Short Version: It’s great when it works. It’s a solid, well grounded fighting game that has enough intricacies in its gameplay and varied characters that completely make up for it barely having any story or the fact that the game crashed on me literally every single time I launch and played more than 3 fights. The music is awesome too, so pick it up along with the OST if you get the chance.
Long Version: I’ve never liked reviewing PC games, let alone fighting games that need to run perfectly to be able to evaluate them properly. Since I tend to review more console-based stuff, and have never really been obsessive with what kind of PC specs I have, I’ve never had the best computer in the world; barely being able to run the newest stuff on very low settings. Because of this, I was scared of having to review Koihime Enbu, since I wasn’t confident in my iMac that was running Windows 8.1 through Parallels software. Fortunately, I didn’t have many problems running it, but I absolutely did afterwards.
Moe. Moe Never Changes.
Koihime Enbu is a 2D fighting game based on the Koihime Musou visual novel and anime series, which is also based on a reimagined version of the traditional Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms story. As one might expect, all the major characters in that story are replaced with adorable, scantily clad anime girls, which is exactly the way that I like it. Like most Japanese fighting games, it was initially released as an arcade game, but now it has made its way into the PlayStation 3, 4 and PC, with the PC version being what we got over here in North America. It is quite the unusual release for an unusual fighting game.
I use the word “unusual” since this is not exactly the air dashing, doubling jumping, infinite combo anime fighter that people might be used to these days. For the most part, it decides to keep your feet planted flat on the ground, while trying to get your opponent to charge at you first and be able to punish them with a counter, then going in to a combo or two. You can most definitely try and fight in a fast paced, wild manner, but it is obvious that the fighting system was created to favor offensive and defensive strategies equally. Many people might say that you’re playing “footsies,” but I think it’s more of a game of Chicken, slowly poking at your opponent to see who gives in first and then use your counters against them.
Of course, if you wish to do the direct opposite of that and just hit them with all you’ve got, then that is also valid, considering how all the character move sets are very similar, almost identical to each other. Amongst the quarter and half circles, all the characters have equally easy and reliable moves to pull off, hence why it might not be the best strategy to just charge towards your opponent when they could easily weaponize that simplicity and accessibility to their advantage.
Let’s Go On A Quest!
Putting all the technical talk to the side, I would like to go on record to say that the game has a very appealing style, in both visuals and audio. Though not my favorite, the art style really gives it a unique, “moe” look that brings color and lightheartedness to the otherwise serious story that it is based on. Even then, the actual dialogue in this game is so simple and generic that you’d be better off watching the anime or playing the visual novel than bothering with the Scenario Mode, which is identical to the Arcade Mode, but it has a bit more dialogue between the characters before you fight, which I find rather lazy and disappointing at best.
The animations for all the characters are fluid, smooth and pleasant to look at, and that’s totally not because I like to play as the pink haired girl with the incredibly short skirt, though that can definitely be a factor. To amplify this style even more, the soundtrack is what I can only describe as intense and dripping with energy. Though it has some more tranquil songs during the dialogue scenes, they never slow down during the fights; giving you hard electric guitar and awesome breakdowns that made me head bang more than the first couple levels of Metal Gear Rising.
Of course, what’s a good fighting game without some good backgrounds to go with it? Well, Koihime Enbu has you covered, since it has some pretty well made backgrounds that, although static, still fit the world in a good way and never feel out of place. Granted, they don’t look as good as something like Blazblue or Guilty Gear, but that would be asking for too much, since this game is a little more grounded in reality than those other, much more extreme and involved titles.
Koihime Enbu Is Not Responding
Though I’ve been saying nothing but nice things about this game, I have been purposefully leaving out all the frustration I had when playing it on my computer. When launching the game, everything works and runs fine. I am able to play the game on full screen at full resolution with rarely any frames dropped at all, and I never had any reason to feel concerned. They even have a small program that let me input all of my key bindings to my fight stick before launching, so what could possibly go wrong, right? Well, after playing three or four matches, a lot.
It seems that this game really hates the numbers 4 and 5, since every single time I reached that number of stage on either Scenario or Arcade mode, the game would promptly crash on me. Sometimes, I didn’t even know it had crashed, since most of the time it stays frozen on the character introductions right before a fight, with background music and everything, leading me to believe that maybe someday the fight will load in, but alas, it never does. You might think that I am exaggerating when I say that this happens every single time I run the game, but I’m not. This happened…
And that’s not even mentioning all the times I played the offline Versus Mode and had the character portraits for all the characters completely disappear after 3 or 4 fight. Other times, the game would just immediately crash after winning a match, right in the middle of a character’s victory pose. Sometimes, the game would crash when transitioning from one screen to another, simply staying on a black screen forever, which for such a solid and fun game, is incredibly frustrating. If it weren’t for all of these constant crashes and inconveniences, I would’ve played this game for hours in one sitting, but instead, I was relegated to playing it for about 20 minutes at a time before crashing and having to launch it again and be met with the same problems over and over again. At the time of this writing, the developers have only released one update, but it has not fixed any of the problems I have had with the game.
Needless to say, I am almost tempted to tell all of you to go import the Japanese version of this game on either PS3 or PS4, since with those versions you can at least guarantee that your game will run fine for more than half an hour, rather than having to worry and fumble around with your PC settings to see what the problem is, if it is a problem on your end at all.
Fair And Square
Setting all of that aside, I still think that Koihime Enbu is a fighting game worthy of everyone’s time. It’s colorful style, along with its awesome music, distinct characters and simple, but difficult to master combat system, leaves space for casual, competitive, defensive and offensive players alike. The story is much better left in the hands of the game’s predecessors and the constant crashing left a bitter taste in my mouth, but when it worked, it freakin’ worked. If you’re itching for a good fighting game on PC that isn’t just another Guilty Gear or Street Fighter, go get this. And again, if you are not confident that your PC will be able to run it, then you can import a Japanese copy for PS3 or PS4. Since you barely need to read any Japanese, this game should be fairly straightforward for anyone to just boot up and go without many problems.
Koihime Enbu! It’s good (when it works)!