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I’ll be honest. If you haven’t been acquainted with Touhou, then Touhou Hyouibana ~ Antinomy of Common Flowers probably isn’t the game for you. And even if are familiar with Touhou… it still may not be for you. This arcade-styled 2D fighter title is the fifteenth (and a half) installment in the long-running series, so it goes without saying if you want to understand the plot, it helps to already know the characters and the plot of all the games thus far. However, I’d like to argue that this isn’t the case. You’ll understand why in a minute.
Antinomy of Common Flowers is a 2D fighting game that focuses on the story of nineteen characters and their investigation into the strange phenomenon of Perfect Possession, which causes a person to switch body and mind with someone else. Going through the story, you’ll find each girl has a unique view on Perfect Possession and uses it in different ways. Between bits of dialogue, you’ll fight foes in two on two battles to unlock a new chapter of the story.
The game is a fighting game above all else. There are multiple modes to play in: story, versus computer, versus player, online, and practice. Both versus modes are local, and from the start, almost all of the playable characters are unlocked and available to use in battles. Battles against the computer never feel particularly challenging, even on the most difficult setting. Playing against another person is definitely more interesting. This is why the online mode is great. Or, would be great if you could ever find battles.
The practice mode is honestly the most important mode of the game. Antinomy of Common Flowers tosses you into the thick of things without a tutorial – there’s no menu to show you the controls. The first battle (and many subsequent ones) are textbook examples of wildly mashing buttons and praying that something works. This is where the practice mode comes in handy. It gives you a chance to learn the controls and figure out your play style before hopping into versus battles or story mode.
Gameplay mixes melee fighting with bullet-hell type spell attacks, so this practice time is important to figuring out which style you want to work with.
Remember how I mentioned that you don’t need to know every character and plot line to understand the story of Antinomy of Common Flowers? Well, there’s a good reason for that. It’s because the plot line is generally just unintelligible. Story mode works on a very simple formula: a few lines of dialogue, battle, a few more lines of dialogue, end. Most of the dialogue is little more than a character mentioning their use of Perfect Possession, running into someone who also mentions Perfect Possession, and then challenging them to a fight.
There’s nothing incredibly deep on display here, and it makes the story mode boring and repetitive. It’s better to just play versus battles and skip the story mode altogether.
Something the game really has going for it though is its soundtrack. It’s absolutely amazing, and I found myself playing the story mode simply to hear more. Each track is unique to the area it’s used in, so there’s variety in the sound and feeling of each song. Flawless Clothing of the Celestials and Immortal Red Souls are two tracks I can’t get enough of. The soundtrack is worth a listen (or ten), even if you aren’t interested in the game itself.
Touhou Hyouibana ~ Antinomy of Common Flowers is mediocre, even by fighting game standards. The battles get old quickly both in story mode and against the computer, and given the difficulty of finding an online opponent, those are the two modes you’ll be stuck in more often than not. The plot is barely there, difficult to understand, and frankly, boring. Even the incredible soundtrack couldn’t save it. If you’re a Touhou fan, this game might be fantastic. But overall? This is one flower that didn’t quite bloom.