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Touhou Double Focus Review (PS4)

Join Aya and Momiji on their quest to find a way to escape King Book! In this fast-paced 2D adventure, you will have to fight, discover new skills, explore diverse book worlds, and use your abilities in clever fashion to help your colorful cast find a way back into the real world. Retro spirit meets the new in this colorful new Aquastyle platformer.

Touhou Double Focus Review (PS4)

Introduction

Toudou Double Focus, developed by Aqua Style and produced by NIS for the Playstation 4 is a 2D platformer that somewhat follows the "Metroidvania" style. You play as two different characters who have unique abilities to choose from in order to best equip yourself for combat and exploration. As you discover more of the world and gain new abilities, previously inaccessible portions of the map will open. The game has a lot of secret treasures, many abilities to choose from, and you get to explore gorgeous areas such as a castle, desert, and water city.  

The game will be released on March 21st for the PS4. get it for free on Amazon when you buy Touhou Genso Wonderer. 

Touhou Double Focus Review (PS4) sucked in

Story

Kosuzu Matoori, a resident of Gensokyo, and friend of the playable protagonists opens a book in the library, not just any book…but King Book! This book has a special power, and with a flash of light, your characters are sucked into King Book.Aya and Momiji, the two heroines, who both have special feats of strength and ability find that they no longer possess their previous powers.The book has stripped them of these abilities as well as their hometown. They discover that they are in a book world, and this starts their quest to explore their new surroundings in order to find clues to escape and return home.

Throughout the game, you will meet other Gensokyo residents who you have to help in order to advance your quest. Though filled with a colorful cast, the story doesn't evolve much from where it begins. The NPC's are full of quirky things to say, and it's usually zany enough to warrant a laugh, but the plot in this game isn't its priority; it's definitely centered around witty dialogue and allowing you to experience a lush and unique universe. On the bright side, all the characters are female, giving the minimal story and characters a heightened sense of cuteness and charm, but don't expect a plot that runs too deep.

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Gameplay

The gameplay in Touhou Double Focus is both familiar and innovative. The foundation of the gameplay lies in your ability to switch between the two main characters instantaneously by simply pressing L2. This works really well, especially in boss battles when you can designate Aya to offense and let Momiji take care of the blocking and healing. Switching is often required: certain puzzles necessitate the use of a specific ability one character possess's while later you may need to switch characters to get over certain obstacles such as walls or spiky platforms. Aya has the ability to lunge quickly and use her wings to hover for a short period of time while Momiji, wolflike, can climb up vertical walls and runs faster.

Your characters also get their own special abilities which you allocate to other buttons. These can be attacks, passive abilities, (such as recovering HP after taking damage or a low chance of evading an attack) or cure and portal spells to heal and teleport around the map. You have three slots per character, and each character has three different pre-sets you can stack with abilities, totaling nine usable slots per heroine. This is fantastic since the game gives you a ton of skills to play around with, and this allows you to customize how you will fight or how you will explore more conveniently. However, I will say that sometimes it's painful to have all these options in dangerous situations such as a tough enemy or boss battles where you may need to switch both characters and presets quickly in just a few seconds. It's easy to get mixed up since they are all configured to the L and R buttons.

Touhou Double Focus Review (PS4) Water city

Most of the time, you are running around and trying to advance to the next location or boss battle. The game has a heavy focus on combat, and you will be required to pay attention to attack patterns to survive. There is a stamina bar that is drained with each attack and needs a few seconds to fully recharge, making the game more focused on timely hits and evading attacks rather than quickly annihilating every enemy you see. The enemies are all girls, sometimes dressed as witches or hiding within a giant plate of armor, but don't let their charm deceive you: enemies in this game can wipe you out in a few hits if you are not careful. There are also puzzles within the game to solve; these could be maneuvering through a room of spikes, using your zombie friend's head to walk on or switching characters to get through a room full of obstacles. Still, classic platformer elements like puzzles and timed jumps, while present, will usually take a backseat to combat. This isn't necessarily a flaw, but with how responsive and quick the controls are, it would have been nice to see more segments where the environment required more cunning than the adorable assassin tossing knives at me.

