Touhou Gensou Rondo: Bullet Ballet, known in Japan as just simply Gensou no Rondo (幻想の輪舞 Gensō no Rondo , lit. Circular Dance of Illusion), is a 2002 3D arena fighting fangame developed and published by doujin group Cubetype. The game was originally a Japan-exclusive which was sold at Comiket 62, and Drillimation picked up the rights to the game and was the first game to be ported to consoles as part of Drillimation's Play, Doujin! program. The home console port was a launch title for the Wii in Japan and North America, and for the PS3 in PAL regions.
Similar to the later-influenced Senkou no Ronde series, the game is a mashup of both the fighting and shmup genre. The game takes the 1v1 style of fighting games but with bullets as attacks instead. The main goal of the game is to simply defeat the other player through various attacks.
The game has three actions: Attack, dash, and focus. Attack makes the player shoot bullets in a pattern. Attacks have three variations: Basic (Main), Advanced (Sub) and Special (Charge). Each attack varies from each character. Dash makes the player maneuver and evade bullets quickly but they are still vulnerable to attacks. Focus slows down the player in exchange for precise attacks with a higher chance of hitting the opponent. Bullet patterns changes when the player is on focus or dashing.
P and C blocks from the main Touhou Project games appear for a short while when bullets are cleared on the screen. P blocks raise the player's power, granting them an easier way of defeating the opponent. C blocks raise the player's charge meter for charge attacks and spell cards. Players can also clear and convert surrounding bullets into P and C blocks which requires the consumption of the player's charge.
A player can cast a spell card with the cost of one charge bar by pressing the spell card button. In this state, the player is given a shorter yet separate life bar similar to the bosses in the main Touhou games and will be placed in the top center of the stage to attack the opponent. When the life bar reaches zero or the time runs out, the players will be thrown back at the starting position and the fight continues. However, when the player casts a spell card when in the EXTEND state, the player will be defeated when the life bar reaches zero.
A circle is visible with each player. Going into the circle gives the player the option to perform a special melee attack, which pushes the opponent away.
When a player's life reaches zero, they will be pushed further away from the opponent and converts all bullets into P and C blocks. The player will be given a chance to survive by entering "EXTEND" mode, which the player will only take one hit to be defeated. Players can use this last chance to attack or cast a spell card to defeat the opponent.
There are 8 characters to choose from in the original PC version. The console version, however, adds 4 characters, with 3 of them being DLC and each character has their own story.
- Reimu Hakurei
- Marisa Kirisame
- Sakuya Izayoi
- Remilia Scarlet
- Alice Margatroid
- Youmu Konpaku
- Sanae Kochiya
- Utsuho Reiuji
Console exclusive characters
- Yuyuko Saigyouji
- Aya Shameimaru (Requires DLC to play Aya's story and stage BGM)
DLC characters (Console version only)
- Aya Shameimaru (Story mode and stage BGM)
- Flandre Scarlet
- Yukari Yakumo
An online poll was held by Drillimation on May 18, 2006, for voting a character to be in the game as DLC.
The voters were to choose from 11 characters to vote. These are Byakuren Hijiri, Flandre Scarlet, Koishi Komeiji, Mamizou Futatsuiwa, Fujiwara no Mokou, Patchouli Knowledge, Reisen Udongein Inaba, Seiga Kaku, Tenshi Hinanawi, Yukari Yakumo, and Yuuka Kazami.
Byakuren became the first on the poll for many days until Drillimation discovered bots making an imbalance to the poll. After clearing the bots, Drillimation shows the actual points of the characters voted, in which Flandre has the most votes.
The poll ended in June 1 with Flandre winning first place at the poll and became available as DLC. Several months later, the second place character, Yukari, was also released as DLC.
The console version was released in 2006 respectively in both physical and digital forms. A limited edition was available to those who pre-ordered the game through GameStop, EB Games, or Game that includes a collector's box, which contains their selected version of the game, a full-color, hardcover art book, the original soundtrack with jewel case and a set of 5 art prints (6"x 5") and download codes for PlayStation themes (PS3 only), avatars and Aya's story and stage BGM. A 12 button pin set, with each of the characters images, was included as a Club Nintendo Award.
After several delays in 2005 from its E3 reveal, critics panned Touhou Gensou Rondo: Bullet Ballet and was considered one of the worst games ever made. The game drew a great deal of mixed to negative reception, with criticism being aimed for a long tutorial, bland backgrounds, forgettable remixes of Touhou music, very few single-player content, and a dead online multiplayer mode, with very few players "rarely" appearing. The game currently holds a 33% on Metacritic based on 44 reviews.
In response to the strong criticism from reviewers, the game was featured in an episode of Angry Video Game Nerd, where James Rolfe reviews poorly-made Touhou Project fangames, including this one. In January 2007, Drillimation was accused of manipulating reviews on Amazon, basically filtering out any reviews below five stars. Critics noted an in-game prompt stating "Five-star reviews will help us push out free updates!", suggesting Drillimation would stop giving them new content if the game did not get enough high ratings. Takajima stated they wanted to make this practice easier for players who weren't having the best experience.
Drillimation Studios CEO Susumu Takajima formally apologized for this in an interview in The Sydney Morning Herald, calling it a "shame" for the entire video game industry. As a result of this criticism, Drillimation bought out and shut down Cubetype for "a crappy excuse for a doujin game."
Behind the Scenes
- This is the first Touhou Project fangame to be officially released on consoles.
- This is also the first Drillimation game to release in North America first before Japan.