Perfectly Fine: A Koihime Enbu Review
Roger Ebert once said "Of each thing, ask, who is it for?" He was, of course, talking about the medium of film, but it's a useful metric for criticism in general. For instance, critiquing a racy visual novel on the quantity of fanservice is kind of useless, since that's exactly why people are playing it. Similarly, critiquing a fighting game for average fighting game things isn't really intuitive to the people who want to know if a fighting game's any good, regardless of whether or not the reviewer is actually any good at fighting games.
So with this in mind, I decided to figure out whether or not Koihime Enbu, the 2D fighting game based on the Koihime Musou visual novel series, is a good fighting game, regardless of whether or not I like fighting games all that much.
For those not familiar, Koihime Musou is essentially Romance of the Three Kingdoms, except every character is actually a cute girl. The visual novel involves the usual ordinary Japanese high school student who is yanked into this world and gains an unwanted harem of strategists, generals, rules, and the like. Koihime Enbu's story is that this same cast of cute strategists and generals and the like have decided to have a fighting tournament for a mystical seal of power. That's all there really is to the plot. Which is more or less okay, because unless you're Mortal Kombat or something, fighting games don't have an immense wealth of plot. It's basically an excuse to get characters to kick the crap out of each other.
As a fighting game, however, it's decidedly okay. While there isn't a lot of information or a bevy of practice modes a la Skullgirls, the game has a low difficulty curve, each character has a small and very manageable list of supermoves, and mashing buttons doesn't feel like a bad strategy, just one that needs to be curtailed. While the game barely explains the concepts to people who have never played a fighting game before, I didn't feel like I was in over my head, the same way I am every time I pick up a copy of Marvel Vs. Capcom or something similar. It's manageable, and manageable is good. There's really only one mechanic you need to master, and that's the Tactician system, where a companion you pick from one or two choices is able to give you a conditional special move to immobilize or otherwise open your opponent to attack.
The character variety is also fairly decent, though the simplified controls mean that pretty much every character will play the same way. Sure, there are occasional minor variations in moveset or whatever, but each character will more or less work the same, with only super moves (which I myself find hard to get off, but that's a personal problem, not a mechanical one) to differentiate between them. Compared to other fighting games, where the style and tone can differ wildly from character to character, or at least more than aesthetics and one or two moves. It made me feel like my choice in character was a little meaningless. It's a shame, because the designs are really cool, if anime characters are your thing at all.
In the end, though, while it's a good game, it's also a game where you won't get very much out of it you can't get elsewhere. Skullgirls, the current high-water mark for fighting games on the PC, is much better. Mortal Kombat, even at its weakest, is much better. If you're a fan of Koihime Musou, maybe this might be for you. But otherwise, it's just too plain and bare-bones to recommend.
Final Score: 3/5
Full Disclosure: The reviewer received a free copy of this game for the purposes of review.