This game has a nice and relatively simple map feature. By pressing the center button, a map comes up showing you where you have been, all the treasure in the rooms, and where NPC's are located. There are also portal points (which you place) that allow you to teleport between areas. The map is awesome for seeing your way around, and even without portals, it will only take you a few minutes to run to almost any point in the map from the center base area. The game essentially has no loading, making the experience more immersive and fun to explore.

Visuals and sound

The visuals in Double Focus were my favorite aspect of the game. Ever since I first played Disgaea back in 2004, I have always fallen in love with the world's NIS create. Though the graphical style is relatively simple, your characters are very lifelike (and adorable) having a neat anime style. Their expressions change, and their attires and animal parts, such as Momiji's tail look beautiful while running around in the game. The backgrounds are the best feature in the game: much like Grand Kingdom last year they are hand drawn and really stand out as you play. There is stuff for your eyes to feast upon at every turn whether it be treasure upon the castle grounds, a statue of an adorable boss lying in the desert, or giant parfaits in the background and candy balls ready to fall on your head, the game is utterly gorgeous from start to finish. It definitely created a sense of nostalgia within me but felt fresh at the same time. It was probably the main driving force that kept me playing.

Touhou Double Focus Review (PS4) fight

The soundtrack to this game is also beautiful. The music is very befitting of the areas you explore, and it's really catchy. Though the game is not long, there are really only four major areas of the book world to explore, and the music could benefit from some variance. With that said, the soundtrack doesn't disappoint, and it adds far more to the charm of the game then it takes away. I am a bit surprised to see that the game didn't utilize voice overs for character encounters during gameplay, but you won't have to read much to get through this game. There are Japanese voice overs for the story segments that begin and end the game.

Difficulty

OK, this needs to be mentioned since this is really where the major flaws in Double Focus stem. I usually play games on normal to hard difficulty, but within fifteen minutes of playing this game on normal, I had died a number of times, and the first boss wiped me out in seconds….yes seconds (around eight times). It led me to believe that I was missing a crucial item or hadn't explored a necessary area yet, but upon restarting the game on easy, I was able to defeat (and really enjoy fighting) the first boss within two tries. One of the problems is that it takes a few seconds to launch a cure spell, and some of the enemies attack so quickly, such as the mages that casts lightning down on you while following your position, that you have almost no chance to survive and are forced to endure game overs (so save often).

I ( somewhat shamefully) admit that I kept the difficulty on easy, and I found the game to be a lot more fun albeit often TOO easy. Easy mode changes some opponents to weaker counterparts or eliminates some of them altogether. While the boss fights were a true pleasure on easy mode, I found running around the castle and fighting enemies to be a cinch. The difficulty definitely frustrated me, and I appreciate a challenge, but the difficulty in this game spikes and feels too fast as you are left next to milliseconds and act against a boss or tough enemy to survive. I would have preferred the game to have more balanced combat and have tougher obstacles, jumps, and puzzles to solve, but those who want a true old school challenge can try their luck on normal and even hard mode if they dare.

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conclusion

Touhou Double Focus is such a mixed back that it's hard to really recommend or say to skip over it. The game absolutely shines aesthetically, and it will definitely usher in feelings of nostalgia for fans of old 2-D platformers such as Castlevania Symphony of the Night or Silhouette Mirage. Fans of newer titles that don't have crippling difficulty may really find themselves frustrated with Double Focus and it definitely feels like a niche title as you play through it.

The music and the visuals are utterly fantastic, but the gameplay is a bit too combat focused and difficult. If the game was more balanced I could easily see this game being a hidden gem of 2017, but instead, it hovers somewhere between intriguing and frustrating. Elements of the game such as fast loading, unique strategies, and beautiful backgrounds did inspire me to complete the adventure, but I won't say there weren't moments where the game seemed cruel in its ability to wipe me out before I could blink or wasn't annoying to mess with the top buttons to get to a certain ability in a hectic battle Overall I enjoyed this game more than I disliked it, but I am unsure I have much to return to. Pick it up if you really like NIS or 2D platformers, but try it first if words like punishing difficulty and retro scare you off. This game has a ton of charm, but it's definitely not for everyone.

Touhou Double Focus Review (PS4) map

PROSCONS
 + Spunky dialogue – Difficulty spikes
 + Beautiful hand drawn graphics – Bosses are a chore to fight on normal difficulty
 + Combat system is fast and fun – Controls could have been better mapped
 + Excellent map system
7.1
Good

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