Thanks to NIS America for providing the Dashing Nerds with a review code of the game!
Touhou is one of the longest-running series of bullet hell shooters out there. The series began in Japan in 1996 and has seen over 15 different releases. What sets Touhou apart from other bullet hell games is that they’ve all been made by a single-person team. That’s right, Team Shanghai Alice’s sole member, ZUN, independently produces the games’ graphics, music, and programming! The series has been a massive success in Japan and was inducted into the Guinness World Records in October 2010 for being the “most prolific fan-made shooter series.” Until now, the Touhou games have never seen an English release, but that has changed with Touhou Genso Rondo Bullet Ballet, a unique blend of bullet hell and fighting game mechanics. But does this unique combination result in a fun game?
A Ballet Of Bullets
Touhou Genso Rondo Bullet Ballet is not your typical bullet hell game. Instead of a normal sidescroller, Genso Rondo is a 3D arena-based fighting game where you can select one of 10 different characters. Each match takes place in the air as the two combatants square off, with awesome techno music blasting in the background to keep the tension up. Several characters are Touhou mainstays, like the shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei, the magician Marisa Kirisame, and the vampire Remilia Scarlet. It’s OK if you’ve never played a Touhou game before and have no idea who any of these characters are, because Genso Rondo features a story mode where you can learn more about who everyone is.
Attacks And Spells
Let’s talk controls. Like I said before, Genso Rondo is a fighting game, but instead of using punches, kicks, and grabs like in Street Fighter, you are using bullet hell spells to fight your opponent. Each character has several different spells to attack their opponents with. When the heat is on, you can dash away or slow down to steady your attacks, which you change by holding the dash/slow buttons while attacking. And to deal the final blow to your opponent, each character has a special spell meter that charges up and can be unleashed to flood the screen with beautiful bullets. The controls can be pretty daunting to learn, I will admit. Luckily, Genso Rondo includes an in-depth tutorial system that teaches you all the different mechanics, as well as a training mode where you can practice against dummy opponents.
Genso Rondo has several game modes to choose from. As I said earlier, there is a story mode where you can pick one of the 10 different characters to play as and fight a series of bullet hell matches in between scenes of characterization. Then there’s Arcade Mode, where you simply fight a series of matches against ever stronger opponents. You can also tackle Boss Rush mode for some of the hardest fights Genso Rondo has to offer. You will want to practice before tackling any of these modes, as the game has a very steep difficulty curve and no real way to change it. A difficulty select option would’ve been preferable for newcomers to the franchise, in my opinion. If you’re tired of the CPU whipping your butt, you can play against a friend in 2 Player Mode, either locally or online. (Online mode was not working at the time of this writing, so I wasn’t able to judge it.) And just like other bullet hell games, Genso Rondo features leaderboards so that you can track your scores in the different modes.
Take It Easy!
With all that being said, is Genso Rondo a fun game? Yes it is. I was initially skeptical of the game since it wasn’t a straight up bullet hell game like the others in the series, but it won me over in the end with its unique blend. The controls do take some getting used to and the difficulty curve will not be for everyone. I think NISA also realizes this as Genso Rondo has received a modestly inexpensive release here in America, with even the limited edition being cheaper than its contemporaries. Give Genso Rondo a shot; you might change your mind like I did.
- Excelllent music
- Beautiful graphics
- In-depth tutorial
- Steep difficulty curve
- Controls take some learning