Touhou Creator ZUN Talks About How Other Shoot ‘Em Ups Have Influenced The Series


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This week’s Famitsu had a special feature on shmups of all sorts, and apart from Ikaruga superfan Yoko Taro, Touhou series creator ZUN was also invited by the Famitsu team for a chill discussion over beer.


Here are the highlights:

On Touhou having curved enemy bullets and such:

Iona, Famitsu staff: “Using the shapes and curves of the enemy bullets to ‘appeal’ to the players has become used a lot as game sequences. Isn’t that exactly one of the characteristics of the Touhou series?”


ZUN, Touhou creator: “It’s embarrassing to say so myself, but I was the first one to do something like that. I started Touhou Project around the time I started playing Battle Garegga. I love shmup games where bullets scatter around easily, and I wanted to make one like that myself, so I did so.”


Dedeo, Famitsu staff: “In Touhou, I saw bullets I’d never seen before, as well as many danmaku shapes I’d never seen before, so I was really surprised.”


ZUN: “I put in things like curving bullets and bullets that would change speed. Those sorts of enemy bullets actually aren’t something you see in other games. I believe it’s because bosses are ‘fighters’ or ‘tanks’.”


Fujikawa, Famitsu staff: “That’s right! Most shoot ‘em ups had a mechanical aesthetic to them.”


Nishikawa, Famitsu staff: “If anything but straight bullets were to come out of a tank, I’d definitely feel confused.”


ZUN: “So I thought, “If humans were to shoot out magic, then anything goes”, and thus the Touhou bosses became humanoid characters.”


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On whether ZUN prefers restarting from a checkpoint:

ZUN: Speaking of difficult shmups, Gradius III was seriously hard. I heard from pre-release info that there were going to be 3D stages, and excitedly went to play the game, but I couldn’t even reach the stage. (laughs)


Iona: “Stage 4, I see. If you were able to reach the Moai in Stage 5, people would already call you an expert.”


Hanzomon, Famitsu staff: “That bubble stage was hard…”


ZUN: “Really, they didn’t pull any punches even in Stage 1. Once you were shot down, it would be hard to recover after reviving, and a lot of the time you’d just give up.”


Nishikawa: “If I remember correctly, there were so few powerups that even if you got everything in Stage 2, you couldn’t reach full power…”


Fujikawa: “Speaking of reviving, shmups are usually divided into those that let you restart from the point you died, and those that send you back to a checkpoint. Which type do you like better, ZUN?”


ZUN: “I can say for sure that I like the ones where you revive immediately. The Touhou games basically all use this method. I have never found the appeal in restarting from a checkpoint and preparing yourself for a rematch. (Laughs) I want to continue onwards, so I’ll accept it and go on, but for me, it’s one of the factors that reduces my motivation.”


Touhou Tenkuushou ~Hidden Star in Four Seasons~ is the latest Touhou game, and is currently available on Steam.

Alistair Wong
Very avid gamer with writing tendencies. Fan of Rockman and Pokémon and lots more!