Touhou Project games are personality-driven projects. While there is always some sort of incident to resolve, the actual mystery isn’t always the highlight. Rather, seeing how the characters react to the issues and one another are what can make endeavors more interesting. Touhou Genso Rondo is no different, though there is a bit of a caveat to it. Knowing more about the characters and their relationship to one another helps.
Reimu Hakurei is perhaps the best place to start, since she’s one of Touhou Project’s two main characters and interacts with everyone in the story. She’s friends with Marisa and Sanae. Since she is a shrine maiden, she tends to exterminate yokai indiscriminately and as necessary. (Though, there are situations where she will aid or befriend them.) In Touhou Genso Rondo, one of her initial encounters is with Alice, a yokai, and she immediately gets right to it. Knowing this makes it easier to understand her reactions to the more supernatural members of Touhou Genso Rondo’s cast.
With Marisa Kirisame, it’s important to note that she doesn’t have ill or malicious intentions, but she’s a character who can sometimes be a bit self-serving. She absolutely has friends in the cast, like Reimu, but can occasionally have relationships with other characters that aren’t entirely positive and happy. There’s a bit of a rift between her and Alice, where the two will work together and can get along, but also occasional antagonize one another. The same can be said for her interactions with Remilia and Sakuya. She slips into the Scarlet Devil Mansion to take advantage of its massive library, often without permission. The people who actually live there may refer to her as a rat and occasionally fight her, but are just as likely to allow her to do her thing. Her route plays with her tendency to experiment with magic and go all out when it comes to completing a task she’s set her mind to.
Sanae Kochiya, another shrine maiden who occasionally gets to be a heroine alongside Reimu and Marisa, has a role in Touhou Genso Rondo that plays with her role as being “the other shrine maiden.” She’s determined to prove herself as capable and famous as Reimu. Rather than referencing her relationships with characters, this touches on another part of Touhou Project lore. She wasn’t part of the series until the tenth installment, Mountain of Faith. By giving her this identity crisis, they’re playing with the fact that she’s a “newbie” compared to Reimu and trying to prove herself.
With Sakuya Izayoi, it’s important to note her relationship with Remilia Scarlet. She’s the head maid in the Scarlet Devil Mansion and takes that responsibility seriously. Especially when it comes to her mistress. She will do anything and everything for her, even attempting to anticipate her needs. When she suspects something might possibly be amiss in Touhou Genso Rondo, she enters a state of hyper-awareness. That devotion to her employer is a key element to her character. Her actions and interactions can be framed by it.
Youmu Konpaku is in a similar situation. Like Sakuya, she’s a servant to another character in the Touhou Genso Rondo cast. She performs multiple tasks for her lady, acting as a sword instructor, bodyguard, and gardener. There’s a strong sense of duty, since her master previously filled this role. She’s as loyal to Yuyuko as Sakuya is to Remilia, having been with her as long as she can remember. However, there’s a difference in attitude. While Sakuya and Remilia are more formal and professional, Youmu and Yuyuko are more friendly and informal. Youmu will devotedly perform any task, but is noticeably flummoxed by her boss sometimes. Likewise, Yuyuko might sometimes make requests “just because” or because they’ll make her happy. It’s important to note this dynamic, as it plays a part in Youmu’s storyline in Touhou Genso Rondo.
But don’t let this dissuade you from getting involved in Touhou Genso Rondo, or really any Touhou Project game. While prior knowledge can help you better appreciate installments, knowing everything about the lore isn’t essential to enjoying it. There are even characters and storylines that are more beginner friendly in this game. Alice Margatroid, for example, is a bit of a loner. All you need to know is she’s a magician with the power to manipulate puppets, and she puts on shows for people. Utsuho Reiuji is similar. You just need to know she’s trying to carry out a task for her master, Satori Komeiji. Due to being very forgetful and easily distracted, this is proving quite a task for her. Remilia Scarlet, despite being such a fixture and connected to so many characters, as a storyline that sets up a tournament for her own amusement. She’s an incredibly powerful vampire looking for something to challenge and amuse her. With Yuyuko Saigyou, all you need to remember is that she’s a good-natured ghost prone to flights of fancy. In this case, wanting a good view of the moon on a clear night. Knowing about the characters and their lore helps, but it isn’t essential.
Every Touhou Project game I’ve played has been friendly and inviting. There’s never a barrier of entry. However, I will say that games in this series, be they part of the main shoot’em up line or a spin-off like Touhou Genso Rondo, become more interesting when you take the time to learn about the participants. Even though the PlayStation 4 game is a one-on-one fighter with bullet hell battles, investigating characters that appeal to you can help you get more out of the story and may even help you find someone to use as your “main.”
Touhou Genso Rondo will come to the PlayStation 4 in North America on September 6, 2016, followed by a European release on September 9, 2016.