This article describes the overall gameplay and background information for Azure Reflections.
The game may be played using either a keyboard or a gamepad. The game will prompt for initial controls setup. As purposes of buttons are unknown at that time, use the graphic below as a help.
Azure Reflections plays differently from most of current Touhou Project games due to being a horizontal shooter. Player's character can shoot either in left or right direction, with exception to special shot types, shooting at anything that moves, avoiding and weaving between enemy bullets, and confronting difficult bosses at the end of a stage.
The gameplay revolves around using special system - Danmaku Rush - with which you can clear enemies' bullets and is necessary to finish bosses' attacks and Lily White/Black, appearing ocassionally throughout the stages. With more bullets cleared the rush becomes stronger, which is crucial for effectively dealing damage to bosses. Player can also release a barrier, with a cost at 40 power (power caps at 200). On getting hit, player gets stunned, where he can't do anything but barely move. During that period (around 2 seconds) another hit results in a life loss.
There are 4 levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, and (unlockable) Lunatic. Each difficulty level features differences in the number of bullets fired by each enemy, rate of fire and variations in the bullets' pattern of movement. In main game scenario player can face 4 regular stages along with 3 "extra" stages located between regular ones. Facing them requires minimum 50% spell card capture on preceding stage. Successful clear requires facing all the stages.
Extra Stage is also available and can be unlocked by clearing the game with third, unlockable character. Unlike most of fangames, it can be played on any of four before mentioned difficulties.
The game also introduces "Ascetic Mode", which is unlockable after full clear of given difficulty. The mode makes the game harder as it disables stun feature, meaning instant death on taking hit and introduces additional two attacks for every boss in the game.
A character's "shot" is the player's primary method of attacking enemies. The shot's attack area and behavior varies depending on the character and attack type the player has chosen, as well as whether the player is focused or unfocused. Character is capable of shooting at both directions but not both at once, with exception to special shot types.
Game focuses on power system, capping at 200 power. Character can advance in shot power - it can have zero to three extra options, acquired each at 50, 100 and 150 power.
Power can be exchanged for barriers, giving a little rest from overwhelming bullet amount. Getting more power items when at max. will transfer those into Danmaku Rush gauge, making it possible to use much earlier.
Point of Collection
Like many Touhou games, there's a line most of the way up the screen called the point of collection. Due to game's nature, it is located on both sides of the screen. How it is handled and which items are dragged to player's character varies.
Falling direction of items dropping from enemies depends on relative position of character to enemies when it finishes them off. The rule of thumb is it will fall to the direction of a character, e.g. if character stands to the left to a fairy and kills her, items shall fall to the left as well. Thus, POC which would grab those items is located on contrary boundary, i.e. right side.
Like the official games, Azure Reflections features bombs (actually spell cards) with distinctive visual styles that differ between characters. A character's "bomb" is the player's limited-use method of getting out of difficult situations. A bomb's attack area, duration, and power varies depending on the character the player has chosen, but it typically deals heavy damage to every enemy it touches, in addition to canceling out any bullets in the bomb's way, as well as automatically collecting every item on screen. Bullets cleared that way shall turn into point items.
At the beginning of the game, you will start off with 2 bombs. Extra bombs can be earned by drops from some bosses and occassionally from Lily White/Black.
You can carry up to a maximum of 6 bombs at a time. If you collect a bomb piece when you already have 8 bombs, that bomb piece will be lost. Like in the earlier Touhou games, after dying the number of bombs will reset to the initial value of 2 bombs.
As usual, deathbombing is a game mechanic. After being hit by a bullet, the player is given a brief window of time to bomb and negate their death. The "death" sound effect will play, and the bomb will then activate. The player will also gain power items that would drop as if death took the place. It is unknown if it is either a bug or feature.
The hit box for your character is quite small in comparison to your on-screen sprite, approximately only 5×5 in pixel size. If you hold Shift (or other assigned Slow button), a colored heart-shaped figure will appear, showing the hitbox. If the hit box of a character comes into contact with the hit box of an enemy bullet, laser, or the enemy itself, then character gets stunned. During two seconds you are unable to do anything besides very slow movement. Getting another hit results in a life loss.
In Ascetic Mode there is no stun mechanic, thus getting hit usually means instant life loss.
You start off the game with 3 lives (that is, 2 extra lives). You can lose a life by getting "hit" by an enemy attack.
The only way to gain more lives is via drops from enemies and by accessories (mentioned later). This means you can get up to 4 extra pickups = 6 additional lives, excluding one given by a certain accessory.
When you lose a life, power pieces drops, Danmaku Rush gauge fills to maximum, and you become invulnerable for a short period of time.
Upon losing all their lives, the player is given the choice to continue right where they left off. However, if you do continue, your current score will be reset back to 0. It doesn't, however, increment by number of continues used.
The game has a minimalistic style for displaying crucial to player informations. Most of character's informations are located in bottom left corner, that includes interactive character portrait, shot type chosen, number of lives, bombs, power and Danmaku Rush gauge. Boss information are in bottom right corner. That includes boss's name, current spellcard (if any), timer and number of attacks remaining (including current one). Top left and top right corners display current score, rating multiplier and high score.
