Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Touhou Genso Wanderer (PS4)

Taking place in a Japanese inspired fantasy world filled with cutesy anime girls, mythical monsters, and an evil force hellbent on cloning an entire civilization for it's own diabolical purposes, "Touhou Genso Wanderer" brings to the gamer an RPG experience unlike any other. An experience where how well you manage the main character Reimu's actions will mean the difference between completion and progress reset. As Reimu, a shrine maiden stationed at Hakurei Shrine you must face a dire circumstance brought on by a visit to a relic dealer named Rinnosuke, and the tug of war battle over a mysterious golden ball that ensued during their encounter. You'll be taken from your shrine headquarters into the clone infested lands beyond as you battle your way to an erected tower the likes of which was built by the possessed Rinnosuke for unknown reasons. These lands which are labyrinthine in nature, and divided by floors will not only lead to the solving of the investigation at hand, but will also rid Gensokyo of it's plight. You won't be going at it alone though as chance encounters with other interesting characters will give way to partnerships that will help you deal with the escalating threat. Whether or not Reimu, and her friends prevail in their mission will be up to you though.

Gameplay in "Touhou Genso Wanderer" is divided by both "Hakurei Shrine" management, and floor by floor playthroughs that act as a means of improving your odds in surviving the long haul. As Reimu you'll find that your home base, the Hakurei Shrine houses a few features, and temple locations to help you get started on your journey as well as delve into the deeper aspects of gameplay itself. There is a storage building where you can deposit or withdraw gathered items, as well as a temple training area that has a dual trial for both learning mechanics, and challenging yourself as a skilled Touhou player. Stationed at the largest temple, perhaps the shrine itself, is a character of interest who acts as the game's unlocked content holder. Her 'Gensokyo Chronicles' listing, which house 'Investigation Results', 'Conversation Records', and 'Kakashi Spirit News' will allow you to view your playthrough progress with detailed stats, a view of character conversations, and look into the unlocked art pertaining to enemy characters. The shrine is basically where you begin your trek, and hone your skills as the shrine maiden Reimu. It's also where you can choose your tag along partner, and deposit Nito points for later use.

Traveling from floor to floor in 'Touhou Genso Wanderer" is a simple yet complicated task in that the mechanics provided will have you minding several things as you confront advancing enemies, deal with traps, and loot the place for equipment and items that will help you ultimately progress further. Reimu, and her partner each have specific capabilities when it comes to navigating the mazes before them. They each can hold in their possession two weapons, a weapon plus a piece of armor, or a dual wielding weapon (Reimu Only) for dealing with the direct enemy threats. This simple combative mechanic is complicated by directional actions, and further equipment options that can be accessed, and changed via the dial-like "TRIANGLE" menu. At base level each character can wield three types of base equipment items including the armor, weapons, and a pendant that enhances stats, and abilities. Weapons, and armor themselves can be enhanced to do various types of damage, nullify various types of damage, or even add different effects that will change how you approach battle and travel. Some of which com with innate abilities. Through a later acquired 'Nito Infusion' device you can combine collected items to add new effects, and abilities to your favorite weapons. You can even upgrade weapon, and armor strength through this process. The catch is Reimu can't really carry a lot of items, so choosing what to keep, what to sell, and what to toss will be a constant ordeal, especially as you make progress and find much better items.

Along with the base equipment comes talismans, cards, and gaps which each add, in their own way, to the already complicated system that is used in 'Touhou Genso Wanderer". The talismans, for example act as a special attack that deals greater damage to onscreen enemies. Talisman effects vary, and do different things accordingly. Mostly damage specific stuff though. The cards on the other hand can be used to increase various equipment, and character stats, but sometimes at the risk of breaking cursed equipment. Equipment you find in the game can be cursed, but said curse can be lifted for a cost at the Yokai village, or any other village location that offers such a service. Lastly the 'gaps (Illuminati candy, lol!)' act as a means of avoiding stronger enemies by encapsulating Reimu as well as a means to capture/contain items or enemies. Gaps, as they were, can also be thrown at walls to release contained items. Gaps, like talismans and cards vary in type, and functionality. A detail that is disclosed in the "Inventory Menu" which can be accessed by pressing "TRIANGLE" plus 'up' on the directional pad. Aside from those things Reimu also has a projectile style of attack that uses gathered power-ups for usage. This extra option comes in handy when dealing with multiple onscreen enemies. It is known as "Danmaku", and through the 'Right Thumbstick" you can choose one of four different Danmaku attacks, and follow up with a pressing of "L1" to utilize it in a combat scenario. There's a Danmaku for dealing with a line of enemies, a barrier for extra protection when surrounded by enemies, a spread shot projectile for an incoming forward facing trio of enemies, and a single projectile for added damage to a single enemy. Part of the battle is figuring out which Danmaku to use, and when it is needed. The fact that as you move the enemies advance only makes every action all the more important including the usage of Danmaku.

