That’s right – we’re still seeing Touhou games localized and released in the West. This was a huge push a couple of years back, resulting in titles of varying quality. Some weren’t great – Genso Rondo and Double Focus were both pretty meh, for example – but others turned out to be pretty decent. That includes Scarlet Curiosity, which recently saw a Steam release, and the newly re-released Touhou Genso Wanderer: Reloaded. It’s found a new home on Switch, and we all know how portable platforms are a natural home for roguelikes, as we’ve seen with titles like the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series.
When Touhou face girl Reimu Hakurei encounters a possession-related crisis, it comes down to her to solve the problem with a companion in tow. That’s…that’s pretty much the story. If you aren’t already familiar with Touhou lore, don’t expect Genso Wanderer to hold your hand, as it introduces characters left and right who might be fan favorites but won’t be relevant to anyone but the hardcore. Anyway, you’ll run around in randomly-generated dungeons, kill stuff and grab loot, repeat until satisfied. Nobody said roguelikes needed deep and convoluted storylines to work; in fact, sometimes attempting to slap an involving plot onto one of these games can backfire a little, as many people who’ve played the bizarre PS2 and Wii roguelike Baroque might tell you.
You’ve probably experienced the gameplay here before in some form or another, perhaps via the iconic Shiren the Wanderer or the pocket monster spinoff Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Dungeon exploration is easy to get a handle on, but it’s very difficult to master; you have to keep track of both your health, which can be difficult to recover in a prompt manner, and a constantly-decreasing hunger meter that pushes you to play efficiently. Adapting to what the game throws at you is key both in terms of dealing with monsters and using the items you find.
Genso Wanderer largely doesn’t stray from these roguelike basics. The most obvious change is the addition of danmaku – “bullethell” – a term usually referring to the seizure-inducing shooters that make up the majority of the main Touhou series. Here they’re special attacks fueled by power charges that you pick up while exploring. The addition of danmaku means that you’ve always got ranged and area attacks available so long as you can afford to pay for them, which is a nice touch. It certainly doesn’t make the game much easier, though, and you can expect to get murdered by Touhou-themed baddies early and often throughout the game.
You come into a game like this expecting death and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Genso Wanderer starts off fairly easily but takes off the gloves before long. You’ll die from running out of food. You’ll die from enemy attacks that were more powerful than you expected. You’ll die from being overwhelmed. Staving off death will only be possible by learning to use the game’s various mechanics and unusual items to your advantage; tricks such as keeping food hidden in containers to keep it from being stolen, for instance. That’s what this sort of old-school dungeon crawler is all about, after all.
Reloaded adds in a few nice touches here and there above and beyond the original game. Your DLC characters are now available in the main game, for instance, and there’s a sizable chunk of new content to explore once you’ve finished the main story. Don’t expect this to change up the formula significantly enough to change your mind if you didn’t care for the base release, but Relodaed is a nice improvement if you loved that title and want some more of it on the go.
Genso Wanderer looks about the same on the Switch as it does on the PS4, which is a nice touch. It aims for a unique spin on the Touhou style, which might make some characters look a little different than you’d expect; even Reimu seems a bit edgier than usual. Gear appears on your characters when equipped, which is always appreciated. Music and sound are decent if not memorable, and there’s some minor and inoffensive voice acting as well. One other thing: as mentioned, Touhou diehards are bound to recognize all the various characters that pop up and the many in-jokes used throughout the game, but those who aren’t intimately familiar with the series could stand to do some Wiki diving before playing.
This certainly isn’t an easy game and it’s clearly meant for fans, but Touhou Genso Wanderer: Reloaded does what it needs to do to fill its niche. Prevailing over impossible odds is what roguelikes are really all about, after all. As for the laser-focus on fans, well, isn’t that what this whole Touhou push is all about? If you know and love these characters, there’s a fair chance you’ll feel the same about this game, and that goes double if you’ve played and loved the original. If you aren’t a fan of the franchise, you might still want to check out this roguelike if you enjoy the genre.