It says a lot about Touhou Genso Wanderer that despite it being the 24th game in a series, with me having played literally none of them so far, that I still enjoyed the game as much as I did. From the outset the game makes it very clear that this is a self contained story. There’s an ancient artefact, things go bad, the cutesy protagonist must save the world, easy. What follows is an engaging and simple take on the rogue-like genre.
After the necessary story exposition is through, the player is dumped headfirst into the first dungeon of the game. It’s at this point where I suspect many will be overwhelmed by the massive amount of information thrust in front of the players’ face. This tutorial section is clunky, long but necessary.
Combat takes place on an isometric grid in which the player can move turn by turn. When the player moves, the enemies move so there is strategy involved in how to navigate the dungeon. The actual battles are very simple, divided up between melee combat and a selection of ranged magical attacks. The melee attack is the bread and butter, with the spells used to get out of any sticky situations involving multiple enemies. Overall the combat mechanics are competent enough, but a little too simplistic, often devolving into button mashing marathons.
If all of this sounds basic that’s because it is. Touhou Genso Wanderer is a very good entry level rogue-like which while being extremely accessible, has a great gameplay loop to keep it fresh. There’s a pretty standard looting system but lots of neat little touches to make the core gameplay interesting. Enemies have the ability to affect your inventory, spoiling your food items or stealing key weaponry. There’s a great fusion system which combines seemingly useless loot into tools in which to level up your character. Magic card items allow you to cast spells which apply status affects to the whole floor of the dungeon. With careful planning you can quickly stack the odds heavily in your favour, making encounters swift and satisfying.
This simplicity may deter some players looking for a bit more of a challenge. Even after dying there is little penalty as all items are kept, with only the in game currency lost as a result. This low risk-high reward approach to the game makes it very easy to convince yourself to play one more round. There’s an addictive nature to the game, with the end of the game never feeling very far away.
Visually the game really shines. It’s cutesy, colourful and vibrant. Battle animations are a joy to watch and the cutscenes, while far between, are always eye-catching. There is a problem with the way the game presents information on the screen. There’s the player’ stats, the companion stats, a dungeon map and a damage log all to fit on screen. Often times the dungeon map covered up enemies or loot leading to lost items or unnecessary damage being taken. There’s also an over reliance on the use of text to portray certain information. Even simple acts like entering a shop will often trigger lengthy text-based dialogue sequences, which usually feel like padding.
There’s a massive diversity of items to play around with, a variety of dungeons each with secrets and useful loot to explore. Fans of the series will no doubt get much more out of the world but as a newcomer I never felt out of the loop. The supporting characters are a little cliched, sure, but likeable nonetheless. You have the option of going it alone or venturing into the dungeons with a partner. There are a number of commands you can issue to control the companion, which usually end up being a useful addition, making you glad you brought them along for the ride.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is a rogue-like that places an emphasis on fun rather than challenge. It takes a unique place in a genre which usually favours brutal difficulty and risk in its games. It is a mostly well presented, hugely accessible experience (once you get through the tutorial that is) with plenty of depth to keep you wanting another shot at making it to the end. Occasional overuse of text and a confusing HUD do hold the game back but overall the game is a great time for those looking for a more forgiving rogue-like.