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Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
Game Reviews

Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle

Awkward, unbalanced gameplay and questionable presentation make for a skippable Touhou fighter.

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There’s been a push to get more Touhou games on western consoles since last year or so and it’s resulted in games of wildly varying quality. Double Focus, for instance, was a pretty skippable platformer that could have used some more time in the oven, while its sister game Touhou Genso Wanderer was a perfectly acceptable dungeon-crawler.

NIS felt like rolling the dice again, one supposes, because now we’ve got Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle to check out. It’s even on the Switch, which (apparently) doesn’t have bad games. Surely this one’s fine, right? Well…

If you’ve played any of the entries in Sega’s classic mech combat series Virtual On then you know what you’re getting with Touhou Kobuto V. Each player chooses one of the more prominent Touhou characters from a selection of around ten and engages in battle in a 3D arena. Combat involves dashing around and the use of both ranged and melee attacks; the short range on the latter usually entails closing in on one’s opponent, which can be dangerous, but melee combat is so powerful that it tends to be worth the risk. Close-range attacks are so overwhelming, in fact, that the traditional Touhou style of danmanku bullet curtains tends to be the best means of keeping your enemies away so you can live a little longer…theoretically, anyway, but we’ll get to that in a second.

This sort of gameplay can absolutely work; Pokkén Tournament is basically a take on this idea, for instance, as is Senko no Ronde, and both of those are solid games that are worth checking out. Touhou Kobuto V, on the other hand, tends to be clunky and awkward. As mentioned, melee attacks are quite powerful, dealing tons of damage and knocking down one’s opponent so they’re left open to okizeme attacks. The sort of bullet hell combat that defines Touhou, on the other hand, feels weak at best; landing shots on opponents lacks meaningful impact and doesn’t do nearly as much damage as you’d hope for compared to just moving in and smacking them around. Even the characters’ signature super moves, like Marisa’s classic Master Spark, tend to be questionably effective.

If you still want to give this a shot, then more power to you. There’s certainly no shortage of options – you’ve got a story mode, an arcade mode and more. The story mode is the sort of fluff typical to Touhou spinoffs; initially we follow series protagonist Reimu as she investigates the source of some harmful rumors, but other characters have their own stories as well that become playable once Reimu’s short campaign is finished. Arcade mode, score attack and online play are all fairly standard, though I’ll note that this doesn’t seem to be a big hit in the Switch online fighting game scene. If you’re hoping for plenty of competition then you might be disappointed.

Speaking of disappointed, I know the Switch isn’t exactly a graphical powerhouse by design, but it can probably do a little better than this. Touhou’s gorgeous art style is one of the reasons it’s become such a noteworthy series, but Touhou Kobuto V ends up looking and playing a bit like a PlayStation 2 game. I didn’t run into any framerate issues and the game’s associated audio was all decent enough, but this ends up feeling like a downloadable indie game from Itch.io.

Bottom line: it’s not great! If you want your Touhou fix there are certainly better games out there – I was especially fond of Scarlet Curiosity on PS4, though for my money nothing really compares to the mainline series of bullet-hell shooters. Regardless, even die-hard fans can safely pass on Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle.