Roguelikes are punishing things. They’re games that often involve permadeath, mystery items you sometimes can’t use until you identify them, and severe consequences for falling in a dungeon. Touhou Genso Wanderer is one of those games that alleviates some of that pressure. While it is still a difficult game, it’s one that doesn’t alienate new players with overwhelming gameplay concepts.
One of the best ways Touhou Genso Wanderer welcomes people into the whole roguelike experience is by giving us a competent partner from the very start. After going through the tutorial, Futo joins Reimu. Futo’s AI is wonderful. She has no problem going after enemies when needed. She’ll use special attacks. She can equip the weapons and armor Reimu isn’t using, and they’ll also level up for her. It isn’t something unique to this specific sage. Satori, Utsuho, Kokoro, and really any other woman who can join who can join the shrine maiden. Having someone on hand who will help you out is so important.
Being able to easily acquire the Return-of-Hakusei Jump spell card is equally important. This is the classic escape item often found in roguelikes. Use one and you’ll be warped to the safety of a home base. Shops in town offer this card for sale so you can quickly and easily escape when you need to. They aren’t terribly expensive and always up for sale in a shop. This means you can always have one or two on hand and be assured an easy out when the going gets tough. Having that cushion is a godsend. There’s less anxiety in these excursions when you know you’ll always have a jump card on hand.
The gradual difficulty increase is another bonus. Touhou Genso Wanderer can get quite difficult. That roguelike label isn’t some joke. This game can get quite difficult on lower levels. But initially, it does its best to keep from being too overwhelming. I never found myself overwhelmed by massive amounts of enemies within the first six floors. Really, it seemed like rooms with massive mobs didn’t show up until I was past the first eight. It’s only then that things really start getting dicey. Combine that with equipment that levels up as you go along, with the ability to mix new equipment or find better ones with higher caps, which make the evacuations less punishing when your characters’ levels are reset. Everything comes together to offer a more user-friendly experience.
But the most critical part of keeping Touhou Genso Wanderer accessible has to do with the way items are treated in general. Did you happen to die? You won’t lose anything. All of your items and equipment will be in your inventory. Reimu and her partners will return to level one, but the weapons and armor you have will retain their levels. You’ll never find an item and not know what it is. Everything is always identified. The only penalty for failure is a loss of character levels, which is expected, and progress. And even then, there are times when losing ground isn’t the worst. After all, you can donate 10,000 cash to the kappas to get a teleporter that will let you skip the dungeon levels between the shrine and village.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is approachable in the most delightful sort of way. Really, it’s one of the most relaxing roguelikes I’ve ever played. I find myself often tapping out on such titles when I’m playing them for pleasure. I’ll give up when the going gets too tough, because I’ll invariably come across a situation where I’ll slip up and lose wonderful things I’d worked for. There isn’t that same sense of punishment here. While it can get very difficult and challenging, the consequences for failure aren’t so dire, which makes the game as a whole more welcoming.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.