"Touhou Genso Wanderer is made by fans, for fans and I mean that in a good way."
Touhou is a name that bears a lot of meaning in small Japanese doujin circles but has been woefully overlooked by most other markets. Born from the mind of a man called ZUN, Touhou games have been garnering a devout following since 1996 and now, 20 years later, Touhou is still going strong on the PlayStation 4 and Vita. The latest entry in this long running series is Touhou Genso Wanderer, a roguelike inspired by classic Mystery Dungeon games. What I played of the game assures its appeal to its core fanbase, while its presence on PS4 and Vita introduces a ton of new players to the expansive Touhou universe.
As parts of my demo were still in Japanese, I don't have the firmest grasp of the story but I know the basics. You control Reimu, a shrine maiden tasked with saving the sacred land of Gensokyo after a dark tower appears in reaction to a mysterious orb. Again, this is a roguelike; I wouldn't put too much stock in the story. Reimu is a staple of the Touhou series and she will be joined by several other familiar faces from the Touhou canon. Like I said, my demo was not fully translated, so the story could be amazing, but I would assume Aqua Style prioritized nailing the gameplay and visuals.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is a roguelike in the purest sense; you will struggle your way, tile by tile, through countless floors of dungeons while fending off foes, gathering loot and avoiding traps. The rigid mechanics are not bereft of Touhou's signature charm. You have a stamina meter labeled "Tummy," which depletes as you travel through dungeons and you need to refill your Tummy by eating all kinds of Japanese sweets. You can use one partner character at a time. Partners travel behind Reimu and fight using skills of their own. All of the partner characters are unique and choosing the correct compliment to a tough level is the key to success. The Aqua Style team even found clever ways to reference the series' bullet-hell shooter roots by providing classic, danmaku, screen-clearing special moves. Use one of these moves and watch as a large character portrait flashes across the screen and hundreds of bullets spiral outward from your character. Walking into a room with too many enemies and then proceeding to eliminate them, danmaku style, is very satisfying.
The visual design is classic Touhou and everything looked clean and crisp on my demo Vita. Although the team is making a game with a world and characters created by ZUN, he requires anyone who wants to use the Touhou dressings to create their own original art with their own flare. The designs here emphasize the enlarged heads of the characters, which is a bit of an in-joke of the Touhou series. Wanderer is also ambitious as hell. The game has multiple modes of presentation: the standard top-down dungeon view, 2D character portrait dialogue scenes and fully animated 3D cutscenes. Oh yeah, did I mention Aqua Style is a team of only four people?! Touhou Genso Wanderer is made by fans, for fans, and I mean that in a good way.
If you're already a Touhou fan, I'm sure you know what to expect from Touhou Genso Wanderer; but if you are like me and have little to no experience with these Japanese indies, I can assure you that Touhou Genso Wanderer is a solid roguelike experience with sound mechanics and a unique identity. If you are craving some old-fashioned dungeon crawling on your PlayStation 4 or Vita, look no further than Touhou Genso Wanderer.