Touhou Genso Rondo Preview

Where have all the good shmups gone? Oh, here they are.

Touhou Genso Rondo is an interesting take on combining genres, but it makes some sense. Combining two of the most Japanese-dominated genres of the world—one-on-one fighting games and bullethell shooters—seems like an unlikely pairing, but NISA is giving it a go, and in a particularly frenzied fashion. Taking place in the Touhou universe, centered around shrine maidens, it was originally released years ago on PC, but until now hasn’t made its way out of Japan and is slated to be released with a full overhaul on PS4.

Taking place in a circular, top-down battlefield, players are automatically locked on their opponent as they fire wildly and (mostly) continuously at one another from either a distance of close range. With some space, players have two buttons that do the attacking, one rapid-fire low-impact attack and a "heavy" attack unique to characters. The one character that I was allowed to play had a three-pronged rapid-fire shot and a charged attack built to appear as a star, then a sequence of stars built out of individual bullets, then are released randomly but slowly across the battlefield. Higher attacks weren’t clear to execute, so further development will hopefully flesh out each unique fighting style.

If you’ve ever played a bullethell before, you’ll know to expect the frenetic and possibly seizure-inducing colors and flashing, and it is a pretty sight. I’ve always enjoyed moving a ship with some over-the-top firepower, and this can certainly deliver that—throughout the one-on-one matches there are bullets everywhere, since you and your opponent are always firing at one another. When a spell is charged up and activated, one player is thrust into a sort of boss fight mode in traditional bullethell style with one character playing a tough-to-evade stationary boss.

After playing multiple opponents it felt like the hit box was a big larger than maybe it should’ve been, but because it’s a fighting game as well, with more hits to be taken to decrease a player’s life bar, I’ll give it a pass until I really dig into the nitty-gritty depth of gameplay. It could be I’m getting rusty too, which just hurts my pride.

Speaking of the fighting game aspect, it’s not “really” a fighting game as we might think it is. If a player can approach close enough, they can physically attack—with the playable character I used, it was via a paper fan to the face. THE FACE. There appears to be some depth in that as well, with some way to block that I couldn’t figure out and a basic countering system to pick up. Since both local and online multiplayer are scheduled, this could lead to some fun online matches both for players and spectators. There’s nothing quite like watching a talented shmup player dodge the seemingly undodgeable.

Touhou Genso Rondo is set to be released late in 2016, so there’s plenty of time to see how this one will develop. It’s just off enough to grab my attention, and hey, good shmups are few and far between nowadays.