This brings me to another point. Movement in 'Touhou Genso Wanderer" isn't as straightforward as you might think. You have a sort of stationary dial-a-direction option which can be done by holding down "SQUARE", and pressing the desired direction. This is good to better avoid enemies as well as position the direction Reimu is facing before the enemy gets close enough to attack. There's also the ability for Reimu to fast travel through areas. By holding down "R1" plus a direction in a pathway Reimu will speed through to the next area until she encounters an enemy. This is a good option for when you've completely searched an area, and need to get back to the portal to either suspend progress, or advance to the next floor. The way you approach movement greatly effects progress in that some enemies must be approached, or avoided in a very cautious manner. Sometimes this must be done in a diagonal movement, or even by escaping into corridors "300" style in order to only deal with one enemy at a time. Simply slashing your way through won't always cut it. There's definitely a lot of strategy involved in this particular game.

Movement isn't the only other mechanic you must mind during your playthrough. Reimu, herself is governed by a health meter and a tummy gauge. If you get attacked enough Reimu, and her partner's health meter will fully deplete, and they will die. This will result in an option to either try the floor again, or give up, and head back to the shrine. Either way it's a full reset of progress outside of the items you've amassed which stay in your possession, regardless. As far as the tummy gauge goes once it depletes your health will rapidly decline as well. To counter this Reimu must eat the food items she collects from floors, or buys from shops. You can even use the 'Nito Infusion' "Mix" feature which will allow you to combine gathered materials to create food/health items as well as other items through a found recipe. The drink items are mostly for health meter refills, while the food is a tummy specific item meant to counter Reimu's growing hunger.

One thing I should have already mentioned is that you can manually equip your partner with base equipment. Not only that but through the Triangle menu's "Status" option you can also direct the partner to do your bidding. You can have them roam freely investing the floors, have them attacking, or have them follow among a few other things. This keeps you from having to worry about the partner as you travel, battle, and deal with characters of interest. In your outings you will encounter different locations with different threats. Threats that include enemies, traps, and terrain that must be dealt with according to demand. Learning how to manage your time out, and when to stock up on items, and use services when in towns is a huge part of beating this not-so-easy game.

To sum it all up you'll prepare for your adventure at the shrine, leave said shrine, and scour the floors thereafter for items needed to better prepare you for your final investigative encounter. Battling swarming enemies is a part of this as is micro-managing Reimu and her partner's every action. Keep in mind you do have the option to go on the journey alone as Reimu, or have an in-game partner join you on your journey. However you choose to do it just know it takes properly managed strategy, and preparedness to make through to the end. A death means rest down to the leveled up base stats Reimu has gained along the way. The only thing being untouched is the equipment, and items collected. So, take your time. do the Hakurei Shrine trials, and challenges before venturing out to complete 'Touhou Genso Wanderer". You'll be glad you did. Trust me.

The graphics & soundtrack ...

The graphics in "Touhou Genso Wanderer" are a mixture of anime inspired character designs, and top-down structures that seem to take inspiration from older RPG experiences. The character design, in particular is of a chibi (super-deformed) nature that is more cartoon-like than anything else. It sticks to the Touhou art style, and is not bad at all. My only complaint, if any comes with the inclusion, and intrusion of a map display that cannot be turned off. It obscures your playthrough, and kind of takes away from the game's charm. Despite having the option to position it, it is still annoying to look at. As far as the soundtrack goes it's your typical anime soundtrack with symphonic, and atmospheric melodies meant to insight various types of emotions from the gamer. It has a hint of Japanese instrumentals included for that genuine Japan feel.

The verdict ...

To me 'Touhou Genso Wanderer" is an "Alright" game at best. The story, characters, and mechanics have lots of good qualities. The only thing hindering it from a completely positive review is the developer's decision to leave out an option to turn off the map display, or to at least position it on the top right-hand corner in a smaller version. If it weren't for that I'd praise this game. It is very innovative, and very creatively done. It requires a competent strategy from the gamer, and is rewarding for mastering said strategy. The added fact it has a cross-play feature for the Vita version is notable bonus. For now though this game gets an "Alright" rating from the Inferno. It's good, but that map needs to be dealt with.

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