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Touhou Genso Wanderer

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Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4)

Author: Nathan Wyckoff
21-Mar-2017

Category: Review

Touhou Genso Wanderer is the first Touhou rogue-like to come to the west, as well as a rare chance for PS4 owners to experience a traditional Japanese rogue-like. With fun characters, charming graphics, and a MASSIVE quantity of randomly crafted loot, Genso Wanderer will steal your life. Grab your controller, silence your phone, and put on your anime-watchin' Snuggy for this rocking randomized experience!

Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4)

introduction

Touhou Genso Wanderer is a fangame made by indie developer Aqua Style, which takes place in the famed Touhou Project universe. If you're unfamiliar with Touhou Project, check out our review of Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet, which gives the lowdown on the series. In short, it's a series of official and fan-made games that take place in a feudal era world where humans and yokai (demons) live alongside one another. Genso Wanderer is a new entry into the extremely popular rogue-like Touhou games' library, and the first to make it stateside.

You can currently get the standard version of Touhou Genso Wanderer from Amazon, or spring for the Limited Edition, which comes with the bonus 2D platformer Touhou Double Focus.

story

Touhou Project has enough lore to fill a library's worth of books, so suffice it to say that Genso Wanderer focuses on the Shrine Maiden Reimu Hakurei, who generally bashes the heads of troublesome yokai. In Wanderer, Reimu unwittingly causes the local merchant Rinnosuke to become possessed by a mysterious force that grants him inhuman power. He quickly uses that power to raise a massive tower, and create replica's of local townsfolk and yokai that attack anyone caught in their path.

Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4) - The story has a lot of humor.
Reimu, much to her chagrin, is charged with resolving this "incident", and sets off to figure out what's happened, and how to stop it. Along the way, players can expect a lot of humor, many engaging characters, and decent writing that only occasionally allows its translated-roots show.

gameplay

What is a Rogue-Like?

There are numerous competing definitions and sub-genre's of rogue-likes, but the general traits that a rogue-like game has are permanent death (permadeath), turn-based gameplay, and randomly generated maps and goods. Genso Wanderer is turn-based, features randomly generated maps and equipment, and--while it doesn't have traditional permadeath--it does kick you way back to a dungeon's first floor when you die.

Another aspect common to most modern rogue-likes is that the maps are dungeon-themed and tile-based, meaning you move square by square across checkerboard-like rooms. Japanese rogue-likes often label dungeon levels as floors, and frequently have players climbing up the levels of a tower, rather than descending downward into a deep dungeon. Touhou Genso Wanderer uses both tile maps and the tower motif.

Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4) - The game has trophies galore!

Okay, but what do I actually do?

Touhou Genso Wanderer's gameplay is primarily top-down, turn-based exploration and combat through a series of floors (essentially dungeon crawling). Each floor is made up of a series of randomly generated rooms, and when the player either moves or takes an action (uses an item, ability, etc.), all enemies on the board also take an action. The enemies' positions and types are also randomly generated, and new enemies appear at irregular intervals. Reimu also has a hunger bar which depletes with every turn, so players will need to eat food that they either find, bring from town, or craft when inside dungeons. Each floor has a staircase to the next floor somewhere in it, and there are town-type locations that break up groups of floors every so often.

Defeating enemies grants players experience points, which are either given all to Reimu, or divided between her and her follower (which you have the option of travelling with, or without). In traditional RPG fashion, gaining enough XP levels up the player characters' stats, and increases their hunger and life bars.

While much of this is traditional fare for Japanese rogue-likes, there are lots of extras that Aqua Style has thrown into the mix that spice things up and improve accessibility. As far as accessibility, there are a plethora of simple controls that make dungeon crawling easy-peasy. Players can hold the right trigger button to speed over tiles quickly, or press "O" to dash directly to the nearest crossroad or point of interest. Players can also hold the right shoulder button to lock Reimu into the diagonal movement mode, eliminating the imperfect method of trying to press two directions at once.

Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4) - Enemies can overwhelm you if you're not careful.
As far as additions to spice up the rogue-like norms, there are invisible traps that can affect the player by stealing items, causing confusion (randomizing the controls), causing hallucinations (all enemies, followers, and items look like Reimu's bloated head or other funky things), or--our favorite---getting Reimu drunk (makes her attacks miss). These statuses are short-lived, but can turn the tide of battle quickly. Most enemies are dead in one or two hits, but when a mob flanks you, using your spells that either blow enemies back or cause area damage can be a life-saver. Player characters also have danmaku (bullet) attacks that have different effects and attack patterns, and have limited ammunition.

In between the "dungeon crawling" gameplay, there are visual novel/talking head story segments, which are non-interactive (meaning players have no decisions to make). Some of these segments are initiated automatically through plot progression, while others are triggered by speaking to NPC's. Some NPC's offer quests, as well, which can result in bonus items being granted.

Swords, Spells, and Crafting--Oh My!

Players of Touhou Genso Wanderer will gather so much loot in just a few floors that they'll likely need to ditch some in order to nab better stuff further down the line. As a nice bit of fun, players can throw unwanted goods at their enemies, which is a worthwhile way to lighten your load and knock out some baddies at the same time. Both Reimu and her follower can equip an item in each hand, as well as a charm. Followers can have a weapon in one hand and a shield in the other, but Reimu can opt to have two weapons instead.

Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4) - Some spell effects are flashy, while some like, like this one, are more subtle.
Both weapons, shields, and charms have various protections, stat buffs, and effects, and some also have empty slots where more bonuses can be added. In order to add bonuses and buffs (such as attack +1 or defense +1), players use a device unlocked early in the game that destroys unwanted items, while transferring their effects to a desired one. In other words, you can combine a sword you like with a sword +1 that you don't, and now you have a sword +1 that you like. Item buffs also stack, so players can wind up duking it out with weapons +11 or more in no time. This item enhancing takes "Nito Points", which are accrued through normal battle. Nito Points can also be used to craft consumable items from unusable ones, which allows players to cook food and potions on the go.

Other types of loot in Genso Wanderer are spell cards, which come in two types and have limited uses. The first type causes enemies to gain negative status effects, such as confusion, and the second kind results in either damage to enemies, or other non-combat effects like teleporting the player back to headquarters. There are plenty of both spell card types lying around, so players have no excuse not to cast them to their hearts content.

graphics and sound

There are three types of graphics in Touhou Genso Wanderer--the 3D environs and characters, the portrait artwork, and the 3D cutscenes. The environment and character models are chibi-style, and fit excellently with the rogue-like gameplay. Despite being small, there are lots of details on both Reimu, the enemies, and all the NPC's (even the non-quest granting ones). The environments are likewise detailed, and hold a slightly cartoon-esque and painted feel that matches the light-hearted anime tone. 

The 3D cutscenes serve their purpose, but they're not Pixar; the detail is there, but the rendering is reminiscent of early PS2/late PSX era cutscenes. Most of the story is delivered via character portraits and light 2D animation anyway, so those turned off by the promise of old-school CGI need not fear. The good news is that the portrait artwork is excellent, and deserves strong praise. There are also more facial expressions and movements in the game's portrait sections than are normally found in JRPG's, which is a welcome change.

Touhou Genso Wanderer Review (PS4) - The rare 3D cutscenes have a lot of soft focus.
A minor complaint is the UI, which has two size settings, but is pretty large in both. The mini-map is particularly guilty of this, with some of the levels being so big that they cover half the screen. It's translucent but ever-present, and while it's a necessary tool in the game, the option to scale it down or up would be great. There is, however, the option to move the mini-map to the left, the center, or the right (default) of the screen.

The music is on point, and changes tones as the floors' themes shift in mood and setting. Sometimes playful, sometimes metal, and sometimes ominous, each track is identifiable as unique, and that's a welcome detail in a game where repetition is part of the experience.

conclusion

If you've never played a traditional Japanese-style rogue-like, and the idea sounds even remotely interesting to you, then you owe it to yourself to give Touhou Genso Wanderer a spin. It offers one of the most accessible rogue-like experiences available, and succeeds in doing so without sacrificing the content or sheer fun of the randomized dungeon-looting experience.

Pros
Cons
+ Excellent Japanese rogue-like gameplay
- Overly large UI
+ Accessible to genre fans and newbies alike
- A few occasions where the translation isn't perfect
+ Charming graphics and characters

+ Tons of gear to play around with




SCORE: 8/10

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