The impetus for main Touhou Project games is always some sort of incident. In the sixth game, The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, Remilia Scarlet’s the cause of a Scarlet Mist Incident that causes a crimson mist to block out the sun over Gensokyo. Imperishable Night has residents dealing with a fake moon that’s appeared in the sky with an Eternal Night Incident. Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet pays homage to this tradition with its own incidents. Given this is a spin-off, and one with a lighthearted tone, its incidents are of a much smaller scope. The result is a series of slice-of-life situations that give people a chance to appreciate exaggerated characterizations.
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet’s story mode begins with brief, visual novel segments. These are more traditional, beginning with a static image, then imposing a full page’s worth of text over it. It sets the stage for whatever minor incident that specific character is about to experience, alluding to the issue that is going to cause them to enter into danmaku battles against the other people. It’s very straightforward, with humor that’s blunt and relies upon prior knowledge of both Gensokyo’s character, lore, and world. This is followed by conversations between characters before and after battles, further elaborating on their stories in typically silly ways.
Reimu, for example, is disturbed by the lack of visitors to the Hakurei Shrine and sets off to find out why no one is stopping by. (Especially after she’s just built a new branch shrine for Kanako.) She decides this slight is worthy of being called an incident, with someone obviously at fault. To remedy the problem, she’s going to defeat every Yokai. In her after-battle quote, she even asks her opponent to cause a huge incident, as she’s in the mood for extermination to relieve some stress. She even starts a fight with Youmu over another branch shrine, because she believes it’s detracting from her own.
It’s a storyline that exaggerates existing personality traits, just as many others in Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet do. Utsuho’s story is a perfect example. She’s a rather naive character, a bit oblivious and not exactly knowledgeable about everything, given she’s a Hell Raven, Satori Komeiji’s pet, and from the Underworld. This is compounded by a bit of an imbalance caused by her consuming the Yatagarasu, which gave her the Foot of Fission, Foot of Fusion, and Third Leg, all of which give her power over nuclear fission and fusion. The game plays on this by making her far more forgetful than usual. In her own storyline, Utsuho is on an errand for Satori, though she doesn’t remember exactly what it is. In Sanae’s storyline, Utsuho has no idea who the shrine maiden is, even though she sees her every day. It also plays on her nature as a Hell Raven, by making her attracted to bright objects like a bird would be.
This doesn’t mean every story in Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet goes out of its way to be over the top or cleverly exaggerate characters and incidents. Some of its storylines are rather typical. In Youmu’s, Yuyuko wants her servant to get stronger by going out and battling other Gensokyo residents. Remilia is bored, so she decides to hold an impromptu danmaku contest, sending out invitations and challenging people whether they’re ready or not. Yuyuko wants to enjoy a “moon buffet,” looking at the moon from multiple locations one night. In each of these minor incidents, the game does pay tribute to established quirks and play with certain traits, but they aren’t always as personal as ones belonging to others.
It’s an appropriate way to help Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet stand out and pay tribute to the main line of Touhou games, while also keeping the action realistic. Many of the characters fighting one another all get along by this point in the series’ timeline. Having them engaging in all-out war against allies wouldn’t make much sense. By tying these altercations to minor incidents, it helps make everything make sense, while still providing a good reason for all the characters to take part in danmaku battles. Plus, it gives an opportunity to enjoy a lighter adventure that occasionally pokes fun at some character quirks.
Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet will come to the PlayStation 4 on September 6, 2016 in North America and September 9, 2016 in Europe.