Game Title: Touhou Sky Arena -Matsuri- Climax
Company: Area Zero
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 3 – 4 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 2.7 GB

The Touhou Project has been really big on experimenting when it comes to their console games. Almost every time I see a new Touhou game on consoles/handhelds, it’s a new genre from what they’ve done in the past. They’ve done bullet hells, rogue RPGs, and have even dipped into Metroidvanias before.

The newest entry of the Touhou franchise dips into the fighting genre, much like Kobuto V: Burst Battle did earlier on in the Switch’s life-cycle. Going for a more aerial combat approach, here is my review of Touhou Sky Arena: Matsuri Climax for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

sky 2 - story

A disturbance happens in Gensokyo when multiple locations are strangely raised into the air. Several residents respond by heading towards the origin of the disturbance to return their home to its proper state.

The story here is strange, as it isn’t told in one, sole tale. Every character has their own version of the story as they tackle and resolve the problem, along with meeting people and for different reasons across their journey through the game’s Arcade Mode.

The main issue I have here is that it isn’t told in a traditional way. For every fight, you get a few sentences of characters interacting on a loading screen as opposed to actual cutscenes. It makes it very easy for you to miss the story altogether, though there isn’t much of one to begin with, as it feels like a very passive and small part of the game.

Gameplay

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Touhou Sky Arena is an aerial-based fighting game. As you go through the different game modes, you’ll be fighting in 3D arenas with up to 3 other characters, shooting off a variety of projectile, physical, and spell card attacks until one character or team wins. It’s similar to the system in Kobuto V: Burst Battle, but in the air and more fast-paced.

This is the most recent version of Sky Arena that began on PC back in 2011 and includes all of the content from that and its sequel/patches, making this console version more or less the “definitive edition” of Sky Arena. As such, it has 20 playable characters to choose from, including fan favorites Reimu and Cirno to others that don’t often appear in console games like Sanae and Utsuho.

When you dive through the game, there are basically 5 different game modes you can trek through, outside of the Tutorial Mode and Training/Practice Mode. You have Arcade Mode that serves as the game’s “Story Mode”. Then you’ve got Sky Adventure that is mission-based and Survival that lets you keep fighting until you lose or get tired of fighting and quit. These are pretty standard fighting game modes.

sky 5 - modes

Now let’s talk about the fighting system here, as it’s not your typical formula. You are flying through the air, as is your opponent and once you lock onto them, you are constantly moving towards or around them from a very ARMS or Burst Battle-like perspective. From here you can move in pretty much any direction while locked-on be it up and down or towards or away from your opponent.

Then you’ve got your different sorts of attacks. You have standardized melee attacks, dodges and blocks, and then you’ve got a bunch of different sorts of skills that all charge up as you go for uses. You use up skills as you launch projectiles and skill cards, as well as the charged versions of those moves. Once you run out of them, you have to wait for them to recharge, like skills in an MMO.

The real uniqueness comes from the Song System. In every battle, you have a song that has different phases that affects what sorts of stats the players have and your ultimate attacks/spell cards are also tied to these different phases. The High Phases are the only times during the songs you can unleash your cinematic High Spirit Spellcards and the Climax Phases are the only times you can launch Ultimate Attacks.

sky 4 - combat

This means that you’ve got to plan out your fight as you go along. You’re constantly watching the song gauge to know when you can do your big attacks and prepare accordingly. The nice thing is that you can actually customize this in one of the Game Modes for the songs, essentially letting you control how often you can and can’t use those powerful skills in battle.

Overall, this is an interesting system and everyone plays very differently from everyone else, even moreso as each character has 2 “versions” where their skills are different, changing up even their normal projectile attacks to cater to different playstyles. It’s not until 4-player battles start that the game gets really overwhelming. When you’ve got 4 players going at it in the arenas, it’s really easy to get lost in other players’ attacks, really calling for larger arenas for those more intense battles.

When it comes to content and length, there’s a bit of game here. Each character’s story in Arcade Mode takes around 20 minutes a piece, giving you a bit less than 7 hours of Story Content. Tying that with the Mission Mode and dipping into the other modes available, you might be able to That is, assuming you want to go through Story Mode with all characters, of course.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t terribly difficult, but there is a noticeable amount of input lag for certain skills, namely melee attacks and normal projectile attacks. Oddly enough, I didn’t experience any lag when launching skill cards.

You move around with the Left Analog Stick and you can set custom commands to the Right Analog Stick. The L trigger is used for locking onto enemies and ZL/ZR triggers for ascending and descending. R can be combined with the face buttons for unleashing spell cards.

The normal face button functions are as follows: A is used for blocking and B for dodging. Y is used for projectiles and X for melee attacks.

Presentation

sky 3 - presy

Graphically, this game admittedly looks very pretty. The 3D models have a lot of detail and animation, and there’s a lot going on in the background of environments where you fight. The game also sports a boatload of remixes of classic Touhou music tracks, including my personal favorite, UN Owen Was Her.

Performance I can’t really complain about. Load times are short and the frame-rate is steady throughout the entire game.

Battery Life

When it comes to Battery Life, the Touhou games have really stayed around the same range areas. Sky Arena has a Battery Range of:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 11 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 33 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 40 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 58 minutes

All in all, this isn’t bad.

In conclusion, Touhou Sky Arena: MC is a very unique and different game, blending fighting game and music mechanics into one system. On the downside, there’s not much of a story and there it’s not a very long game. But if you can deal with the lag, it’s got a lot of characters to play around with, be it against the AI or Online.

Final Score: 7/10