As far as Japanese roguelikes go, they don’t get more influential than Chunsoft’s Mystery Dungeon games. From the original adventures of Shiren to the popular Pokemon adaptations, it’s no mystery that this randomly-generated formula has inspired plenty of imitators. The latest game to pinch ideas from this style is Aqua Style’s Touhou genso wanderer reloaded, published in North America and Europe by NIS. This doujin take on the dungeon crawling adventure is actually a port of the third game in a series (and not the final version, either…). Aqua Style have certainly refined the formula, but there are a few things that hold Genso Wanderer back from hitting the highs of Chunsoft’s original franchise.
You start out playing as Reimu Hakurei. She is visiting Rinnosuke at his shop, but things take a turn for the worse when the shop is replaced by a massive tower and the world of Gensokyo is now full of clones who attack. Reimu is the shrine maiden in Hakurei Shrine and you have to bring peace back to the land. Along your journey you meet a sage in training Futo who is an invaluable asset early on and you slowly run into more Touhou girls in your journey up the tower.
There’s tons of things to keep in mind while playing a roguelike, but everything is introduced and explained really well in the tutorial section. Genso Wanderer plays like a traditional roguelike with the addition of Danmaku or Bullet Hell elements. Unlike normal JRPGs where you (well I do for sure) end up hoarding potions and elixirs until the end, you’re encouraged to use them here. In fact, survival will be difficult if you don’t use your items to restore health and fill up your “tummy”. Each step you take has enemies in the room making a move close to you or basically just going on their own business. Movement is tile based and there are a few button combinations to learn so you don’t make the wrong move and end up surrounded by enemies.
Items and equipment are aplenty in dungeons and you’re encouraged to pickup everything because you never know when a spot of green tea will help you out. I like the implementation of the menu for items and equipment. Instead of pressing a button to pause the game and then going through menus, you hold triangle and press a direction on the d pad to go to either equipment, items, or even fusion. Fusion is super useful and something that you unlock early on. It lets you supercharge your equipment with items or mix multiple items to create better items. This is very handy if you’re running out of inventory space.
While this is a roguelike first and foremost, there are a lot of visual novel sections. These serve as tutorials and for story bits. You maybe tempted to just hold R1 and skip through everything to get to the dungeon sections, but I’d recommend only doing so if you are more than familiar with the mechanics. While games like Etrian Mystery Dungeon are pretty unforgiving, things are much more approachable here. When you die, you really only lose your money and a few other things. It isn’t like the old school roguelikes where you lose everything including your equipment. The opening floors are also quite easy so you can get your bearings in order as you experiment and get used to the controls. You unlock more characters and partners after completing story dungeons and arcs.
The enemies in Touhou genso wanderer reloaded are more moe than monsters. The game casts clones of characters from throughout the series as enemies, which adds a lot of variety even though it isn’t exactly intuitive. How was I supposed to know that Pachouli would explode! Thankfully, there’s an encyclopedia that can be used anywhere to show off all of the characters, explaining their unique abilities and how their behaviour changes as they level up. The use of Japanese honorifics in game localisations tends to be divisive, but they’re used to great effect in Genso Wanderer to show how dangerous an enemy is. Cirno-chan will always be a pushover, but Cirno-sama presents a challenge and Big Cirno is the strongest.
Touhou genso wanderer reloaded makes a brutal genre a lot more accessible by offering a heap of tutorials and speedy shortcuts that let Reimu quickly dash through each floor. While exiting the dungeon resets your characters’ levels to 1, in most cases you can bring back all of your items with their levels intact. The only things you lose after your dungeon crawling ends in defeat are money and “Nito Points” used in fusion; not a big deal, since they can be stored away in a bank. This forgiving nature means Genso Wanderer seem like a good game for Touhou fans who might not have much Mystery Dungeon experience, but they’ll quickly run into a roadblock.
