The disaster that was Street Fighter V left us all reeling like we’d just gotten Hurricane Kicked earlier this year. Tournament gamers got a playable framework of a fighter with nicely flowing gameplay and plenty of depth that they could practice on before Evo; the other 99% of prospective buyers got server issues and a near-total lack of single-player content
Suffice to say it was clear who Capcom cared more about when the game was released in an unquestionably unfinished state, and the backlash has been severe. That’s not to say that the fighting game genre is down for the count, though; far from it! We’ve got great fighters like the upcoming Guilty Gear Xrd: REVELATOR and Koihime Enbu to fill the void.
Koihime Enbu is a fighter that I wasn’t entirely familiar with before checking it out on Steam. That’s saying something, since I’m about as big of an amateur fan as you’ve seen when it comes to this genre. I’m not going to be entering into any tournaments any time soon, but I was playing an import version of Under Night In-Birth before it was localized, so I think I’ve got a tiny smidgen of cred. Very tiny, mind you.
You’ve got a bunch of characters from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms to choose from, all represented as anime girls, naturally. There are thirteen in all; I wasn’t especially familiar with any of them, but gravitated toward the lady I assume is our heroine, the halberd-wielding Kan’u, based on the archetypical Chinese warrior Guan Yu. You’ll also select a tactician, essentially a striker character who can leap in to provide extra attacks and combo extensions. You’ll then beat down friends and foes alike, online or offline; yes, it’s got online play and yes, it’s not a complete embarrassment, so I can already recommend this one to fighting game fans!
Koihime Enbu’s fighting system adheres to the modern fighting game paradigm of deceptive complexity while minimizing the necessary execution needed to learn the game. There’s a big focus on footsies and pokes, as well as command normals, and special moves are generally very easy to pull off; winning thus becomes about better play rather than better execution, and while some (like Popzara’s own managing editor!) think this is a cop-out, I personally approve of this evolution of the genre. If you can pull off all your moves and I still beat you, well, who’s the better player?
This game’s defining feature is the Fatal Counter system, which rewards opening with heavier attacks instead of using light strikes to lead into combos. Landing a heavy strike at the right time will send the enemy flying or cause them to crumple to the ground in dramatic fashion, allowing you to follow up with further beatings; many of the cast’s special moves appear to be designed around continuing combos you start this way. Impressive Fatal Counter combos look truly painful as the opponent is bounced, flipped and flopped all over the screen. You won’t necessarily pull off enormous combo strings from step one, but proper play feels rewarding and flows well, with a certain crunch that’s missing from most anime fighters.
As one would expect from an anime-styled 2D arcade fighter, the graphics and sound are fantastic and the game takes full advantage of the PC platform. The game is clearly focused toward online play; while there’s some degree of single-player content and even a plot to follow, it’s not going to grab you the way BlazBlue’s story mode might, so you’ll end up fighting other players before too long. Expect to be crushed, since this one’s selling primarily to fans who live for fighting games.
If you’re one of those gamers then you can’t go wrong with Koihime Enbu. The focus on fighting fundamentals over the flashy supers and comeback mechanics that define some series helps make this feel like a solid and well-rounded punchfest. What’s more, it’s actually got some single-player content, thus rendering it a superior purchase over the drastically better-funded Street Fighter V!