Touhou Genso Wanderer is a rogue-like spin-off of the Touhou series. With fancy opening cinematics, tsukkomi humour, and enough characters to populate a small village, Genso Wanderer definitely paints a colorful world for the female dominant cast. Genso Wanderer has you guide the a lazy shrine maiden, Reimu, through a mysterious(ish) tower that has appeared because a local shop owner, Rinnoske, discovered an evil artifact that possessed him. Now it is up to Reimu to solve the incident, which is apparently in her job description.
At its core, Genso Wanderer is a rogue-like with a Touhou theme and cast, and specialty characteristics thrown in. Reimu will progress through floors of the tower, collecting items, defeating clones of the Gensokyo residents, and avoiding traps (or at least attempting to). Combat and exploration take place in a turn-by-turn format, where you move, then the enemies move, action for action. You progress through floors looking for the warp gate that will take you to the next area. Floors are designed primarily as a few large areas connected by smaller paths. As movement is performed on a "square-to-square" basis, these thin paths are generally one "square" wide, providing either helpful choke points or painful pincer attacks. Since the floors are randomly (presumably) generated, this could mean you're either in for a load of pain, or you spawn right next to the exit.
As you progress through the floors and kill baddies, you get both experience and items. Lots of items. No, seriously, there's so much loot it's ridiculous. When there's a default inventory of less than fifty, and every floor you can easily get more than ten items, managing your inventory soon becomes a full time job. As annoying as it is to not being able to hold all the things, the limited inventory makes you seriously consider whether what you pick up will truly be worth it, especially considering your currently equipped gear also takes up inventory spaces.
Thankfully, there seems to be an arbitrary pocket dimension purely for the items used solely for the alchemy and fusion system. Using one of Nitori's inventions, you have the ability to combine and fuse items. This can be useful for combining weapons and gear in order to level them up (because yes, they do gain exp as well), or adding helpful abilities into said gear, like preventing confusion or poison. Component materials can be used together in order to make new items, such as spell talismans, healing items, or storage units (which I thought were the best thing since temp saves became a thing).
Reimu has a plethora of abilities at her disposal, from being able to dual wield weapons, or choose a weapon and a shield, to having four different types of spells that you can rotate between: a straight shot, a piercing needle, a surrounding rang power blast, and a spread shot. These spells take P units to use, which can be collected from defeating enemies or consuming certain healing items. Speaking of the healing items, never underestimate the food, as there is a stamina system that is based on your "hunger", and if you get too hungry, you start losing health. I'm not sure about you, but after parading through countless demons and monsters, beating them all up and reaching the final floor of a dungeon, it would be very embarrassing for me to lose to a boss not because I was underpowered, but because I really should've eaten a sandwich before going adventuring.
Mentioning death, I was pleasantly surprised to see that you keep all of your items upon death, although exp and money is still lost. After becoming used to losing both experience and gear for every failed dungeon delve, keeping your gear is a heart-warming experience, especially if you find something nice. When you fail your delve, you're returned to Reimu's shrine, where there's an item storage, money deposit box (donation box), as well as what I can only describe as a "tutorial house".
This is assuredly the best tutorial zone I have ever seen in a game, ever. The tutorial consists of multiple floors that not only tell you how mechanics work, but have you try them out so you get used to them, but not in a way that makes you want to flip a table. While the player tasks are simple, the functions are clearly shown and learned. In addition, each aspect or function of the game tutorial is a single floor, and allows you to leave whenever you want, making the tutorial not only optional, but incredibly helpful if all you're looking for is a refresher course. The actual practice dungeon in the tutorial house is also really nice, as clearing it allows you to keep all the items you've picked up, as well as not really giving many demerits for trying it out.
There's a lot about Genso Wanderer that I really enjoyed, such as the exp share with your partner, meaning you can send them off to kill enemies on the other side of the map yet still earn the experience for it, the ability to set your allies' AI to an extent, having them either stay put, follow you, or attack on sight, and the sheer number of different unique enemy traits was really impressive to see, especially considering they were all related to the character's personalities or what type of existence they were in-game. On the other hand, some of them are infuriating, such as Patchoulli who can explode when near death. Or the traps.
Good Lord, the number of different traps that their rate of appearance is way too damn high, especially considering they're invisible unless you use items. I literally flipped a table after being cornered by four exploding Patchi's, and then walking into a room that was 6x5 in size, only to step on twelve traps. TWELVE. IN A ROOM WITH ONLY 30 TILES. Or when I found the roaming shop and thought "Perfect! I need to heal my hunger! Let's buy some food", only to find out that instead of buying the item, I accidentally stole it. The shopkeeper was not happy. You remember that guy from "Link's awakening"? The shopkeeper that you could steal from, but re-entering the shop he would fire a laser beam at you and kill you? Yeah, the shopkeeper in Genso Wanderer is just as overpowered, and she really was not pleased when I stole from her by accident. On the third last floor. I was almost at the end :'(
Besides my painful experiences and evident lack of preparation, there were also a lot of aspects I really enjoyed. The banter between characters is what I've come to love and expect from the Touhou franchise, the weapon scaling seems more of a stat modifier than a blunt damage value, which means there's still an emphasis on strategy and planning rather than getting super lucky, you're allowed to save and quit after every floor, although you aren't allowed to return to the shrine to deposit cash, and the town and rest houses you can visit on certain floors were a really nice touch. While the game can be difficult at times, like if you walk into a "Pandemonium" room filled to the brim with enemies and traps, it wasn't so difficult that I was regretting my life choices or whipping things out a window.
Overall, Genso Wanderer is a great addition to the franchise, with lovely character, background and sprite visuals and music, solid core gameplay, and endearing character interactions. The game is neither too hard nor too easy, and there are plenty of strategy options to choose from. While definitely not perfect, there's definitely no slack in the production, resulting in a fun, if at times slightly gruelling, gaming experience for both fans and first timers for either the Touhou series or the rogue-like genre.
Sony PlayStation 4
Sony PlayStation Vita
Provided by Publisher
Article by Richard