Touhou Project is really making its mark on Western gaming. While the main series and its spin-offs have been huge inside of Japan, they’ve taken their time growing in popularity here. Games like Touhou Genso Wanderer are the perfect way to encourage interest and enthusiasm. It introduces the characters with an above average roguelike that’s quite approachable and focuses on gameplay. This removes many of the barriers that might keep the unfamiliar away and allows people who might have a passing interest in either the heroines or gameplay a way to ease into the experience.
Touhou Genso Wanderer plays like the Spike Chunsoft Mystery Dungeon games. Players directly control Reimu, a shrine maiden and the Shiren equivalent. She needs to go through an array of different dungeons around Gensokyo, resolving an incident that she caused. Basic roguelike rules apply. When Reimu moves, enemies move. She roams a dungeon floor, searching for an exit. Her hunger drops as she does, but her health will gradually restore as she moves if it has been reduced as well. Traps might be littered around the floor, as well as loot. A partner might follow alongside Reimu, with players able set guidelines for their behavior.
What makes Touhou Genso Wanderer special are the things that make it unique. Like the fusion system. When you accumulate equipment you don’t really need, you can go ahead and use it to craft things you might actually want. After all, equipment does level up as Reimu and her partners use it. Playing smart will let you keep weapons and armor for a while. Also, you’ll find plenty of items you can’t really use. That’s why you collect Nito Points in dungeons. By combining Nito Points in a dungeon, you can make single-use items that perhaps help a character recover, or you can save and use them at the shrine to improve weapons and add item enhancing buffs to equipment you really like.
The Danmaku system is another unique element that makes you value Touhou Genso Wanderer even more. The original Touhou Project games are shoot’em ups, and the Danmaku here pay homage to that. Reimu is able to collect P Items that act as fuel for her energy blasts. Each one has unique properties. A standard Yin Yang Shot fires a single bullet, while Yokai Buster fires off three. Sealing Needle is a blast that goes through a number of enemies in a straight line, while Double Barrier attacks all enemies surrounding Reimu. Each one is incredibly useful in a pinch, especially when abruptly faced with a room full of hostile characters. It’s like a failsafe you can turn to in your darkest hour.
The Partner System is also quite well executed in Touhou Genso Wanderer. The game doesn’t waste any time giving Reimu a buddy to help her out. Ruto, a sage, swiftly joins her on her journey. (Though, eventually other iconic Touhou Project characters like Kasen, Utsuho, and Satori come along.) What’s nice about these allies is the level of control you have over them. While you don’t directly control them, you can alter their tactics, choosing from attack, explore, follow, and standby options. You can equip them with items you’ve found, but aren’t using, which makes a noticeable difference in their skills and appearance. It’s even possible to prepare for the worst ahead of time, using spell cards to perhaps cast a spell that will help keep them alive if they’re about to die or bolster their strength. It feels like the game is trying to give you an edge over opponents, even from the outset.
Really, Touhou Genso Wanderer focuses on what’s important. This is a game that acknowledges you may know nothing about the Touhou Project universe and have just come looking for a good time with an inviting roguelike. It eases you into its gameplay, helping you adjust to its mechanics. It’s designed to offer you entertaining dungeon-crawling experiences, regardless of your familiarity and skill levels. It delivers, giving PlayStation 4 owners in need of a punishing adventure something that will test, but not completely intimidate, them.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.