Title: Gensokyo Defenders
Release Date: November 29, 2018
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Tower Defense
I’m always on the lookout for good tower defense games. The genre scratches an itch that others just don’t seem to satisfy. The simple idea of protecting a base from groups of marching enemies is made more complex when you add building and maintaining traps that will help keep those enemies away. In most cases, it turns into a trial and error system where you must find the perfect areas to build because little mistakes can mean the destruction of your base.
Well, that’s the elevator pitch of the genre, but developer Neetpia is changing things up a bit by mixing the worlds of tower defense and the Touhou Project to create a unique blend of the genre that fans of both might enjoy in Gensokyo Defenders. Touhou has many fanmade spin-offs and I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy most of them because it gives me a break from the fast danmaku gameplay of the mainline series. Although this is a nice attempt, Gensokyo Defenders lacks a certain amount of polish that some fans of the genre might require, but it still finds a way to be a damn good time.
After a brief introduction, Gensokyo Defenders stars Cirno a fairy on her way to being the best at this new trend of war games that seems to be taking over. Evidentally, the characters of this Touhou world have grown a little bored of danmaku and want to test their strengths in a different way. These war games require Cirno to defend her base while other Touhou characters launch an attack against her. The cast of characters dives deep into the pool of Touhou characters and features a handful of second-tier characters that fans might not be used to seeing up front and center in games.
Controls take some time to get the hang of, but after the first three matches, I didn’t really have a problem with laying down traps, which are mapped to the shoulder buttons. Traps range from a handful of different structures such as spike floors and turrets, but I actually found a lot of use out of the less conventional traps like the springboard that throws enemies out of bounds. Each trap can be upgraded using points earned during matches to make them cost less or reset quicker. What’s interesting about point distribution is that it can be reset at any time so if you aren’t using a trap, but have invested points in it, you can get those back to distribute to another trap.
Maps can get pretty complicated in the later missions, which might require that the player replays certain maps as they get the feel for where the best places to set up traps will be. I actually enjoyed the map layout and found a way to set up a strong defense on most maps my first time playing. The game also offers the option to change the difficulty in case maps got too difficult. However, as the number of enemy entrance gates increase, I would have liked the developers to include a line that details the path the enemies will take to the base since sometimes the AI enemies can take some pretty weird paths. Also, there is no indicator as to which enemies you’ll be fighting so flying enemies usually took me by surprise.
Missions aren’t filled with only enemies and traps. Each character has a range of attacks and magic skills. Touhou fans will appreciate that each playable character has attacks and skills that are based on the characters. Each character is different to satisfy a range of different play styles such as Aya using wind attacks that can blow enemies off the map or Cirno freezing them for a moment with ice. I enjoyed the range of skills that the characters offered, but found myself using Cirno throughout most of the game.
Gensokyo Defenders turns out to be a decent tower defense game but falls short on the standards that are expected of games in the genre. A big gripe is a spotty localization that the story offers. I actually liked it for the most part but noticed misspellings, strange edits, and one occurrence of untranslated text. With that said, the voice audio and general premise are fairly entertaining, but this is coming from a fan of the Touhou universe of characters and seeing them portrayed in new ways is always cool.
In terms of staying close to the Touhou universe, there are sprinkles of danmaku found within the war games. Such as a rain of bullets from enemies that you must dodge, which is easier said than done because some projectiles are just difficult to see. With that said, maps don’t become truly difficult until the later levels, but by then your traps and characters should be upgraded enough to get past anything these Touhou waifus throw at you.
Gensokyo Defenders doesn’t really move the bar for either tower defense or Touhou spin-offs, but it is enough to offer some decent bursts of fun. This makes it perfect for the Nintendo Switch in portable mode, but then again, liking tower defense games alone isn’t going to be enough to get into Gensokyo Defenders. From audio design to presentation, Gensokyo Defenders screams doujinshi Touhou fanfare and it will take a fan to enjoy the game.
From a mechanics standpoint, Gensokyo Defenders plays it safe and offers the bare minimum of what tower defense games are supposed to offer. However, there are some interesting additions such as distributing skill points and upgrading characters for the hours of missions that the game offers. Furthermore, as much as the story lacks a proper localization I still found fun in it as the cast’s jokes about taking a break from danmaku and finding new ways to sort out their differences.
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