Developed by Aqua Style Published by NIS America Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Touhou Genso Wanderer is the most recent Touhou title to be brought over to the west, this time by NIS America. Departing from the usual bullet dodging and bullet shooting genre the series is most known for, this title introduces rogue-style dungeon wandering!
On a normal day like any other in Gensokyo, a magical sphere explodes and causes the population to rapidly duplicate, upending villages and creating magical disturbances everywhere. This of course is where our protagonist Reimu Hakurei comes in, the reluctant shrine maiden usually tasked with fixing problems everyone else has created.
The gameplay loop is easily defined as “Gear up, level up, die, try again!”As most strategic roguelikes go, death is unfortunate but not permanent. Your personal level resets, but your gear’s status doesn’t change. This encourages you to find one great set of gear and stick with it against enemies that that set is strong against. Firing bullets, whacking enemies, and casting spells all are part of the formula, but food and drink are just as important for maintaining your health and hunger meters. Make no mistake, this is a hard roguelike, and often times you’ll find yourself re-evaluating your circumstances to find better equipment or using the village facilities to improve what gear you already have.
As a hybrid between visual novel and turn-based and tile-based dungeons, Touhou Genso Wanderer has what you could consider a dual personality. The visual novels segments are filled with stylish and emotional characters in a world where humans, yokai, vampires, ghost-gardeners, and various goddesses all interact. On the other side, in the dungeon crawling segments, the animation and art style veers toward the simplistic, chibi style. I wouldn’t consider either to be a knock on the other, but it does feel like the visual novel segments are definitely more representative of the various entities you’ll interact with in the game.
Unfortunately, the music of Touhou Genso Wanderer is notably weaker than soundtracks present in other Touhou titles brought over to the west, a problem exacerbated by dungeons where you may experience the same song for tracts of 15 minutes or more. This problem is only evident in that floors are grouped in one song type, so further exploration will yield a pretty good selection of music to listen to. To balance that out, the Japanese voice acting is lively and really sells the dialogue by getting as affect-neutral or goofy as the situation requires.
Overall, Touhou Genso Wanderer is a challenging dungeon crawler populated by tons of yokai, filled with hilarious encounters, from dog girls overly excited to greet you at the door, to kappa toddlers attempting to swindle you like the best of them. If the intersection of rogue-adjacent gameplay and Touhou are both good for you, I’d definitely recommend giving this game a try.