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“Touhou Azure Reflections” Review

The story of the game begins with a short story where Sakuya Izayoi remembers the events that occurred previously during the “Scarlet Mist”  incident where Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame joined forces to face Remilia Scarlet and stop her plans. Later Sakuya indicates that the incident is about to repeat itself and that both Reimu and Marisa together with the fairy Cirno will be involved in this repetition of the events, while confirming to Remilia that everything is properly prepared. What is the objective on this occasion?

The gameplay in this title is maintained in a similar way to the traditional games of the saga , shoot ’em up, with the difference that being horizontal scroll instead of vertical, overcoming various phases in which waves of enemies that will try to prevent by all means reach the end of the phase and to be able to face the shift boss. All this trying to dodge enemy bullets to avoid hitting the character, which impact cause the character is dizzy and exposed to other attacks that can reduce your bar of life and be eliminated.

Azure Reflections (PS4) screenshot

The roster of selectable characters is not very broad, having in principle Reimu Hakurei as the only one to choose but who, after completing the story mode in any difficulty on two occasions, will expand the selection by adding Marisa Kirisame and Cirno . Each character has three different types of shots to choose from before starting the game. In terms of their benefits, both Reimu and Marisa are solvent characters in the clashes and their combat capabilities are practical. By against Cirno is a somewhat unbalanced character since his shots have little force when hitting the enemy but, in return, his “spell card”, the special technique of each character, is more powerful.

The controls allow to manage the characters with the left stick or the directional buttons in a normal way but when combined with the R1 or L1 button you can use the concentration movement  that slows down the character, allowing you to dodge the bullets, which is known as “grazing” within the game, more easily, which in turn means getting more points for the total score. To facilitate this, in the options of the game there is an option that allows to show the zone of impact of the character , which is shown as a small heart located at half height. On the other hand, shooting actions are performed using the square and circle buttons, each of them assigned to shoot to the left and to the right of the screen respectively.

Each character has a start with two lives, something that can be seen with silhouettes on the top of the life bar, and three spell cards, which are denoted at the bottom of the bar, at the start of the game in mode history. Once the character loses all their lives is eliminated, however the possibility of using up to three options to continue the gameand continue the game is given. Obviously, once all the lives and continuations have been exhausted, the game ends and you return to the main menu of the game.

The “Spell Cards” are spells of great power that serve to counteract the bullets and eliminate, by the way, the enemies that are on screen, thus accumulating a good number of items, the usual ones within the series. The red “P” items allow to accumulate power  and its use is important to invoke a shield, by pressing the touch button, which can avoid the damage of the bullets of the opponents in a partial way, which in turn can turn them into items of power of smaller size. Depending on the character the effect of the barrier may be differentsince, for example, Reimu can dissipate them, Marisa stops their advance and Cirno freezes them. The accumulated power can be seen in the lower part of the character’s life bar. On the other hand the blue ones are used to increase the score of the game marker while the greens serve to accumulate spiritual points that can be exchanged in the “Accesory” menu or by pressing the L1 and R1 buttons in the character selection screen to buy various accessories that grant different advantages within the game as well as modify the appearance. In principle, it is only allowed to equip an accessory but as new ones are purchased new equipment slots will be unlocked.

Azure Reflections (PS4) screenshot

An interesting movement, of great importance and usefulness within the game, is the “Danmaku Rush” which serves, by pressing the triangle button, invoke a barrier and, by pressing the same button again, throw the character against the enemies, bullets or even bosses to get counter and get a good amount of items. Its usefulness against the bosses allows to hit against them and to stop their attacks briefly besides, once emptied its bar of shield, to be able to  capture its “spell cards” . To achieve this, you must avoid being defeated, use a “spell card” and make the capture movement within the time limit . Getting to capture the cards of the bosses in the higher difficulty levels, from normal onwards,will unlock several extras in the “Database” section of the game , especially in the “Library” options, where the character and history cards of the game will be expanded , and “Model Viewer”, getting to see figures of the different characters besides being able to move them, see them in different poses, change their position or even eliminate the subtle “censorship” that Sakuya imposes if it is to see in “inappropriate” angles.  

The main game mode is the “Story” mode in which the plot is developed from the perspective of each of the three characters available throughout seven phases, each of them in different places, in which to confront the different enemies and game bosses while discovering the mystery of this new incident that ravages Gensokyo. Among the enemies that will act as bosses in the game are Cirno itself (on the routes of Reimu and Marisa), Sanae Kochiya, Patchouli Knowledge, Nitori Kawashiro, Satori Komeiji, Sakuya Izayoi, Remilia Scarlet, Hong Meiling (on the route of Cirno ) and even Flandre Scarlet, the latter as an enemy within the extra route of the game that is unlocked by completing this mode with the three controllable characters. This mode has, in principle, three levels of difficulty  (Easy, Normal and Difficult) but it is possible to unlock a quarter (Lunatic) when completing the game in the previous ones.

Azure Reflections (PS4) screenshot

Other game modes include “Practice”, which allows you to fight against the bosses of the game between the different difficulty modes to learn to see how they unfold, “Tutorial”, where Marisa explains in detail the controls of the game , “Help”, which contains tabs with additional game information presented by a Patchouli illustration, and other minor modes that include sound gallery (Sound Room), “Rankings” to view scores offline and online, “Records” to see game time data and other details and “Memories” that allows you to see the trophies obtained from the game.

Going into technical matter the game has a simple but colorful graphic sectionoffering modeling and 3D-designed backgrounds while the presentation and encounters within the game are narrated through static illustrations with different types of expressions. The musical section includes music tracks that include classic themes of the saga for each character, highlighting especially the theme of Flandre. For its part with respect to the voices, it can be said that the game is completely dubbed into Japanese and includes some other prominent voice in its staff.

Conclusion

Among the titles released in the “Touhou” franchise recently, it can be said that “Azure Reflections” is the most interesting proposal that has appeared to date, following the classic style of the series as well as mechanics that give variety to the game and the time they encourage to continue playing, especially to get unlock new features within the game within the profiles of each character or to see the modeling.

Unfortunately, they are missing additional game modes that would not only extend the playable life of the title but also give the chance to play with the rest of the character team.

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