Last year, doujin Touhou games began their journey to the west with help from a few publishers. Before this batch of games, I had little knowledge of the Touhou universe because, honestly, I’m not very good at intense shoot-em-up games. However, with the release of these doujin titles, I have found my niche within the Touhou community as each game takes the donmaku genre and builds upon it with completely new systems.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is no exception; the game is a hardcore dungeon crawling roguelike that features characters from the Touhou universe. By giving players the chance to experiment between classic roguelike gameplay and adding in a touch of donmaku elements, Touhou Genso Wanderer proves to be the unique boost the genre needs.
Touhou Genso Wanderer begins with a short FMV where Reimu Hakurei and Rinnosuke Morichika are sitting inside on a rainy day. Rinnosuke is playing with a “Gold Sphere” that seems to have him hypnotized by a strange power. Feeling left out, Reimu wants to play it with, but Rinnosuke keeps it from her until he looses his grip and drops it on the floor.Lightning strikes and a strange dark power comes from the Gold Sphere and infects Rinnosuke.
Reimu notices something is off, but waits too long to escape and is beaten by Dark Rinnosuke. However, before all hope is lost, she manages to flee and heads back home. The premise isn’t one that takes itself seriously, instead it seems to find the quickest way possible to give you what you need in terms of story and throws you right into the game. The only set back during this opening scene is the PS3-era graphics presented in the FMV, as it just seemed like an odd and out of place design choice.
After a few tutorial slides, which is my most loathed RPG trope, players are tasked with traveling back to visit Dark Rinnosuke to get their revenge. However, Reimu is not alone — Mononobe no Futo joins the fight with the goal to experience and become a stronger sage. Futo and Reimu’s personalities work well with each other and provide some rather comical situations between the two. Reimu is lazy and doesn’t seem to even want to go on this journey as she’d rather stay in bed and Futo is a ball of energy waiting for the next obstacle to clumsily overcome.
Like most dungeon crawlers before, Touhou Genso Wanderer has the same core gameplay as other titles in the genre. Players move around grid based levels searching for the exit while fighting monsters along the way. However, there are a few interesting ways of getting around, such as an item that allows characters to float and access secret areas that contain valuable loot and money. I would have liked to find more of these hidden rooms, but they must hide them well — after 12 hours of playing the game I only found three.
Items are scattered throughout the dungeon-floors and vary from medicine to food. Food is needed to keep the character’s “Tummy” full in a dungeon. Interestingly, if a character steps on a land mine, the affect not only damages the character, but grills the food they have in their possession. Similarly, there’s a store that can apply this same affect to food for a price.
The weapons and armor that appear in dungeons are incredibly Touhou-esque, for lack of a better word. Each range from humorous items (like fans and sticks) to more conventional ones (like swords and knives). Additionally, shields offer the same playful humor, but equipping each is necessary to get through the later parts of the dungeon.
One of the more unique systems that the game adds to the dungeon crawling genre is the ability to shoot danmaku projectiles at enemies. Represented by a Power meter in the HUD, players can choose from different danmaku attacks and use them till the meter is depleted. The only way to regain power is to find items represented by P blocks around the dungeon. Being a Touhou game, I felt these danmaku attacks should have been the best way to fight enemies. Instead, I found myself constantly saving it up in case of an emergency and relying solely on melee attacks to get me through the dungeons.
Certain floors in the dungeon contain towns with various shops and unique characters. It’s definitely beneficial to go into every store because some establishments provide benefits such as the ability to fuse items and running into new characters. These towns offer a breath of fresh air after coming out of the dungeons that prove to get more and more difficult as you continue through the game. I made sure to always rest at the inn and check my supplies before venturing back into the dungeon.
With all this said, it’s good to mention that this game is extremely difficult. As you walk around the dungeon there is always a chance you’ll walk over a trap or walk into a room infested with enemies. This is a good time to remind players that this is a roguelike which means when you die you return to level 1 and whisked away all the way back to the first town. You’ll get to keep some items, but it’s good to prepare for some frustration if you get the furthest you’ve ever gone only to step on land mine and die.
However, the game becomes extremely rewarding as I began to master the systems and item management and played long enough see myself getting further and further. After a few tries I was prepared for the surprising curve balls the game throws from time to time. Furthermore, I began to use items wisely, such as, saving certain items that reveal enemy and item locations on the map so that I could avoid danger. It was very rare that I felt defeated after I died in the dungeon as the game truly has a way to encourage the player to learn from past mistakes and offers all the tools to avoid them again in the future.
Roguelike dungeon crawlers are released few a far between, but fans of games like Torneko: The Last Hope and the Mystery Dungeon series will feel right at home playing through the game. However, Touhou Genso Wanderer doesn’t copy these games by any means, instead it manages to accurately present classic roguelike mechanics to a new generation of gamers while keeping things fresh for returning fans. By adding in an interesting story and supporting cast the game proves it can stand on its own compared to some of the all time best in the genre. Touhou Genso Wanderer is a frustrating and wonderful dungeon crawler that fits perfectly into the doujin Touhou universe.