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Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Burst Forth!! Choro-gon Breath (PlayStation 4) artwork

Based on the manga and anime of the same name, the series itself centers around normal office worker Kobayashi and her maid Tohru... who happens to be a dragon from another world taking on a human form. Long story short, the series spirals into a string of everyday, slice-of-life exploits of these two, as well as several other dragons and humans that cross their path. So you'd think a video game based on such a concept would follow a similar structure, right? Well, surprisingly, Burst Forth!! Choro-gon Breath is a vertical shoot'em up that decides to take the dragons' strengths and powers into consideration, which is displayed in the series during rare instances when they actually fight.

The plot excuse used here is that the gang is accidentally sucked into a computer due to a curse, and they must free themselves by completing video game levels within the computer using their own powers. Through the course of six stages, your group must fly across a medieval fantasy world with goblins and skeletons, above a sweet and sugary race track while battling rat chefs, and even a sci-fi setting with spaceships. With this being a shoot'em up, you can expect such usual encounters where foes attack in groups from different corners of the screen, all while they fire projectiles in varying spreads that must be evaded. With each successive stage, this template is amplified to the point where projectiles and enemies clutter the screen, which comes to a peak with each boss battle.

So how does this differ from the thousands of other shoot'em ups that sound similar? Aside from having an IP attached, BFCB slightly modifies and plays around with the basic formula. One such example is the aspect of picking one "plane" from a varied selection, each having different methods of shooting: there's the straight super powered beam, one that's a spreadshot, and another that fires homing lasers. This game uses those three archetypes on three dragon characters, but does so in a way where you can freely switch between the three during gameplay. Each character also has their own life bar that can withstand damage for a few hits before they're out, unless you tag them out and have them slowly regenerate health in waiting. Of course, if the one sitting it out is your preferred fighter, you have to make due with the others and hope they also don't get badly hurt.

Along with the tag mechanic working as the power-up system, you're given a move called Striking Blow, a homing attack that uses the character's own body to propel themselves to the nearest enemy. This one can be a bit tricky since you aren't impervious to enemy attacks as it's happening. Typical shoot'em up "bombs" also aid in your fight for freedom, but in this case, they're shown as "Choro-gon Breath" attacks unleashed by your characters in their true dragon form, instantly eliminating everything on screen that isn't a boss. When you begin, you have three chances to use these destructive breaths, but, similarly to life bars, you can only use another when the breath meter fills up throughout your session.

What's the deal with BFCB and regenerative bars? It's a way to prolong the main mode: to beat the game, you have to complete all six stages in a single session. Sounds reasonable. The catch... is that you're more or less doing this on one life. You literally have to survive all six stages on three life bars, and if any of those bars get fully depleted, that character is out for the entire playthrough. Additionally, certain stages are only accessible if some or all of your dragons managed to survive. If you lose everyone, the game gives you the option of restarting on the current stage. Sounds... reasonable. Except it maintains the status of your health when you entered the stage for the first time. So you could have a scenario where you barely reached stage four with one character and low health, and if you die there, you literally restart that stage with one character and low health.

This set-up can make the game's quality go either way, so it all hinges on what type of shoot'em up this is. The frequency of enemies and projectiles can be hectic but bearable in the first stage; however, this quickly escalates into bullet-hell territory in subsequent stages, especially if you haven't memorized enemy placements to minimize the volume of projectiles crowding the screen. This doesn't take into account the boss fights, each having various "stages" to their battles, which are pretty much the most chaotic moments when it comes to bullet waves. Suffice it to say, this can be an overwhelming "one credit" experience for someone seeking a rather straightforward shooter.

It makes sense that the devs artificially lengthened a brief bullet-hell shooter for home consoles, but forcing people into this position is both unpleasant and stressful, only "benefiting" a niche hardcore crowd. So it's perhaps a huge saving grace that you're allowed flexible options when adjusting the difficulty. If the default setting is too much, you can lower to easy mode just so you can unlock every stage, which is still somewhat challenging to complete in one sitting. Then you can practice each stage separately in Stage Exploration mode, over and over, until you have a better grasp of enemy locations and projectile patterns, all without the anxiety of trying a full run. Then you can attempt a full run on default with more confidence or, if you're feeling bold, a higher difficulty.

But what's Stage Exploration mode? Aside from being a solo stage select experience, it also exists to help you with the game's side "fetch quest." Essentially, every time you play a stage, there's a chance something is randomly dropped from an enemy. A special power-up? Vitality increase? Nah, just pieces of several drawings based on the series. It's... if you're into collecting stuff, it's... well, here you go. Though, what makes this interesting isn't the collecting aspect itself, but a separate difficulty setting based around the frequency of dropped items; if you switch to a high drop rate, then you will receive greater damage dealt by enemies. While this actually sounds intriguing from a difficulty perspective, it's immediately defused by the fact that everything caught is kept even if you fail a stage. Seems weirdly counterproductive in that sense...

Still, this could have been a pretty rough experience if certain optional aspects weren't included. Though, if you remove the forced "one credit" element, what's present is a pretty standard bullet-hell shooter. Perhaps what hurts the game the most is that everything outside the actual bullet dodging gameplay feels underwhelming. The 3D enemies and backdrops, while they don't exactly have to be works of art, come off looking like they're free assets taken from the Unity Asset Store. In regards to the IP it's based on, it feels like the devs don't even take full advantage of the property. The game has "plot" cutscenes between stages, but this just amounts to static images of the characters in front of a borderline lifeless background; it's actually shocking that they got the show's Japanese voice actors to record lines considering the "effort" put elsewhere.

At best, Burst Forth!! Choro-gon Breath is a serviceable bullet-hell shooter. If you come purely to dodge a bunch of projectiles, the game will deliver in that aspect, regardless of the difficulty setting you choose. However, its absolutely unremarkable presentation drags down the experience a bit, often making you wonder if the devs could have done more. That raises the question: do you want a bullet-hell title that will get you by momentarily, or do you want something that has a better overall package?

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (March 07, 2023)

Tidbit: the protagonist of Umihara Kawase has made appearances in games outside of the series. She can be played in the fighting game Blade Strangers (2018), the puzzler Crystal Crisis (2019), and even as a selectable character in Cotton Fantasy (2021).

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