Ah, The Touhou series. Well, depending on your experience and exposure, the ‘project’ is either a long-standing production line of ‘Danmaku’ (curtain fire) bullet hell shmups, a vast array of parody and homages ranging from Castlevania clones to 3D fighters (in the form of Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle), or a vast, labyrinthine journey through literally thousands of fan-made media pieces, from music to literature. As the brain-child of Team Shanghai Alice starting back in 1996, the ‘core franchise’ spans over 20 years and more than two dozen games.
Project Touhou and it’s characters have certainly become a barely controllable beast, and roguelike RPG adventure Genso Wanderer makes its way to the Switch, ‘Reloaded’ from the original version released on PS Vita and PS4 in 2017, ready to satisfy long-term fans with lore and backstory, while attempting to be an accessible entry point for those new to the extensive universe.
Genso Wanderer tells the story of everyone’s favorite shrine maiden Reimu Haruki, as she becomes attracted to a ‘cursed’ golden sphere that contains strange, mystical powers. She tries to steal the sphere from dashing half-human/half-yokai (ghost) Rinnosuke Morichika. The game then plays out as a series of roguelike dungeons as you try to battle through various clones of the sphere's dark power in order to restore peace and tranquility.
Anyone who has played Mystery Dungeon: Shiren The Wanderer on Nintendo DS or Sorcery Saga on Vita will feel right at home, as Gensou is a turn-based roguelike dungeon crawler, packing in all of the conventions that come with the genre. You’ll make your way through a set of randomly generated floors to accrue items, spells, weapons and you get to recruit a range of shrine maiden friends as you progress in order to further the plot.
There are two main factors when journeying through the floors of each dungeon. One is your HP gauge, which will deplete as you take damage from enemies but will restore gradually as you move across the grid-like areas without getting into conflict. The other is your ‘tummy meter’, which requires food regularly to prevent you from passing out. You’ll also collect money, spells and various weapons, along with the invaluable ‘danmaku’ projectiles and the ability to combine different fusion powers which is new to this ‘reloaded’ version.
Every so often, you’ll get the opportunity to restock and manage your inventory which becomes more important as you progress. Services and shops in the various towns must be used in order to be prepared for anything that the later levels might throw at you. One such drawback commonly found in roguelikes also presents itself here in the random nature of the level generation. It's perfectly possible to breeze through the first few floors (especially with a rather powerful ally), only to hit a spike in difficulty which will finish you before you realise what you’re up against. Although you keep your items and your weapons retain their level, you and your new pals will have to start all over again.
While this cycle of learning through experience, when done well, can be addictive and satisfying, TGW lets itself down in a few key areas. First of all, there is a decent chance that enemy projectiles will come at you without being visible until it’s too late. The field of view becomes more and more restricted as you open up areas of a particular floor, as the minimap continues to grow. Combined with the text window, weapon cycle and various health meters, TGW becomes less and less bearable as what you are actually moving and fighting against is increasingly obscured by the HUD. It is a real shame, as the effects, environments and characters are well drawn, smoothly animated and brightly coloured, even if the Chibi anime style isn’t for everyone.
In general, there’s just an overwhelming amount of text at every conceivable juncture, whether it is during the quest itself or when you encounter merchants, allies, enemies or anyone else. The Touhou universe is certainly expansive, but the sheer volume of asinine banter and conversation between characters, combined with the intrusive text window logging every action taken during your quest just becomes exhausting. It is a lot to take in, even if the world of Touhou is one that you are already invested in.
Overwhelming for newcomers and probably too generic for genre aficionados, Touhou Gensou Wanderer Reloaded is difficult to recommend to all but die-hard series fans. The beautiful hand-drawn presentation and high production values are hindered severely by a contrived and intrusive interface, unimportant dialogue with very little character development and derivative mechanics. It certainly looks the part, but there are more fun and interesting adventure roguelikes such as Crypt Of The Necrodancer on the eShop right now.