GamEir recently received a review code for Azure Reflections and unfortunately, I drew the short straw. I’m a fan of anime, but I have no real experience with the Horizontal Danmaku Shooting Game genre. Even after playing and finishing it I’m still not completely sure if I understand it.
So Azure Reflections is part of a long-running franchise of games which are part of the Touhou Project and this particular game is a sequel, I think. You play as three different heroines who are facing off against a group of supernatural baddies using the Scarlet Mist to envelop the world in darkness. It’s explained (poorly) that the events in Azure Reflections have happened before and that the nefarious force behind this Scarlet Mist incident needs to be stopped. This is easily one of the worst plots in a video game I have ever played. The characters are one-note, and the plot has no stakes as they are never fully laid out.
Thankfully though you don’t come to Azure Reflections for the “riveting” rapport between its cast of eccentric fairies, witches, shrine maidens, and vampires. You come to Azure Reflections for the gameplay. The player must traverse through several levels of increasing difficulty to reach the goal of defeating the final boss in the Scarlet Devil Manor.
Players choose shrine maiden Remu at first but after you complete the game you gain access to more playable characters each with their own set of stats and spells, and shooting styles. Whenever you kill enemies and bosses you gain points which can be traded in for accessories which enhance the character in various ways. Examples include a pair of bunny ears which decrease the time you are stunned by an enemy attack. Others include a moustache which gives you an auto fire ability thus freeing your hands when you’re trying to avoid the numerous attacks from the hordes of enemies you face.
The bosses are on a whole other level than the normal run of the mill cannon fodder you run through in Azure Reflections. They are fairies with over the top attacks and spells and the main goal is to make sure you don’t get hit by their attacks all the while trying to shoot them out of the sky. It’s fun and surprisingly addictive pitting yourself against these bosses unfortunately even these are hampered by the fact that the boss fights are all slight variations on the same formula. You first weaken them to the point where they are stunned, you then slam them with a charged attack and then rinse/repeat until the boss falls. This is how you beat every boss, the only difference is that the bosses have different styles of attack from each other. It’s fun at first but quickly becomes monotonous.
There is also the issue with the length of the game, each playthrough is approximately 20 – 30 minutes long with each character (there are three playable characters). There are also no checkpoints so when you run out of lives you have to start from the very beginning again. This does allow players too spend their hard earned points on accessories to get further in later playthroughs but it just ends up infuriating especially if you’re not a fan of this genre (like myself).
Azure Reflections had an uphill battle with me as it has none of the traits that I appreciate in a game. There are no memorable characters the plot is wafer thin, the gameplay at surface level is fun and addictive but quickly falls away to mediocrity once you’ve played it longer than 20 minutes.