Title: Touhou: New World
Developer: Ankake Spa
Release Date: July 13, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: XSEED Games
Genre: Adventure RPG
The Touhou Project has always amazed me. The fact that the characters of a highly popular bullet-hell series can appear in fan-made projects just blows me away. What’s also strange is just how many of these indie releases come West when the main series is mainly stuck in Japan, but I digress. Touhou: New World is the newest game from developer Ankake Spa, who released Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity in 2018. This new release takes a different approach to the Danmaku action-adventure genre. However, sadly, while it captures the world-building of these series, it feels like a step back compared to its predecessor.
At the start of Touhou: New World, you get to choose between Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame, who hang out around Gensokyo and fight Yokai. The narrative gets fairly meta as we meet a human girl name Sumireko who is obsessed with the fantasy world and wants to visit it. Well, it just so happens that depending on who you choose, you find your way to the human realm and meet Sumireko face-to-face. This is when she hitchhikes a ride to Gensokyo, and everything gets a bit crazy.
In terms of a Touhou story, I feel like New World excels at establishing these characters, the trials they face, and the tension brought on by the plot. It’s one of the best Touhou adventures I’ve read and fleshes out these characters to highlight their individual personalities. Of course, this is opposed to simply introducing fan-favorite Touhou girls just to have them in the game.
Exploration is extremely basic throughout the course of the campaign. The environments are forgettable and maze-like until you reach the mission marker. I preferred the fantasy environments of the previous game over these uninspired level designs where you’re attacked by everything, including cleaning tools, wolves, and fairies. Sometimes there are secret paths that lead to equipment, but you don’t have to worry about exploring too much because side-quest will lead you back through areas, so you eventually get to see everything.
Enemies can be extremely annoying. Given the source material, you should expect some challenges, but the developer often seemed to opt to simply go through 20 enemies at once and see if you can survive. Thankfully, there are special attacks that can clear the screen of enemies, but most of the time, I just ran past any enemy I didn’t have to fight to progress. Still, fallen enemies give you some cash to spend at the general store, so you’ll have to fight sooner or later.
The customizable elements are relatively high, and the systems grow across the campaign. As you progress, you’ll gain access to enhancing weapons, upgrading your character stats, and ranking up abilities. There are plenty of ways to fine-tune the experience for players to get the most out of the campaign. To be honest, these systems are needed given the high challenge of some of the boss battles, so having a way to become stronger was welcomed.
Abilites are tied to four buttons and are each on a cool down. They require some experimentation to figure out how to use them properly and what they actually do, but the only way to get their rank higher is to use them, so go crazy. These abilities are meant to be an extension of your base combo. Tieing attacks together will build a combo that can increase the damage dealt. It’s a decent system that rewards you for using the entire arsenal and fighting.
The boss battles are a massive highlight of the experience. However, I think the game’s campaign takes too long to show off how good the boss encounters become. I do feel like the game’s battle action relies heavily on jumping over enemy attacks as opposed to a dodge, which is possible also possible to do, but jumping is meant to get over enemy projectiles. There’s also a guard action that, when timed correctly, can slow down time.
That said, you can only block when the enemy has a blue circle around them. I felt the timing for blocking and jumping was difficult to get right upon first encounters. I believe there are audio cues, but they never helped me with timing a jump and instead just seemed to focus on letting the player know an attack was coming. This makes these fights more visual to react to and requires you to understand the boss enemy’s abilities since they change as you knock out their HP.
While Touhou: New World is pretty challenging, a helpful healing ability can be used anytime following a cooldown. Sure, it only heals a portion of health, but it really comes in handy if you’re not trying to get through a boss fight undamaged. Each time you meet with a boss for the first time, just be prepared for it to look ugly. Further, don’t judge the game by the first bosses, as they do become much more entertaining and challenging.
The music throughout each level is very good and reflects the series. It makes getting through some more repetitive maps easier, but moments during dialogue are eerily silent as the characters finish their conversation. So while I do think the level of customization and narrative make this entry better, I feel like I had more fun with Scarlet Curiosity.
Touhou: New World is an interesting Touhou Project adventure that builds out these characters’ personalities for a Yokai-infested adventure. The customization and narrative make up the best moments of the experience, while the combat is kept to a mindless button mash until you get to the boss and have to use your entire arsenal. While fans would enjoy the commendable character roster, there’s no rush to play this. So, pick it up today or in a couple of years; this game will wait for you.
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