Those unfamiliar with the Touhou project need to know that its games have taken many forms over the years. From bullet hell games to a Castlevania style clone and most recently, a rogue-like RPG in the form of Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded, a definitive edition of Genso Wanderer released on the Vita and PS4 back in 2014 and created by Team Shanghai Alice. The game has been spruced up and all DLC is included from the start including new characters and extra storylines to explore. The main story sees you take control of Reimu Harukei; a shrine maiden who sees something shiny and has to touch it. Well, that’s the gist of it anyway. Of course, her curiosity gets her in a whole load of trouble and she must journey back home, with help from some friends she meets along the way. As far as the story goes it is rather thin, which is odd given that most of the characters will not keep quiet for very long periods of time!
A rogue-like RPG works on a grid across many procedurally generated dungeons. The premise is a simple one; when you move, your opponents move. This allows for time to think where you’re going to go and what the best course of action will be. It’s like chess only you punch people in the face. The aim of each level is to loot the place for decent items and defeat all the enemies. That being said, you can go straight to the next level if you find the exit before collecting a single thing or punching a single enemy. Do this, however, and you will struggle very quickly on the later stages as the difficulty ramps up very rapidly and you could meet your doom if you’re not prepared. Death carries the price of having to start from the beginning of the level, and that price can be extremely stress-inducing depending on how far you got through a dungeon. The good side is that you keep all of your gear and weapons so traversing back to where you were can be slightly easier. The other bad side is that you start again from level 1, so your health bar will be extremely diminished until you work your level back up.
On top of her health bar, Reimu also has a “tummy” bar that shows her hunger. You must keep Reimu fed otherwise she will pass out. It’s a charming little mechanic that makes you think of your moves before recklessly running around. There are many other mechanics at play here and many can be forgotten about or overlooked. There is a lot to tinker with in terms of upgrading items or dismantling them for parts. Being hit with fire can actually benefit you by cooking items in your inventory allowing for more health to be regenerated or to satisfy more of Reimu’s hunger. On the flipside of that, enemies can spoil your items if you’re not careful so items that you would like to be unharmed can be sealed away in items you collect called gaps. Yes, there is a lot here but it becomes quickly convoluted and hard to retain.
On top of the numerous mechanics, the UI can become very cluttered. There are health bars on either side of the screen for you and your party members and there are panels for special moves, money, level name and dungeon floor, panes that show the level of your equipped weapons and items and there is a mini-map that gets bigger as you explore more of the floor that can obstruct your view from many things such as enemies and projectiles. Even on top of that, there is another window that pops up at the bottom that describes what happens on each turn. All of this information on the screen seems unnecessary and can work against you rather than with you.
It’s all about the loot, unfortunately, it’s also all about the luck. Randomly generated levels can leave imbalances in the types of items and weapons you receive on your playthrough. You could pick up a devastating weapon early on that could see you breeze through the levels, at least for a while, or you could struggle on minimal decent equipment for a while before picking up anything worthwhile. The levels become a little mundane and boring to look at after a while as well, so slogging through 40 levels back and forth depending on how many times you die can prove to be a test of not only your patience but your attention span too.
Genso Wanderer is a pretty game. Cute Chibi style character and lovely cutscenes prove to that. Unfortunately, it’s the level design that lets this game down. Yes, the levels are random in nature, but this ultimately leads to empty rooms at the end of long pointless corridors. There are well-designed parts, but these are mostly story locations and not the dungeons themselves. The game attempts to redeem these aspects by having an in-depth battle system, but it all seems overreaching. As much meat as the combat mechanics have, fighting it out in poorly designed levels just seems like a shame.
Touhou Genso Wanderer reloaded is a game for fans of the Touhou series and not much else. A lot of thought has gone into the roguelike combat and there is some depth to the gameplay, but it’s mostly played out in terribly designed dungeon levels. The game has a lovely aesthetic for those into this Japanese style however, the gameplay gets very old very quickly and struggles to keep attention.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*