Azure Reflections – Review
Follow Genre: Action, Shoot-'Em-up
Developer: Souvenir Circ.
Publisher: Souvenir Circ.
Platforms: PC, PS4
Tested on: PS4

Azure Reflections – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Good voice actors, hard but fun to play
Bad: Can be hard for beginners, have to start over everytime you want to play.
User Score
6.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.0/10 (2 votes cast)

The Touhou Project series has been around for a pretty long time. Games from the series started out on the Japanese PC-98 series of computers. Since then a lot more games have been made, both fan-made and official. Most of the games were made for PC but there have been a few that were ported to PS Vita or PS4. Azure Reflections is a fan game that first came out for the PC in Japan under a different name (Maihana Soumakyou: Uniting Barrage Action). An enhanced version was then released for the PS4 in Japan and recently that version has also been released for Europe and North-America. Azure Reflections has been developed and published by Souvenir Circ. and we got a chance to test it. So with our trusty controller in hand, we were prepared to enter the bullet hell that is Azure Reflections.    

Story

In the Garden of Darkness, better known as the Scarlet Devil Manor, lived a young girl of noble standing together with her servants. One cold summer a deep red mist suddenly enveloped the world without a sound. This began the tragedy known as the Scarlet Mist Incident, which was resolved in the end thanks to the actions of two human girls. Everything was peaceful afterward until a certain spring day when the blood-red mist enveloped the world once again. The mist was like a cage so entrancing that no one could resist. The ones who noticed the return of the nightmare were the same two human girls and a fairy living in the misty lake.

As you start the game you only have one character unlocked: Reimu Hakurei, The Hakurei shrine’s shrine maiden, so you start the story from her perspective. Reimu wanted to have some tea but there were no snacks available and she saw no point in having just tea. She goes looking for her friend Marisa who was out for an errand, possibly for the snacks, but hasn’t come back. While she is flying over the lake she notices that the fog is actually scarlet.  Reimu immediately has an idea who could be the cause of this and heads to the Scarlet Devil Manor.

As you play the game more you get more clues about the story and what is actually happening. To finish the story and know the end you first have to be able to complete the game with certain prerequisites.

Graphics

The graphics of Azure Reflections are pretty nice. Most of the games art style is in an anime style. Characters are nicely designed and both have a 3D and a 2D model. The 2D models are not really animated but do have different expressions depending on the conversation. Animations on the 3D models are pretty smooth. Backgrounds in the game are a bit simplistic and not very detailed but since the screen is filled most of the time with bullets it isn’t really bothersome.  There are a few levels that use the same background but other than that, every level has another background. Bullets in the game often follow beautiful patterns with different colors so they are beautiful to look at but also deadly.

Sound

Music in Azure Reflections is very upbeat. It makes you excited and tensed up for what’s coming but is also not too over the top. Some tracks are so nice that you might unconsciously start humming along with them. Voice acting in the game is really great. The Japanese voice actors did a great job putting emotions in the conversation and making the girls come to life. Bullet sounds are well done they are there but even though there are a lot of them it’s not over the top in noise.

Gameplay

Azure Reflections is a Shoot- ‘Em-up Action game. Although some people also call this sort of game a bullet hell which at times does seem like a good term for it. When you start Azure Reflections you can choose for yourself if you want to play the tutorial or start the game immediately. In the tutorial one of the characters, Marisa, nicely explains the controls while giving some hints as well. After you finish the tutorial you can start the game by first choosing a character and the bullets they will use. At the start, you can only play with Reimu but two more characters can be unlocked.

Before you can start playing you will also have to choose which difficulty you want to play. You can choose between: easy, normal and hard. Even though people say that “easy is for noobs” in this sort of game it’s recommended to start with easy to get a feel for the game. As normal isn’t the “normal” you’re used to, it’s quite different in Touhou Project games.

You can shoot with three sorts of bullets: homing bullets, widespread bullets or straight-line bullets. These are not the bullets you start with though, as they come from balls that need to be unlocked by collecting enough red blocks called power items. Besides red blocks, you can also pick up blue squares or point items, and green squares or spirit items. The point items are what logically gives you points and the spirit items are the currency in the game.

With the currency, you can buy accessories that can grant you different skills. These skills can include for example slower movement, smaller hitbox, less stun time and many others. There is a neat trick to pick up all items on the screen and that is flying against the edge of the screen. This can be a bit tricky as only one edge will let you pick up everything as you have to go to the right if it drops from firing to the right and vice versa.

Each level you have to first make way through regular enemies before you can get to the boss. Most of these enemies are fairies. Even if they are not the boss yet they can easily kill you if you don’t watch out. Besides firing bullets, you can also use a barrier or use Spell Cards. Your barrier has a loading time so after you use it, the barrier gauge has to recharge. When your barrier is up it absorbs bullets and gives you items. With your barrier, you can also use a Danmaku Rush, which is a body slam that is made stronger by the bullets you absorb. Bosses and some strong enemies can only be beaten with a Danmaku Rush but using it too soon will knock you back. You need to either absorb enough bullets to make it more powerful or have brought the enemies health low enough. When you can use a Danmaku Rush to kill an enemy a purple circle appears around them.

Spell cards are sort of a last resort. They are very powerful and turn every bullet on the screen into point items and they can also be used just before you’re going to die to stay alive. However, if you use a Spell Card when a boss is using a Spell Card you will fail to capture their Spell Card. You have to capture Spell Cards to be able to unlock extras and to fully complete the game. You can capture a Spell Card if you beat them in a certain amount of time while they are using their Spell Card. Azure reflections is a game that saves your progress but you have to start over every time. So you do get the items you collected and it registers which characters you beat but you always start over from the beginning when you start the game again. When you didn’t capture every Spell Card from a boss and died on a level you also have to start over before you reach the end of the story.

Conclusion

Azure Reflection is a fun short game that you might have to play over and over again to complete and unlock everything. For people that never really play shooter games, it’s best to start with easy difficulty as even there the bullet patterns are beautiful but deadly. It might sometimes be a bit annoying that you can’t save the game and next time start where you left off. Luckily they put a skip button on conversations so can pretty easily get back where you were if you don’t die on the way there that is. For people already a fan of Touhou Project games; Azure Reflections is definitely a must play. If you like anime and don’t mind a challenge or want to play a game that might make you say “how?!” a lot, then Azure Reflection is definitely the game for you.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Azure Reflections - Review, 6.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Theotakutem


The one and only slowqueen! -student multimedia-

1 Comment

  1. […] that long ago Azure Reflections passed the revue for the PlayStation 4. Our review was very positive for this bullet hell shooter, and we are now pleased to announce that the game […]

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