The first real dungeon is a 38-floor tower with a brutal multi-stage boss battle waiting at the top. Boss fights in Mystery Dungeon are always awful affairs that get rid of the usual resource management and improvisation in favour of trading blows and praying you have enough tea to survive their predictable patterns. Few fights have frustrated me quite like the ones in Genso Wanderer and it’s bound to prevent some people from progressing (looking at other outlets, that includes reviewers, too!). Even after paying to unlock shortcuts, spending up to an hour trekking back through the dungeon for a rematch isn’t fun or challenging since the growing power of your gear makes other fights a breeze. I actually made it to the boss on my very first attempt and subsequent journeys through the dungeon only went smoother (save for a few dumb mistakes). Genso Wanderer opens up later with a range of more varied challenges, so it’s bizarre that the first boss is such a huge leap in difficulty. Since it doesn’t require the same skills as the dungeon crawling, unless you get lucky or really know what you’re doing it reduces the early hours of the game to a repetitive grind.
No-one plays a roguelike for the cutscenes, but the dialogue in Genso Wanderer somehow manages to disappoint. The Touhou games are known for short, bizarre exchanges between the cast, but the script here is surprisingly flat. I have no idea if it’s the fault of the original dialogue or localisation, but Reimu’s quest simply isn’t interesting enough for the cutscenes to work as a way of breaking up the dungeon crawling. The cast brings together humans, yokai and other mystical beings, but their personalities don’t really come across in the dull dialogue. It’s all going to be baffling to anyone who isn’t already familiar with the setting of the series, too. Sure, there are biographies, but the game does a poor job of explaining who everyone is and why anyone who isn’t familiar with minor Touhou characters should care.
Still, the cutscenes are all supported by professional voicework, which is impressive considering the game’s humble origins. As the headliner for Sony’s “Play Doujin” campaign that featured other Touhou titles, Genso Wanderer looks and sounds far better than you’d expect from a roguelike made by a team of just four people. Ignoring the embarrassingly bad opening movie, the characters are all rendered in a cute chibi style with adorable animations for sleeping and waiting around to make a move. Like other Mystery Dungeon games, each area has an overly simple look, but there some nice visual flourishes like dragonflies flitting over the repeating tiles of rice paddies. There’s also some screen-filling artwork of the characters that sometimes flashes onscreen when they use an ability; since there’s such a large cast there’s a lot of them to see and collect. Being a Touhou game, the music is also good. The arranged tracks don’t always make for the most fitting exploration music but at least they’re lacking in MIDI trumpets. I can’t help but feel that the opening song was ripped straight from Gundam Unicorn, though.
Visually, I have almost no complaints and only praise for Genso Wanderer. Character models are crisp and everything is well detailed. The Touhou girls all look nice and have very good idle animations. Reimu has a very nice sleeping animation if you put the controller down and do nothing for a little while. In the dungeons, consuming items like Green Tea has a really nice animation of the character actually drinking tea with them saying “Itadakimasu” (loosely Bon appétit). The danmaku sections are also nicely animated.
My main complaint with visuals is the text boxes. There are white text boxes with white font (with black outline) making dialogue harder to read than it should be. The two HUD options are a welcome addition though. The minimal one is more suited to big screen TVs while the mini HUD looks a lot better if you play on a monitor or sit close to your TV. The map in particular always looks out of place as an overlay. The music impressed me. Not only is it really good in game, but I left the Shrine open just to listen to the soothing music while doing other stuff at home. This complements the voice acting that is also great very nicely.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is an easy recommendation for fans of roguelikes or anyone interested in the genre with an open mind. This is a much more approachable experience than the likes of Shiren or the true Mystery Dungeon Games. It surprised me in almost every way.
Accessible for newcomers
Lovely character animations
UI is cluttered
“Touhou genso wanderer reloaded is a very nice and accessible rogue like that is perfect for newcomers to the genre and fun for veterans alike.
|Platform:||Nintendo Switch, PS4|
|Publisher:||NIS America, Inc.|