Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is the latest revisited take on the classic Touhou formula. While it was originally released last year, it’s been given a small facelift with Reloaded being the definitive version of the title. In essence, it adds a host of new characters, feature improvements, and all the DLC. With all this shiny new stuff, Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded should be the franchise’s victory lap. Unfortunately, it’s not going to finish on the podium in this condition.
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is predictably over the top. It keeps no secrets from the player, and its story is one that we’ve heard before. “Something shiny leads a foolish man (and here, a woman) astray” is a cliché, but it’s still effective. We enter as the hapless Reimu Hakurei, a hard-working shrine maiden who awakens a magical artifact through sheer carelessness. Of course, hijinks ensue, which result in a dramatic casting-down of our heroine.
Apart from that core conceit, you really don’t get a lot to go on despite the fact that everyone has a hell of a lot to say. Well, it’s nearly impossible to get the game’s characters to shut up at any given time. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is deceptively light on narrative despite being saturated with dialogue.
Sure, the item that got Reimu in trouble in the first place was nigh incandescent. However, the rest of the plot is slightly muddier, and the way the game introduces you to concepts even more so. This isn’t a slight on the tutorial design – that’s straightforward, demonstrative, and tells you how to punch things in the face. There, you’re officially a roguelike master. No, the confusion is in the moving parts that make the game what it is.
How Now, Hakurei?
You’ll have a lot of considerations when you take on the mantle of Reimu Hakurei. It feels like the most pressing of those is why your swarthy friend Rinnosuke is seemingly the Harbinger of Doom. This isn’t so much a tale of bringing the One Ring to safety as it is about stopping Frodo from dying of scurvy. It’s easy to forget about the wider issues at play because of the game’s laser-focus on what’s important: dungeon exploration.
While Pokemon Mystery Dungeon has stolen the hearts of younger generations, it’s an incredibly forgiving representation of the genre. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded spits in the face of the gentle spirit of Nintendo’s efforts and calls you an idiot baby.
The gameplay itself isn’t particularly difficult or complicated. Each staircase represents a tangible sign that you’re closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the tale of Reimu Hakurei is more than just running around in the dark. It’s an endless slog towards the type of perfection that can only be achieved by the pain of death. And yeah, you’ll die a lot.
Like any good roguelike worth its salt, it’s tough. Death is an important part of learning what not to do. In fact, you don’t really learn how to use items effectively until defeat forces that knowledge upon you. This is a title where you may hit a roadblock every 20 or so floors (in huge, tiered dungeons) that requires nothing but sheer grinding to get past.
The game gives you tools to succeed, but it doesn’t teach you how to fish. The tutorial gets you acquainted with the bait and the tackle, and it’s good at that. Unfortunately, it takes more than the equipment to make a fisherman out of the player. This is where one of Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded‘s shortcomings is clear – navigating RNG is no fun if the player’s constantly in the dark.
Random Chibi Generator
Roguelikes are about balancing competing considerations and looking ahead. They’re not really about dealing with the unexpected. Really, it’s all about careful planning and strategy. The game is good at unintentionally lulling you into a false sense of security when it comes to difficulty. This is perhaps most evident in the levels directly after the tutorial concludes.
You’ll probably have a good few swings at the first dungeon without much incident. You might go ten or so levels before a death, but that isn’t much of a setback in the grand scheme of things. However, it’s around the time you get invested in the game that education via death starts to grate. Yes, it’s how things always work in this genre. Unfortunately, keeping your items on death is poor compensation for being shunted back to Floor 1 each time.
You’ll reach a variety of small outposts when you get deeper into the dungeons. These give you a brief reprieve from the constant scampering and fighting. They’re also useful because they provide you with the opportunity to boost your success rate. You can buy anything from food items, health boosts, improvements to your weapons, and more. Part of actually making it to the end of a dungeon is mastering this endless cycle and knowing how to be wise about spending.
Unfortunately, the element of uncertainty in the game fluctuates its overall difficulty too much. You could have all the answers necessary in the world. You could have a weapon that one-shots enemies. However, just one stray Danmaku bolt hitting a friendly amongst an angry horde of chibis is an instant KO. The game allowing things to sabotage you from off-screen is also less than ideal. Dealing with new threats is part of the genre. Dealing with unseen threats that constantly get the jump on you in a turn-based situation is just unfair.
Close but No Cigar
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded isn’t short of engaging features. In fact, it makes a remarkable attempt at being a roguelike that appeals to a broad audience. It’s in the character designs that are typical of the franchise. It’s also in the concessions made to the regular formula and the lack of compromise on punishing difficulty at later stages. This is a title that wants to be popular and it has the bare bones of what it needs to succeed.
Unfortunately, it seems to be spread a little thin and it makes a huge sacrifice to the narrative that its cute enemies can’t quite make up for. It’s still a good roguelike by any measure of the imagination, and the developers clearly know what they’re doing. However, the good stuff is a little too easily obscured by the frustration that can pile on after you’ve been whacking away for hours. If you have the patience and a relationship with Touhou Project, then this is undoubtedly a good buy. If this will be your first introduction to either roguelikes or the Touhou girls, you may want to start with smaller prey.
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.