Touhou: Genso Wanderer Reloaded Review
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Team Shanghai Alice/NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4
I've reviewed many games for the Touhou Project in the past. While the primary game series revolves around "bullet hell" shooters, it has from time to time shot off into different genres. Touhou: Genso Wanderer came out in March 2017 for PlayStation 4 in the US. Prior to this in Japan, an updated edition adding in the season pass was released. This "reloaded" edition of the game incorporates the two DLC story campaigns into the main storyline, and also streamlines the whole experience. It adds new items, enemies and adventures. As of my writing, you can still find the original on the PS store, with $25 worth of expansion DLC. Now, the expanded edition makes it's way to America, with a rerelease on PS4 and a new edition on Switch.
Genso Wanderer again puts us in a story with Reimu as she investigates another mysterious "incident." This time, instead of flying and taking down waves of enemies, Reimu makes her way through a series of towers/dungeons in a fully turn based roguelike. While there is progression of sorts, each death or world restart returns you to level 1 in your experience. You keep any items you pick up during your journey, which you can sell or use the "Nito Fusion" item to merge equipment you find along the way into more powerful artifacts. Unlike a traditional rougelike, you press through different areas as the story develops.
Dungeon floors are randomly generated. Enemies in the dungeon are supposed to be clones of the general townsfolk. Everyone in a dungeon takes turns simultaneously. Each time you take a step, so does every enemy on the floor. You also recruit teammmates that you can take into the dungeon with you that you can then set to different parameters, be it follow you or dive headlong into the enemies. You have basic attacks as well as special attacks to take out overwhelming hordes.
I feel that there are a few gameplay decisions that are frustrating. Equipping items is an annoying process, as you have to push one button to open up a main menu, a second to go to equipment, then select the person followed by the piece, which kicks you back out to the world map. Therefore, if you want to look at organizing or changing several pieces, it's a lengthy affair. Most of the in-game menu options suffer from the same fate. Also, walking up to talk to an NPC is annoying. You can't talk to someone unless you are facing them, and walking one step too close to an NPC results in you switching places. The game is loaded with both too much and not enough information, as it seems that the Touhou world is full of lore that it's half expecting you to know, and a ten minute introduction to basic shops and the like as we see a scene where I feel we are witnessing some cute banter we are supposed to expect and laugh at. I suppose the more Touhou games you play, the more you'll appreciate each one.
The game is a good mix of roguelike and progressive, as the equipment you own levels up along with you. When you reset at a new beginning, your equipment keeps it's levels, making it slowly but surely easier to press on. While I said that the game is full of overbearing storyline, what is there is done well, with colorful characters (both in portrait and sprite mode) and fully-voiced (in Japanese) characters. It's very well presented for people who are into statistics and factoids, as the overlays seem to take over the entire screen. Life and hunger bars take up the top, move by move records take up the bottom, and the map auto-fills and slowly takes up the right and center side. Unfortunately, the clutter at times would make it hard to see where long-range attacks are coming from.
Fans of the roguelike genre are going to get exactly what they expect, but newcomers to the genre (and the Touhou experience) are going to feel a bit overwhelmed. It's odd to see a game feel as if it's giving too much information and not enough at the same time, leaving you confused at the story yet getting so much of it at strange times. You really need to come into this with some knowledge, so you might want to try other games in the series or catch up on the anime that was made in order to understand some of the characters. It's up to you to decide whether the game is worth the research. Definitely make sure you pick up the "Reloaded" edition if you are on PS4, as it will have all the DLC available in the original edition by default. Roguelikes can be frustrating with their resets, but Genso Wanderer provides just enough permanent progression to give you a bit more of an advantage each time as you press toward the end of the fun but confusing story.
-Cute characters and a fun story
-Extensive plot with the DLC mixed into the original plot
-Randomized dungeons mean plenty of gameplay options
-Alienating to people who aren't into roguelikes or the Touhou universe
-Annoying in-game menus get frustrating
-NPC interactions and long-distance enemies can be annoying
Final Review Score: 2.5/5