Platforms PC
Developer Unknown Games
Publisher Degica
Release Date May 20, 2016

This game was reviewed using a key provided by PR

Koihime Enbu is a strange game. I don’t mean strange in its content, though it’s definitely strange in its content – it’s an all-female Anime fighter where the majority of fights break out because of food, or misunderstandings such as one character believing another character is going to eat her cat. Stuff like that. It’s also a re-imagining of the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms – except all the characters are Anime girls. So yeah, a bit strange.

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Koihime Enbu is a strange game because of the weird way it puts itself together. It’s definitely a well made fighting game that does an admirable job of taking things back to basics. There are thirteen fighters available, and each one comes with her own set of moves and abilities. However, rather than attempt to get players to memorise complex strings of button commands to pull off the best moves, Koihime Enbu pares down its control scheme to the four face buttons and the analogue stick.

Simplicity is the name of the game. And I don’t mean that in a bad way – Koihime Enbu is a breath of fresh air amongst its genre stablemates. There are four buttons you need to learn; low attack, mid-attack, high attack and grab. You can push two of these buttons at once for a different attack, but these combos are also assigned to the shoulder buttons. My one caveat to that is that I only learned this while goofing around with training mode, where it showed me what buttons I was pushing. These combo attacks don’t seem to show different animations to the standard attack.

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What Koihime Enbu does with this control scheme is keep things simple as it adds in an extra layer of complexity. Rather than pushing long combinations of these buttons, different moves are achieved by combining moves and rolls of the left analogue stick in combination with these button pushes. Special moves are also worked out this way – to activate one all you need to do is draw a pattern with the analogue stick and then push a single button, and you’ll perform a special attack.

By approaching its control scheme like this, Koihime Enbu manages to merge simplicity with complexity, while allowing anyone who picks the game up to quickly and easily master its characters. Of the thirteen fighters in the game I became proficient with half a dozen of them in a very short space of time, and it felt like I could jump between characters and have a good time pretty easily.

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Each of the girls also come with a support character who acts as a sort of ultimate attack, which is again easy to pull off, and can certainly make the difference between victory or defeat. It helps that all of these special attacks look great – as your support character fills the screen and creates a huge, visually impressive special move. The whole game looks great, in fact. It’s bright, colourful and flashy, just as you’d expect.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a fighting game with such simple controls would lack depth, but Koihime Enbu packs a surprising amount of strategy into its gameplay. Thanks to the lack of combos the game focuses on counter-attacks more than stringing together moves to lock opposing fighters into devastating loops. It’s a fast-paced game, but one in which you need to be mindful of your positioning, as making a mistake can open you up to a powerful counter-attack.

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Though this depth of tactics only becomes apparent later on. In its first stages Koihime Enbu lacks any sort of challenge whatsoever, to the point where you’re able to get through its first few stages relatively unscathed. So much so that you might consider knocking the difficulty up. As you progress through the stages, however, you’ll run into a surprisingly sharp increase in difficulty. Eventually you’ll be taking on some pretty tough challenges. This difficulty spike is jarring, mostly because of the speed with which you go from Godlike to barely hanging in there.

Though the ease of the first few levels probably takes the place of a tutorial, which Koihime Enbu for some reason lacks. Although learning the game and each of the characters isn’t massively challenging, a tutorial would still be welcome. There’s the aforementioned training mode, but that simply pits you against a non-moving AI opponent (though you can command them to perform a single move, such as jump, which is unintentionally hilarious). There’s still no guidance in training mode, all it lets you do is mash buttons and see what happens free from the stress of potentially losing a bout.

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What really holds Koihime Enbu back is a lack of anything to really do. Outside of training mode there are really only two other modes – story mode and arcade mode. Arcade mode is exactly what you’d expect from a Japanese fighting game, and is probably the best go-to mode in the game. Story mode is mostly inconsequential – there’s a visual novel like story for each of the thirteen girls, which features just enough “story” to enable the characters to fight one another. It’s goofy and can be kind of fun in places, but instantly forgettable.

And that’s your lot. Training mode comes with a series of challenges that you can test yourself with, but unless you enjoy playing the same short stories over and over again in either story or arcade mode, there’s not a whole lot to actually do. Koihime Enbu does have both online and offline multiplayer, which is a nice feature if you’ve got friends who are into their fighting games, but the online is already suffering from a lack of players. It generally takes a good few minutes to find a match. Once you do, though, the netcode is solid – I never experienced any lag or issues playing Koihime Enbu online, aside from the lack of players.

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It’s this utter lack of ways to play Koihime Enbu that hurts it, especially in the long run. Within just a couple of hours I was starting to get bored of the content on offer. The game is built on some extremely solid foundations, with excellent gameplay, but there’s just not enough different ways to actually experience this gameplay. Unless the game garners a more significant following, I can only see it becoming harder and harder to actually play the game online, which is where this game would definitely thrive. Without more offline content, however, it won’t be long before even the well designed core gameplay stops pulling you back in.


Summary

Koihime Enbu is almost a frustrating game. It’s a solid fighting game, built on some excellent core gameplay foundations. It’s a simple, 4-button fighter that allows players to pick up and play it with relative ease. Rather than feature massive lists of combos and absurd button pushes, all the characters’ special moves are activated using different flicks of the analogue stick, allowing anyone to quickly start feeling like a badass. It also features more defence-minded, tactical gameplay that relies on counter-attacking, without sacrificing a more fast-paced style of gameplay. The trouble is that a lack of modes really hurts Koihime Enbu, with few options for players to actually play the damn thing. Story and arcade mode will lose their lusture fairly quickly, and while the game has an excellent multiplayer mode, it’s sparsely populated, leaving players waiting minutes just to play.

6


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