Around the player Danmaku Rush gauge is shown as circular bar. For the boss, circular bar indicates remaining health.
Player can exchange power for temporary barriers. One costs 40 power (or 30 with certain accessory). The effect depends on character used. For Reimu it's clearing bullets in a small radius. Marisa slows down the bullets for limited time. Cirno freezes them instead.
In order to kill bosses and Lily White/Black, player must use Danmaku Rush mechanism. It turns character invincible for duration of the rush, clearing all bullets on its way. The more bullets absorbed, the stronger it is - it is especially crucial when facing stronger bosses.
Every bullet cleared generates a small power item, worth a friction of normal item. It can be useful once you spent a bunch of power for barriers.
The main challenge and the main attraction that appears at the end of each stage. Each boss has multiple lives, which are represented by the number at bottom right HUD. Bosses usually alternate between attacking normally and attacking with spell cards, switching once with each health bar. Once it's depleted, boss's attack can be ended by hitting them with Danmaku Rush.
Normal attacks are typically incrementally stronger versions of the boss character's basic attack. Spell card attacks bedazzle the player with combinations of complex patterns that often involve the use of projectiles and obstacles crafted especially for use with that spell card. Surprisingly, spell card bonus is nonexistent here, unlike most of Touhou fangames do.
Each attack is accompanied by a timer. When time runs out, the boss will switch to their next attack pattern even if their health bar isn't empty. Waiting for a boss's attack pattern to self-destruct may be enough to beat them, but mere survival won't earn the player any score bonuses and might disallow the player to progress to Final Stage.
There are two plus one unlockable characters to choose from in the game, each with three shot types. Several of the types are similar to those seen in official games, yet most differ completely. Strangely, each character will use the same spell card for any of their shot types.
The game has an accessories system, which allows you to gain some extra buffs for making the game easier. They can be bought at store for faith items dropping from variety of enemies. Prices also differ greatly.
Player can equip 10 accessories at max. With more of them bought more slots shall be available, thus making more possibilities.
List of accessories:
- Light Brown Glasses - Increased Item Pick-up Radius
- Swirly Glasses - Increased Graze Radius
- Monocle - Increased Release Barrier Radius
- Gauze Eyepatch - Smaller Hitbox
- Gentlemanly Moustache - Autofire
- White Bunny Ears - Faster Barrier Gauge Recovery (Stage)
- Black Bunny Ears - Faster Barrier Gauge Recovery (Boss)
- White Cat Ears - Shotgunning Power Up
- Black Cat Ears - Cheat Death
- Headphones - Faith Drop Rate Up
- Gold Crown - Power Drop Rate Up
- Silver Crown - Point Drop Rate Up
- Fox Mask - More Starting Lives
- Hannya Mask - More Starting Spell Cards
- Angel Halo - Halved Stun Time
- Devil Headband - Stronger Danmaku Rush
- Interrobang - Shorter Knockback Range
- Lowered Headphones - Deathbomb: Extend Window
- White Cat Tail - Slower Focused Movement
- Black Cat Tail - Slower Movement Speed
- White Bunny Tail - Danmaku Rush: Auto Pursuit
- Black Bunny Tail - Boosted Barrier Recover on Graze
- Angel Wings - Release Barrier: Lower Power Consumption
- Devil Wings - Slower Barrier Gauge Consumption
- Devil Tail - Increased Barrier Radius
- Rocket? - Faster Danmaku Rush
- White Paw Gloves - More Starting Power
- Black Paw Gloves - Focused Movement, Normal Shot
- White Paw Shoes - Faster Movement Speed
- Black Paw Shoes - Faster Focused Movement
- Reimu's Ribbon - Reimu Impersonator
- Marisa's Hat - Marisa Impersonator
- Cirno's Wings - Cirno Impersonator
Azure Reflections has a Rating system, which acts as a multiplier for including but not limited to score value of items, score from clearing bullets and killing enemies. It increases by 0.01 every 0.5 second of not moving. However, it won't increase on bosses, during barrier release or Danmaku Rush. It won't increase too if there is no enemies on the playfield.
Getting stunned decreases it by 0.10. While taking another hit then (or if in Ascetic Mode, just by taking hit) it decreases by 1.00, which is very penalizing. Deathbombing won't nullify that effect - multiplier will be taken away anyway.
"Grazing" is the act of having a bullet pass near one's hitbox. For every 20 graze Rating multiplier increases by 0.01.
As its name implies, point items are a major source of points in the game. Their base value is 1000 and increases as the rating increases too. They drop from variety of enemies, but a major source of them are bosses. On finishing the attack by Danmaku Rush, all remaining bullets on screen turn into point items, giving a ton of score in a result.
Clearing bullets with Danmaku Rush turns those into small power items, which are worth a friction of normal items. Killed by Danmaku Rush enemies are worth way more than killed normally.
At the end of a stage, the player is awarded a clear bonus. The clear bonuses increase based on difficulty and stage number, items picked up total, spell cards remaining, bullets absorbed or graze count.