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Very worthwhile bullet grazing and beating

  • wltr3565
  • 06/18/2013 11:48 AM
In my history of finding RPG Maker Touhou fangames in western communities... I don't know. They mostly simply rip graphics from somewhere else then slap it in their game while they don't care much about the overall quality, or maybe I didn't search much. Even if they do exist, their fate might be unknown or in a never ending status. I can be wrong with that statement, since most Touhou fangames that I play are from Japan (it's full of them. FULL) and they do feature original graphics and remixed soundtracks.

My impression of this game, of course in my first glance, was "Another half-baked graphic-ripping Touhou fangame"... With a closer look? Maybe it does show promise. And as I start playing? No joke. In a RM standard, this game is unexpectedly professional. Although it uses ripped graphics, the game uses them to its deserved justice.

This game stars the usual playable heroines; Reimu Hakurei (the red-white shrine maiden), Marisa Kirisame (the black-white ordinary magician), and Sakuya Izayoi (the blue-white perfect maid). The heroines found kekkais (barriers) and souls all over the place. They ought to investigate them right away as they graze through adversaries along the way.

As the screenshots tell, the game is a side-scrolling beat-em up RPG. Each stages' focus is to beat all enemies that emerges. In some stages, you have to beat the boss to clear them. Its play structure is akin to korean online side scrolling action RPGs like Grand Chase and Elsword. The main difference between them and this game is that the action part of this game is well crafted, well varied, and enemies are no slouch. The other games? The enemies are sandbags or overpowered cheap slouches (well that's for me).

3 Difficulties are available for you to choose: Normal, Hard, and (uh-oh) Lunatic. I initially played lunatic, so... It was very crazy. Very recommended for lunatics since the challenges aren't cheap for sadistic punishments inside. If you're not used well with hundreds of bullets, Normal still can do. After I cleared the game in lunatic then tried in normal mode, I think the difference is just the statistics. Normal feels like a cake walk now after I cleared lunatic...

Despite from a bullet-centric series, initial stages of this game depends upon melee attacks, pretty surprising for series veterans. But as you progress, you'll acquire skills (of course they're mostly ranged attacks) from weapons that grow with the characters. If you wanna know how it feels like in lunatic mode... It feels like playing a shooting game where you shoot the boss in point blank range. As you get closer to your target, their bullets fling first and will kill you in a barrage. It will happen very often in lunatic mode! More to mention, most attacks does not give knockbacks (although they do give staggers), giving them a lacking oomph of power. It's pretty awkward as the character moves forward as they strike. Positioning can be a hassle as you use melee attacks.

The controls of this game are fluid. As a side scrolling game, you can jump, dash, air dash, dash then jump, quick landing, even you can jump if you haven't jumped yet! Skill command inputs (similar to fighting games in general) are responsive. It was no hassle to control things in the game. But playing with a keyboard can be pretty awkward. The game does aware about it, and supports the use of controllers (to the point it has an in-game controller configuration).

Obviously, the game won't be a Touhou game without hundreds of bullets. Bullets, bullets everywhere. The bullets are there to kill you, either with straightforward shots, tricky movements, or beautiful patterns. Some bullets are bombs, where they will hurt you when they detonate (they're source of instant deaths in lunatic mode). And those who expect to be able to graze the bullets, forget it. You'll have to evade them for real. A mere contact is a damage, even if you dash through them. In normal mode, they don't hurt much. In lunatic... One bullet can send you to death. A single cluster of barrage? Got them fully hit you and you're toast.

If you wanna ask about the game's substance, don't compare this to Grand Chase and Elsword. The stages, though use same enemies repeatedly with considerable arranges, are flavorful. Each new stage introduces you to another new enemy with their own unique pattern. Some stages do hold some interesting gimmicks like hidden paths and lavas (hidden paths are rudimentary for stages with a time attack challenge). Each stage won't be a similar bore. It applies to the bosses, as well. They will unleash their crazy bullets around you, everywhere, with new beautiful fireworks. To note, to get a full barrage hit you can be very frustrating. There's no invincibility frame as you get hit, which in lunatic mode, will lead you to instant death. Gladfully, the game will warn you if there are some off screen bullets about to be shot.

