Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Touhou Genso Wanderer + Touhou Double Focus (PS4)

I thought I'd missed something. Leave it to Brad to forget that 'Touhou Double Focus' comes free with a purchase of the 'Touhou Genso Wanderer" standard and limited physical editions. Bad Brad, Bad! Luckily I caught the mistake before the 21st when this game is slated for release. Thank the gods I did. As far as Double Focus goes It's a nice bonus that kind of outplays the quality of the base game, in my personal opinion. If you thought the trailers for Wanderer were cool, just wait until you hear about this gem of a game ...

Touhou Double Focus is at heart a series spin-off done up in an obvious tribute to Konami's Castlevania platformers. In fact a lot of the level layouts, and certain character designs will have you remembering Castlevania greats such as 'Symphony of the Night". Not only that but cameos from other Konami series intrude as well from time to time. While it pokes and prods at Konami creatures, and apparently even some movie monstrosities throughout it's entirety you'll find that Double Focus stands on it's own two legs in the Touhou world. The fan made story this time around, as it were involves two careless shrine maidens, and a human librarian who meddles with a magic book that should not have been messed with. Both Aya, and her Hakurei Shrine partner Momiji get sucked into the world of books unwillingly by the legendary Book King. It not only sucks them into this 2D fantasy world, but also the rest of Gensokyo as well. To find their way out of the mess, and back into their own world Aya, and Momiji must team up and use books they find to defeat the enemies they run into on their way out.

In 'Touhou Double Focus" you'll be switching between Aya, and Momiji on the go as you encounter various types of Metroidvania circumstances that only one character or the other can deal with. All within a Metroidvania style of environment. Both Aya, and Momiji come complete with their own special set of skills with which to handle the threats, and obstacles at hand. Skills which are further divided into three separate accessible and assignable skill sets. Aya's base skill book is titled, "Crow Tengu Book 1". It contains three skill sets that can be cycled through via presses of (R1). The set includes 'Crow', 'Kurama', and 'Tenma' in name only. In Momiji's case she has a base skill book titled, "White Wolf Tengu Book 1" which contains the skill set trio of 'Dog', 'White Wolf', and 'Makami' which can also be cycled through in a similar manner when Momiji is swapped to via a pressing of (L2). Each sub-set has three slots to fill. These slots are for books you collect as you progress through the castle-like area of the game. When you find books in your playthrough they'll either be 'Active', 'Passive', or 'Item' based in nature. The 'Active' books gifting the character/s abilities that can be activated via a pressing of the assigned (SQUARE, TRIANGLE, CIRCLE) buttons in directional accordance to their positioning among the face buttons. Meaning that if it's in the first slot it will be usable by "SQUARE", if in the second slot by "TRIANGLE", and if in the third by "CIRCLE". The 'Passive' skills can also be equipped in any skill slot, but do not have to be activated by a button press. These skills are more of a perk. Lastly, the 'Items' which include things like various types of cures (healing items) or portals (a warp back to home base for saving) which are activated by holding down the appropriate face button, and using the character stamina bar in sync with that function.

Aside from skills both Aya, and Momiji have their own base abilities. Aya, for example can shoot a short to medium range Hadoken-like projectile as well as dash, and glide/hover with her crow/tengu wings. Momiji, on the other hand has a sword melee attack, a shield, a crawl, and the ability to wall climb. Between the two characters you'll find a single health bar that impacts both characters' state of wellbeing as well as two character stamina bars that are used by each individual character to do pretty much anything. Using skills, doing melee attacks, and even consuming single use items uses up a set amount of stamina meter. Managing stamina is very important, especially in the frantic sectioned off boss fights. It's also important to know what character to use, when. In the first boss fight, for example, you will face off against a character that kind of acts like Richter Belmont, and Dracula of the 'Castlevania: SotN" game. Even the background is a direct nod to this famous fight. In it you'll need to be fast on your feet to dodge various attacks while delivering the "Coup De Grace". Momiji is best suited for this scenario in that she moves quickly, and has a shield to block things. Some parts of the castle must also be approached with caution, and dealt with using a certain character, or a combination of the two. Learning the ins and outs of the game is easy enough to figure out if you are familiar with this genre.

As a bonus the game also includes a "Time Attack" mode for that extra playthrough challenge. It's a race against the clock to see how quickly you can beat the game. For some reviewers the game took around 7 hours to fully complete, so that kind of gives you a rough idea of the scope of the game. It's not particularly as big as a Castlevania game, but it's still fun enough to warrant a consecutive playthrough. 

For those of you concerned about difficulty you can set that to 'Easy', 'Normal', or 'Horror Hardcore' if you are up for a challenge. I highly suggest using the portal item in any difficulty though as you make process so you can return to where you last died from the base portal. Be sure to also save at the base when you return to it or your efforts will be for nought. For when you die in this game you'll lose everything you've gained if it wasn't saved at the base statue before dying. Interacting with the statue, and any other character of interest is done by standing in front of them, and pressing "TRIANGLE" on your controller. As far as navigation goes the game, again harkens back to "Symphony of the Night" with a touchpad activated map that highlights places visited as well as objects, and characters of interest. The problem, if there is one isn't getting lost, but more so dying unprepared and unsaved.

About the graphics ...

Touhou Double Focus is more akin to a child's fairy tale book than it is a foreboding castle experience like that of Castle Dracula. While it has some noticeable similarities to the 2D Castlevania series the art style, and features shown within are simpler, and definitely more colorful. The characters that are Aya, and Momiji harbor a similar anime cartoon appearance as their fellow Wanderer shrine maidens. The only difference is that they always face to one side or the other. In comparison to 2D platformers like Castlevania Double Focus features environments that are vastly larger in size, and detail making them more child friendly. The background art is something else worth noting. It's alot like what you'd see in a watercolor painting, and isn't pixel heavy like the former Castlevania experiences. As a free addition to an already alright game Double Focus doesn't look, sound, or play bad at all.

The Verdict ...

I was completely taken by surprise by this one. Not only did I not watch any of the trailers before going into my playthrough, but I also halfway expected another top-down JRPG experience. Just with different characters. I was totally wrong about the latter though. As Castlevania fan I fell in love with "Touhou Double Focus". It delivered not only on the nostalgia level, but was interesting enough as it's own adventure. I'm fairly new to the world of Touhou, and quite honestly this game got my attention. If you do dare to chance it with "Touhou Genso Wanderer" be sure to get the physical edition as it will contain a physical copy of "Touhou Double Focus". Both the standard, and limited edition will have it. As far as a recommendation goes I loved "Touhou Double Focus", and it gets my vote! It's a gem of a game!  

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