Note: Review Copy provided by NIS America.
Besides games featuring or centered around Yuri I also enjoy covering games starring or featuring cute/cool/badass ladies. This is another history making day for I will be reviewing a game (rather a doujin fan game) from a franchise well known among Yuri Nation members, the Touhou Project franchise. A franchise that started as a series of bullet hell shoot-em up games revolving around strange phenomena in the world of Gensokyo where humans, deities and demons interact with one another on a daily, usually resulting in violent affairs. Be it resolving a world threatening issue or “borrowing” something expect lots of fists, blades and shiny bullets before all is said and done. The franchise has made way for a very creative fanbase that produced animated shorts, manga and of course, games. Today we are going to be looking at one such game, a “PLUS” version of an already existing game, Touhou Genso Wanderers RELOADED, developed by AQUA STYLE and published by NIS America.
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch.
Genres: JRPG, Mystery Dungeon, Roguelike.
Length: 30+ hours depending on how much of the game players want to delve into.
Difficulty: Medium to hard.
G-Rating: Okay-Good (Depends on how the player feels about roguelikes)
Plot Summary: Reimu Hakurei (Poster girl of the franchise) left her duties at the Hakurei Shrine to visit the human district. When she arrived it started to rain so she sought shelter in a nearby store. She ran into a man named Rinnosuke and her curiosity was piqued by the crystal ball he was holding. He did not want anyone to touch it but Reimu “insisted”. Once she got her hands on it an ominous force emanated from the ball and shrouded Rinnosuke. What had been awakened?
First off all the main story is a very simple one and not the main draw. What is however, is the many amusing interactions between the Touhou girls. Nothing that will have players rolling on the floor laughing but good enough to deliver chuckles and laughs. One good example of this is every time Futo chimes in during a conversation, usually after Reimu and whoever she talked to got all their lines. Another advantage of this being the RELOADED/Definitive version of Genso Wanderer is the inclusion of more characters (in-game and DLC) and side-stories (in-game and DLC), meaning there is more to do and more ways to tackle previously completed dungeons. One last thing before we move, it is obvious that fans of the Touhou franchise who get the references during conversations will get more out of the scenes than newcomers, especially considering the cutscenes are presented in a visual novel format where there is limited movement from the character portraits and the cutscenes being a bit long (some go up to 10 minutes). This should not be a problem for fans of NIS produced and published games or visual/kinetic novels but it is worth keeping in mind.
Next up is the presentation. As the above cutscene shows the art style in them is very well done with the Touhou girls all looking crisp. Same goes for the backgrounds. The few CG cutscenes are solid. The soundtrack is a mix of Japanese tunes that fit the situation, be it the theme of a dungeon floor, cutscene or dramatic/rocking boss battle. The voice acting, while all in Japanese, fits the characters perfectly from the snarky yet still kindhearted Reimu to the playful weapon of mass destruction Flandre. The in-game graphics use adorable chibi style characters for our heroines and the many clones they will face.Unfortunately the dungeons themselves do not look as visually appealing as the area theme screen shows. Still, it is a minor blemish in an otherwise visually appealing game.
Now we get to the meat of the game. I am not experienced with these kinds of games but I will do my best to explain what readers can expect. Genso Wanderer RELOADED can be best described as a Mystery Dungeon/Roguelike turn-based JRPG, meaning the floors are randomly generated each time and movements are turn-based. First up is the random nature of it all. Each time a dungeon is tackled the floor layout is never the same. Traps are hidden in different locations, sometimes there is water on the floor, sometimes the door leading the next floor could be set right in front of the player etc. Each floor may have a set number of randomly generated layouts but do not expect to learn the pattern anytime soon, if there is one. While traversing dungeons players will run into “Rest Areas” after a certain number of floors where they can interact with the locals, shop and rest. There are also random mini-shops in hostile floors where the catch is players can still get attacked by enemies while shopping.
Second is the turn-based nature of the game. Every single step the player controlled character or A.I. partner take count as turns. As long as neither character moves enemies or bosses remain still. Keep this in mind when assigning orders to the AI partner, surrounded by enemies, and especially during boss battles. Aside from that the usual JRPG fare can be found here from leveling up characters, synthesizing and combining items, color swapped clones (clones are ranked from -chan to -sama), each having their own abilities and status altering attacks that can affect both the player and some items. That is a feature added to increase the challenge, the “Tummy” meter. Besides health points and magic points player characters also have “Tummy” points, aka the stamina meter. As players traverse dungeons the Tummy meter slowly drains and must be healed by eating food or other replenishing items, otherwise the character will start losing health. Be careful though, as mentioned some enemy attacks can affect the food in the inventory, either cooking or burning it. The former is a benefit and the other is a double-edged sword that can heal but also inflict a status ailment to the player. That brings us to item management. There are several items players can pick up besides weapon, armor and magic seals that can heal or harm the player. Luckily harmful items can be thrown away or used as weapons. Item management is tricky, especially with the addition of “pockets” (pocket dimension items with one eye) and the risk of losing them via traps or an enemy’s special attack. Besides storing items they have other abilities such as avoiding damage or sucking in enemies. The tricky part is acquiring pockets, learning how to use them and most importantly managing items as the inventory fills up quickly. Luckily the home base can be used to deposit and withdraw items for another go at dungeons.
Going back to the dungeon exploration part there are items that can help players traverse watery walls via floating, remove all walls, put enemies in a room to sleep etc. There are also hidden traps (some are visible and a select few inadvertently help players) and more tricks that aid or hinder players. Simply put a lot happens in dungeons.
The following can make or break the game for some. The game starts off difficult. What I mean is, all those extra goodies the RELOADED version includes, they are locked behind the main campaign wall. The main campaign is a trek through a 40-floor dungeon with a challenging end boss. Once that is completed the paths to the side-stories and other playable characters and AI partners become available. That is the first catch. The second catch is that players only have one chance per entry to beat the dungeon. What I mean is that despite being able to save the player’s progress on whichever floor they are on, should they get knocked out at any point in the dungeon they get sent back to home base (the Hakurei Shrine). Not only that but they lose all the money and synthesis points and their level is reset to 1. The one bright side is all acquired items remain intact. Basically this is a game that requires patience from the get-go to get anywhere. Rushing into things will not get players very far early on. Expect to be sent back to the start several times.
Overall Touhou Genso Wanderer RELOADED is a game whose enjoyment depends on whether consumers are patient and find what I described interesting. It is one of those games that may require checking out gameplay videos to get a better idea of what they are getting themselves into. It is an enjoyable game so long as the player is patient. The presentation is pretty good and the gameplay has a lot going on for it but it has a challenging start. Overcome that though and plentiful goodness awaits.
The game can be picked up at Digital and Retail stores for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Limited Editions in the US can be found HERE.