplay stays as faithful to the series’ roots as it can. Each of the roster’s characters use a variety of magic attacks to battle from afar, and the special skills should look familiar to fans of the series. If the player gets close to their opponent, their attacks change to melee attacks (although its detection can be exceptionally spotty at times), and in total there are six different attacks to use. Finally, by blowing up their opponent’s magic attacks with their own, players can gain magic energy that can be used to deliver an ultimate attack (which to my knowledge is never explained in any menu of the game since why would a fighting game need a tutorial?) by hitting triangle, circle, and square at the same time on the DualShock 4.
When laid out, the fighting is all good in theory. Sadly, the execution is where things break down. The characters move slowly like tanks if they aren’t using the dash button, which then makes them move wildly out of control. There’s no gracefulness to combat; most battles devolve into casting different spells from afar, and hoping they hit. Playing this fresh off of Gundam Versus, another 3D fighting game that manages to balance melee and ranged combat much better, certainly didn’t help matters as this lacked any polish or nuance.
While a lack of polish isn’t new to these Touhou spinoffs, typically the games have some sort of charm to them. I was hoping to find that in the story mode, but instead it was a series of battles strung together with a plot that could be described in less than a paragraph. Most of the plot makes little sense, as the game constantly has to find reasons for the characters to battle each other, and it ends with a boss fight against a huge abomination that is nearly impossible to beat via normal means. There’s a trick, though; if you dash up to the enemy, it’s completely helpless at close range, and I was able to defeat it without taking any damage.
After finishing the story once, players are able to experiencing new twists on the story starring different characters. While this is a solid idea in theory, there’s nothing interesting to discover in these repeated playthroughs (although you’ll get additional trophies for doing so). Unfortunately, the cast of Touhou isn’t memorable (it really says a lot that I’ve played so many of these games yet have zero attachment to any of the characters), and getting to see some additional dialogue exchanges isn’t worth the painful experience of playing the game.
The combat of Burst Battle is ultimately its worst enemy. If the gameplay was fun then the lackluster modes would’ve been serviceable, but when the actual gameplay is a complete chore, who is going to want to go into Score Attack to battle an endless amount of enemies? Besides solo content, there’s also some bare-bones online play (where players have to create rooms, rather than using the PS4’s invite system). I can’t imagine this ever having an active online community, but good on them for trying, I guess?
Rounding out the feature set is some PlayStation VR support for versus mode matches. The game isn’t made any better in VR (no sort of gimmickry is going to fix the issues here), but I was surprised by how the game didn’t have any dip in graphical quality and nothing was negatively impacted. Sure, it’s hard to imagine a PlayStation 4 title looking much worse than the rough looking characters and bland environments seen in Burst Battle, but you never know what to expect. As far as tacked-on virtual reality additions go, this is at least on par with Tekken 7.
It’s not often that I walk away from a game without a few positives from the experience. Typically even when things go awry there are good ideas underneath the flawed execution, and I can see what the studio was going for. That isn’t the case with Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle. Everything from its presentation to the gameplay seems poorly thought out. This is one worth avoiding by all, as there’s not even any enjoyment to be had in a “so bad it’s good” sense.
Touhou Kobuto V Burst Battle review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.