Review: Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded takes players on a pleasant journey

Touhou Project has not always had the opportunity to show its best face in the west. The bullet hell shoot-’em-up line that established the series’ characters and world is fantastic, but obscure. The titles that get the most attention and exposure are localized doujin games belonging to different genres. This means people are plopped into sub-par titles, like Touhou Kobuto V, or the palatable Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity. Fortunately, there is one “good” Touhou spin-off and it has received a definitive edition that offers more people a chance to see a better side of the series. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is that game.

In Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded, players initially follow a shrine maiden named Reimu Hakurei. Since her shrine is on the border between the human world and Gensokyo, it usually falls to her to investigate and resolve incidents that happen with the supernatural world’s yokai to ensure it does not spill over into the human one. The game begins with an incident at a store called Kourindou. Reimu went to visit the shopkeeper, Rinnosuke, and was drawn to an unusual, golden sphere. When she tried to take it from him, it dropped. In the kerfuffle, something emerged, possessing Rinnosuke. He overpowered Reimu, forcing her to flee. Consumed with a desire to turn a profit, the possessed Rinnosuke uses this new power to clone residents of Gensokyo and turn Kourindou into a tower. Reimu has to fight her way through hostile clones of familiar faces and bring Rinnosuke back to his senses.

Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is one of the few spin-off games that does a good job of introducing characters and establishing everyone’s places in this fantasy world.

All of this might sound like a bit much, especially if you have no experience with Touhou Project lore, but it is simpler than it sounds. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is one of the few spin-off games that does a good job of introducing characters and establishing everyone’s places in this fantasy world. Reimu’s storyline takes care to establish people who will be major players through comprehensive introductions and dialogue that showcases their personalities. The additional stories you can also follow offer different views of this supernatural space and the sorts of species that live and cause trouble there. The game is constantly showing you what matters, rather than just telling you and hoping you can keep up. Though, if people do learn better that way, there is a Gensokyo Chronicle Gaiden encyclopedia with information on things both inside and outside the game. Still, it may be a little overwhelming and those who are familiar with Touhou Project are the ones who will enjoy it the most.

In the same way, Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded’s gameplay seems complex, but is actually rather simple. This is a roguelike, which means players control Reimu in a dungeon where for every action she takes, opponents and partners also take an action. Defeating foes gives Reimu, her partner and their equipment experience, which makes them stronger and more capable of surviving the jaunt to reach Rinnosuke. If you fall, you lose it all. But, you can also return to the safety of a base by using an item that safely sends you back and, while there, can store items and money acquired.

What is comforting about Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is that the game helps people unfamiliar with roguelikes by not resetting equipment levels. When you first enter the randomized dungeon, Reimu and her partner’s levels reset. The equipment always keeps its strength, even evolving into better equipment once it hits level caps. It makes dungeon runs a little more forgiving. Nito Fusion behaves similarly, allowing you to combine equipment you found, but are not using, with the things you do have equipped to make it stronger. Nito Fusion also allows you to mix new items to create things you may need like food, appraise an item to see what it is and dismantle items to get other bits and pieces.

The Danmaku and Partner system also allow Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded players a bit of an edge. The Danmaku attacks are a reference to the bullet hell roots of the series, as they involve energy shots or magical attacks that allow you to do things like attack from a distance or attack multiple foes at once. The Partner system lets you have an ally with you, giving you a person with one of four AI options and the ability to wear equipment to increase their strength. Both do a lot to help in situations that would otherwise be overbearing.

What really makes sure Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is at its best this time around is the wealth of content provided in this iteration of the game.

What really makes sure Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is at its best this time around is the wealth of content provided in this iteration of the game and fixes that help the game run better. One of the reason people like Touhou Project is for the array of different characters. The original game focused on Reimu’s story, though there was DLC that acted as a prequel to introduce Futo Mononobe and make her an avatar instead of just a partner and a side-story starring tengu reporter Aya Shameimaru and Momiji Inubashiri, who has found an incident for her to investigate for the Bullet Report. This new version includes those tales, as well as a The King of the Fairies storyline starring a witch named Marisa Kirisame and her partner, Alice Margatroid, and a Miracle Ambitions tale following shrine maiden Sanae Kochiya as she works with the god of her shrine to find out why it is constantly raining. You have all of that in a game that feels smoother and less buggy than the original. Yes, the menu still involves holding down a direction button to navigate it, which can be a little odd, but I still felt like the general experience had improved between iterations.

Really, the only downside to this version of the game might be that things can feel a bit repetitious. After all, it will take multiple runs into the randomized dungeon to make characters and equipment strong enough to reach the end. When you do get to the Aya, Futo, Marisa and Sanae storylines, it means seeing a lot of enemies and locations that look rather familiar. But then, this is a roguelike and that is something people will probably expect from a genre where you are asked to constantly retrace your steps in the hopes of making it a little further into the dungeon each time. There is the ability to travel between hubs on an “overworld map” now, which does help a bit, but you will retrace some of the same ground as you go along on this journey.

The result is a game that feels more comprehensive. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is a fuller game with even more Touhou Project heroines and dungeon-delving. There are five storylines to follow this time around, giving people a chance to meet more iconic characters, spend more time exploring and hopefully gather extra loot. It still remains niche, as people who are aware of the series will have the most fun with it, but it is generally a solid, welcoming roguelike.

Score: 8/10
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Developer: Aqua Style
Platform(s): Switch, PS4
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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