In the aspect of roleplaying, the game features statistic growth (attack, defense, etc.) that can smoothen your fights. The stages balanced their parameters well as the players grow. Not only our heroines that can grow, but equipments too, unlocking their fullest potential. For example is a weapon, as the weapon's level increases, the weapon's parameter increases as well. This must take priority if you're playing lunatic, since a good planning will significantly ease your misery. But as you switch weapons from a max level weapon to a stronger, but level 0 weapon, you'll feel weakened since the parameters for the level 0 weapon is lower than the max level weapon. Getting the weapon which fits is important, especially since each weapon does not only bear unique properties like SP Regen increase, but they hold different skill sets available. It does take time to grow the weapon to its fullest potential, but it pays off.

What will happen if one of the characters got knocked out? They'll simply get switched by another character that you will choose. If all of the characters are wiped out, you'll be kicked back to the stage selection. The game does not have any supplies like healing items. But instead, the knocked out character will revive in the mean time. It gives a good balance of survival when you don't have any supplies available but MP for certain healing spellcards. Switching characters are not done instantly, but rather, you must choose them first. It does sound like it's better to be done instantly, but as you notice that changing has its time limit to change again, you'll appreciate the pause frame.

In-game graphics, as you can tell, are ripped from other games or from RTP. But surprisingly, the game uses it to their own justice. Tasogare Frontier's detailed Touhou sprites, Maple Story's cutesy monsters, and the classic RTP landscapes. The frames are animated very well, reacting to each movement and warning. Although much more preferable if the game does have its own original graphics, like most fangames there. I wonder how it will like if the game has its own original graphics instead of ripping graphics from various sources.

The interface is simple yet intuitive, very comfortable to navigate. The menu gives information that you do need like weapons' skill sets. You can even view the skill sets in a battle in the status screen since you can't access equip menu in the midst of combat. The setting menu is mostly understandable. But the preloading option is pretty mysterious. Maybe it controls graphics loading to minimize lag? With "All" option, I barely experience any frame drops, except in special and intentional cases in the game, with my desktop PC.

Stages bear varying presentations, even with special effects. Misty Lake with its mists, Youkai Mountain and its falling leaves, bubbles while in underwater, and so on. The game does its best to present Gensokyo as it can.

The story itself is... Simple. It doesn't have any complex plot, and being sincere about it. It's just about going to a point and fight the enemies and boss. But it can't be said that the story is bad. It doesn't betray Touhou veterans to the least, and understandable for those who don't know Touhou, except for certain elements (you know, youkais, roughly translated as demons, live very long compared to humans?).

Sounds in the game are pretty fine in its use. Touhou veterans will find them very familiar, of course. Master Spark's sound effect, for the example. The soundtracks are purely from the official games, no remixed tracks or anything. An extra note is the soundtracks are looped very properly and seamlessly.

For a Touhou fangame, it should've delivered its best justice with its own original graphics and remixed soundtracks as other fangames does. But regardless, the game delivers a very worthwhile bullet grazing and enemy beating with beautiful challenges and variety. A warning though, only choose lunatic mode if you ARE a lunatic! Play lunatic mode and get ready for 30+ hours of (bullet) hell.

Score: 4 / 5


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Thanks for the review, wltr3565, it was detailed and pleasant to read. =)

The fact that the game doesn't have its own custom graphics and musics is my biggest regret, but let's face it, it was out of my reach.

The preloading option isn't really important. It just averts small freezes by loading most graphics at the start of the game. You won't even notice the difference on most computers.

And congratulations on beating the game in Lunatic mode! You might be the first one besides me to perform this feat (and if you beat it at 100% then you're truly an amazing gamer!).
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO! No 100%-ing! It was a nightmare! Equivalent to playing Dark Souls! Please, no more ;(

I do understand that it doesn't have its own custom graphics since it will be a very hell to make all of them except you have a big team to make them. But maybe for a sequel or spiritual successor...? ;) Yeah, the game is pretty worthy for a sequel or spiritual successor with custom graphics (*runsaway).

I'm actually pretty surprised for the game to run smoothly with that large amount of bullets. Maybe RPG Maker really does hold more potential than what this game can do...?
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