I don’t expect many know the Touhou Project series
Especially those of us that reside out of Japan. In September of 2016, 2 Touhou games would be released to North America and Europe, both of these finding their way onto the PlayStation 4 and Vita Consoles. I learned that the spark of these games being released is a part of ‘Play Dojin,’ a campaign set up as a way to officially spread these games not just to the US, but also to console gamers. The partnership with Sony is the reason that they are exclusive to their systems, with the campaign being supported by the creator of the Touhou series alongside a variety of developers and publishers making or remaking games.
As I said prior, odds are there are still a number of you that don’t know the Touhou series. So let me cover some of the background on it before I go further. The series started back in 1996 with Highly Responsive to Prayers. It doesn’t include the top-down bullet hell shooter style that the series is most known for. This game, along with the first 5, would be released onto PC-98. Building upon these, the series would progress into Windows, now with 20 official games. The series is created by a man that goes by the name ZUN. He is a one-man team that runs under the name Team Shanghai Alice.
The prominent characters in the series are Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame. They appear as the more constant protagonists, but the world holds over 100 characters. Now, 20 years since that first game, there are many fan theories and thoughts of the back story and character relationships spread out over the many varieties of characters. Characters can also have new and interesting powers. A new favorite of mine would be Kishin Sagume. She is a goddess that always lies. That isn’t a character trait as much as it is her power; if she were to say the sky is blue and the grass is green, then the universe would alter to make her statements lies. The sky would now be pink and the grass would be orange.
Now to the games that are starting to be released. The First was Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet. A remake of the original PC version. It is a 3D Arena Fighter with multiple characters. With each character, it will be a run of multiple two-out-of-three battles. Each character will have their own different motivations, like Reimu, who is on a search to discover why there are not as many people coming to the shrine. Or Sanae, who is battling others to train with the goal of defeating Reimu. I won’t get into all my critiques of this game now, but to be short, it does not serve as a proper introduction to the series.
The second Touhou, Scarlet Curiosity, doesn’t do much better. This game focuses around two characters, Remilia Scarlet and Sakuya Izayoi. The game does do more for the narrative, and gives a better look into some characters that are not always the go-to picks. Even the fact that Reimu isn’t playable makes this sort of new and different. The combat is a bit more to the melee side and enemies will have more projectile moves, but those patterns can be learned and dodged, and will not layer like in Genso Rondo.
Why did I buy Scarlet Curiosity if I had already been disappointed once before? The simple answer is to support the series. While these games don’t hold up as well compared to the main games of the series, I was still overjoyed to see these games properly released to the US. The few games of the main series I have been able to play were not translated. Most of what I do know comes from the online research I do about the characters and through friends even more devoted to the series than I am.
And let’s be clear that those two are just the ones that are currently released; there are more coming. There were only two I found in my research with rough release dates and information.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is considered a Rouge-like, exploring the dungeons of Gensokyo, fighting and joining forces with the other female characters of Touhou. I was turned off from this game initially due to it being another Touhou game even further removed from the bullet hell style, but from the trailer, the graphic style looks good and interesting. If the gameplay proves enjoyable in the long-term, then it might serve to not disappoint.
The other is a remake of a 2D Touhou Fighting game, Urban Legend in Limbo. This should be the most exciting as this is actually an official game within the Touhou series, Touhou 14.5, originally released to Japan in May of 2015. The game was made in a collaborative effort between Team Shanghai Alice and Twilight Frontier. The game features Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame and Kasen Ibaraki. It does fall in the same vein as not being bullet hell style like the others, but being that it is an official game of the series makes up for that. This one will be rolling out to PS4 on December 8th of 2016. Whether it will also be released to the North America and Europe like the others I’ve mentioned I am unaware.
There is something to enjoy in the thought of what the ‘Play Dojin’ is doing. I never thought I would see a Touhou game released to the US at all. Added to that, getting a physical copy is even more astounding. But while I have hope for the upcoming ones the first two have left me bitter. I am fully willing to support them as a fan in hopes of the trend continuing and for more and ultimately better games to be released. Neither Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet or Scarlet Curiosity would be recommendable to others. Those who do attempt them with no knowledge to the series can end up being less likely to buy any after. What I can only hope they focus on as ‘Play Dojin’ continues is bringing all or a majority of the official games over, both the fighting and bullet hell styles. To show the actual series, and less games that just use the characters.