Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Koihime Enbu is a 2D fighting game recently released for PC based on the strategy/visual novel game Koihime Musou. The “Koihime series” is based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is a historical piece of literature dealing with the unification of ancient China. This isn’t supposed to be a Chinese history course, so I won’t go into a history lesson, but if you’ve ever played the Dynasty Warriors games, it’s the same base material. Koihime Enbu, however has two very evident differences from the classic historical text. First is that, being Japanese made, all of the historical names are replaced with the Japanese equivalents. As an example, the original Lu Bu is replaced by Ryofu Housen. The other, and most prominent, difference is that all the characters are female. Yes, that’s correct, almost all those big burly men are now, for the most part, decently “endowed” women.
Putting the gender swaps to the side for the moment, the core gameplay is that of a 2D fighting game. At its core, Koihime Enbu plays very similar to most other fighters: you have a light attack, medium attack, heavy attack and grab button. Guarding is done by pushing the control stick away from your opponent, and the name of the game is knocking your opponent unconscious. A sort of tutorial mode is provided under “training”, where you can learn different combo suggestions and move sets. Most of the combos and moves are easily accessible to beginners, and there aren’t a whole lot of awkward directional combos needed to pull off the special move (guilty gear, I’m looking at you). One thing I noticed is that I couldn’t find any form of instruction manual, so it’s basically up to you to figure out what the buttons do. Like the continue button. I’ll admit, I’m not really that great at fighting games. For the life of me, I still have no idea how to continue from a game over screen.
Apart from my ineptitude, the game features two more unique features compared to other fighters out there. These features are the supporters and the Fatal Counter system. As you engage in battle, you have a tactics gauge that builds up. Once you have a bar or two, you can expend a bar to call for help from your supporter. This can consist of throwing your enemy in a pitfall trap, dealing damage, or stunning your opponent. The Fatal Counter system is what I would call the flinch-lock paradise of fighters. Basically what will happen is either you or your opponent will get “stunned”, and then one side proceeds to beat the living the other side via pinball super combos. I found the Fatal Counter system to be very hit and miss. Half the time, either myself or the opponent would start a combo and deal about a quarter of the health bar in damage. The other half of the time, the enemy would get a one-hit-kill combo off on me, which starts to get very annoying in the late stages of story mode when you can’t figure out how to continue.
In terms of combat, the system is actually very fluid, and while it is fairly simple to pick up for new players, some of the longer combos and the Fatal Counter system can draw in more experienced players. Each character has their own distinct fighting style, and the variety of different supporters is nice to have available.
Gameplay can be roughly summarized into three main modes that you will choose from: a story mode, Arcade mode, and the Versus style modes. Adventure and Arcade are the standard vs AI modes, where the versus modes are for fighting other human players. Adventure mode is the “story” mode while arcade is the condensed version, with less down time between fights. While I haven’t gone through all the story modes, I can honestly say the plot for some of them need a little bit of work. The first story I chose started out with “lets go on an adventure!”, quickly followed by beating up the country’s strongest generals because they won’t let you go to the bathroom. Yes, I’m serious. Next story mode consisted of the character trying to get food from the state. That’s about as deep as it goes. Thankfully, the focus isn’t on plot, but on gameplay.
The in-battle character art is an interesting combination of 3D and 2D. While the art style may be appealing to some, I feel as if a full 2D style would have fit better. The music can be best described as doing its job all right. Its not like the music is bad or anything, it just never really feels like a predominant aspect of the battles. Overall, the game is much more focused on better play, rather than complicated movesets, promoting the idea of becoming skilled at landing hits and massive combos, as oppsed to simply learning how to perform certain overpowered moves. At its core, Koihime Enbu is a solid 2D fighter that is more geared towards players already familiar with the genre, and while the “story” aspect may be lacking, the focus is on combat mechanics and not plot, which can be felt in the handling. It may not be the best fighter out there, but it definitely is a solid entry into the series, despite its more…niche Koihime Musou, roots.Score: 8/10