This is my first Touhou shooter game so I’ve finally been able to start a new franchise! The gameplay is certainly a lot of fun and it is a solid game. The plot is the main thing that holds this title back, but not enough to really take any points away this time. There’s a good amount of replay value after all and that tends to help quite a bit.
So, there is a story mode, but most of the stories don’t really have anything to do with each other. You play as one of the magical girls as they go around picking fights. The fights are called Danmaku battles and in cannon it seems to be similar to the actual gameplay, but naturally it is not lethal. One girl’s story has her beat everyone up because her mistress told her that dinner would taste better after these tough battles. In the end, it all turned out to be a lie though. Another story had a girl host a tournament and then she went around beating everyone up. The others didn’t want to enter the tourney, but they had no real choice in the matter. Another girl needed inspiration for her puppet shows so she went around challenging everyone. Rinse and repeat.
The story suffered from the same problems as AquaPazza. There just were not any real interesting characters and none of the stories were particularly interesting either. There simply were not any stakes to be had here as they were all just having fun. That can work out fairly well of course, but the game didn’t do much with the concept. It doesn’t help that there are no actual cutscenes here either. There is a still image for the beginning and the end as well as quick text conversations between the characters prior to each fight. It’s just not much though. Ah well, you’re really here for the gameplay anyway.
Each character has a standard attack where you can shoot a barrage of bullets at the opponent. You really want to land as many blows as possible since the opponent can absorb the energy from the stray hits. That means that the closer they get to the bullets without getting hit, the closer they will be to a final smash attack. Aside from the standard bullets, you also have power bullets and alternate bullets. I call them all bullets, but they won’t all necessarily look standard. One character’s alternate bullet has her summon a doll which shoots lasers and one power attack has a lot of energy stars appear and blow up, which sends energy everywhere. Each character can also move in slow mode, which decreases your speed, but also allows you to absorb more energy. There is also dash mode where you can quickly move with a burst of energy and you also have access to 3 new bullets. Speed Bullet, Speed Power Bullet, etc.
Once you have gained enough energy, you may use your final smash. This takes you to a new field where you will try to land hits on the opponent. While in this mode, the opponent cannot escape and can only leave by waiting out the timer or eliminating all of your health. Not to worry though, the health that you lose during the final smash has no effect on your actual health bar. That will only change if you activate your final smash when you have exactly 1 HP left. When you reach 1 HP, all bullets vanish for a second to give you a chance to launch a counter attack. The Ultra Smashes never work on computers, but I’m sure that they would be decent against a second player. If you don’t want to engage in bullet battles for long, you can also quickly turn things into a hand to hand battle if you charge into the opponent’s circle. There, you can use 2 attacks, standard and power. Standard attacks can be blocked and countered while power attacks beat the counter, but lose to standard.
As you can see from all of this, the controls are really quite complex. There is a lot happening in the game at all times and this is certainly not a cash in. It’ll take a little while to get used to all of the controls, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. It’s the kind of game that is definitely a lot more fun against actual players than against CPUs though. CPUs are simply too good at perfectly dodging the bullets and predicting your every move. Not to mention the fact that they are able to defeat your final smashes in an instant. I always thought that was pretty suspect.
On a technical level, the graphics are quite good. With all of the bullets hitting the screen at once, the area always looks very colorful. The game never starts lagging up either so they did a good job with the coding. The soundtrack is very limited though so that isn’t quite as impressive. None of the themes are particularly good either so that’s something that I would like to see improve in a sequel. At this point, a sequel is certainly not in doubt so if it is licensed as well, that would be the top priority for improvement. I’d also like a better story mode if that’s possible.
Aside from Story Mode, there is a good amount of other content to play around with. There is boss battle mode, where you only fight against Ultra Smash opponents. If you can beat 8 opponents with any character, you will get a trophy. I was only able to beat 3 opponents myself when I gave it a whirl so that sounds incredibly tough. You need to get really good at the game if you want to pull something like that off. There’s also Arcade Mode, which basically seems to be Story Mode without the story. I haven’t actually tried that mode yet though so maybe there are some wrinkles to be found there.
The main incentive for playing around in these modes is definitely the fact that this game has a lot of trophies to grab. Almost all of them were listed as Ultra Rare when I last checked so they are certainly no joke. I don’t see myself getting the Platinum anytime soon as I would need to get a lot better, but it’s a fun goal to strive for. You also can’t underestimate how good simply having Multiplayer is for the replay value. This is the kind of game that you can play and have fun with at any time.
Overall, Bullet Ballet is a fun title to have. I have not played a whole lot of games like this and the one that I have played didn’t have a multiplayer option so that was completely new for me. It’s a novel concept and if you have seen the game, but weren’t sure if you should take the plunge, I recommend jumping in. You will have definitely not played anything quite like it.