By Alexander O. Cuaycong
and Anthony L. Cuaycong
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, the Touhou Project has been a resounding success. What originally started out as a series of bullet-hell shooter games has evolved into a franchise spanning multiple brands across genres and platforms. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is one such example.
Developed by Aqua Style and published by NIS America, it takes on a turn-based, roguelike dungeon-crawler approach to gameplay; it deviates from the norm but likewise features the series’ familiar flair.
In Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded, players follow shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei on her journey to save her friend Rinnosuke Morichika, who has been possessed by the power of a golden sphere. While she’s initially defeated in battle and forced to flee, she knows only she can defeat him in Buyking form, and thus ventures to ascend to the very top of a tower that serves as his lair. Along the way, Reimu must face the many obstacles he has placed before her, and must use a variety of weapons, magical spells, and equipment to defeat enemies. Only by doing so will she be able to save her friend.
Right off the bat, Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded exhibits the nonsensical extravagance shown by other games in the franchise. It captures the ridiculousness of the series in all its outrageous charm, and while the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it does stay in tune with the Touhou universe and its characters. It’s evident even in the distinct graphics and art style—colorful, cheerful, and, at times, gaudy, but ultimately harmless and inoffensive. Character sprites are eye-catching and leave indelible marks, and the levels themselves are presented with marked variety.
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded’s design helps in this regard. As a roguelike dungeon crawler, it offers random layouts, with enemy positions and item placements changing level to level, guaranteeing constant alterations in the base experience. Not too much, though; apart from the standard spells and weapons on tap, items can be bought and crafted with the end-view of better equipping characters. There’s a lot of things to toy around with overall, and the further up the Tower of Desire players get, the better the rewards will be in overcoming more challenging opponents.
Parenthetically, there’s a status system and an accompanying Tummy meter which restores and decreases health when it’s full and empty, respectively. In terms of gameplay, Touhou Genso Wanderer treads extremely familiar territory to older players of the genre, and leans on such easy-to-learn mechanics that even neophytes won’t have trouble picking it up and playing right off the bat, whether on the Nintendo Switch or on the PlayStation 4.
That said, Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded’s accessibility does come with disadvantages. Layouts and enemy placements are randomized and thus promote unpredictability, but they likewise lead to uneven gameplay. Floors can range from boring to monotonous to outright impossible to complete. Playthroughs can end just as fast as they start, and some runs that look promising and reach higher floors with seemingly rhythmic precision can be cut short with a simple mistake. For such a beginner-friendly game, it can become surprisingly hard, and fast.
To be sure, roguelike releases make no pretensions about their penchant for getting gamers to work for progress, and, in this regard, Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is no different. To beat the game, players need to try and try—and then try and try again. And for fans of the dungeon-crawling genre, it’s definitely appealing in how it presents itself, what with its Project Shrine Maiden sensibilities. It boasts of simple but appealing graphics and a story with a hook. It doesn’t offer anything new, but it does what it does well, and is best appreciated when players sit back, relax, and just lose themselves in its dungeons.