Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded (Switch) Review – Rebooted Mediocrity
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Aqua Style
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 17th June 2018
Touhou, what started as a little one-man project, quickly became one of the biggest eastern franchises to date, boasting 16 main game entries alone. However, the true meat consists of the dozens of side titles, either in form of Scarlet Curiosity which was recently brought to Steam by XSEED or … NIS America´s Touhou Genso Wanderer. After launching on Vita and PS4 to mild success, it´s back in a reloaded variant, this time for Switch as well.
As many other ones, we´re experiencing the story from the eyes of maiden Reimu, who has to save the world once again from a mysterious power. This time, a cursed golden orb, able to turn her friends into foes and summoning armies of darkness. So she battles through dungeons and more dungeons, slowly gathering the other maidens, to put an end to the ever-growing danger.
In other words, Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is a pretty classic dungeon crawler with roguelike elements. Reimu has to either escape or descend them to battle the dark foes summoned by the orb and that´s about it. Who played one of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles will almost know exactly how this one plays out: Every action is turn-based, so for every move Reimu does, the AI enemies can do one as well. Naturally, fights are turn-based as well, making encounters with more enemies a way bigger challenge than anticipated, due to the fact they can easily surround and follow you. What´s the most surprising about all this though is the fact how there aren’t many bullet-hell elements forcefully integrated into it, like in so many other titles, which I´m a pretty big fan of.
Otherwise, the base gameplay is really nothing outstanding. Tthe combat works with its different status elements and all that basic stuff. It´s neat to have the option to skip long hallways on a button press. Only the “tummy meter” can be described as somewhat innovative. Besides the classic health bar, this one serves as an indicator of how fast your HP refill by travelling the dungeon. If your tummy is empty though, various debuffs are applied as well as a stopped regeneration. As a result, consumable items have to be balanced between typical health potions and food to keep your maiden alive and happy. Too few foods can end in having to consume all healing potions to keep the HP high or vice versa. Already seen in other games but cool nonetheless.
What´s probably the biggest curse of dungeon crawlers like Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is their heavy reliance on procedural generation of the dungeons, since they have to differ every time you die. Although it makes development and designs a lot easier, the whole difficulty inevitably suffers greatly. It´s not uncommon to have some super easy layers followed up by nearly unbeatably hard ones, which then end in crazily absurd constructions. Often success seems more reliant on luck than anything else, besides having an inconsistent structure and design.
Yet, what´s the biggest problem with this new instalment, is basically everything around the dungeon crawling. On the one hand, the story and characters aren´t interesting or at least way too bloated for their own good. When dungeons are interrupted by sometimes minute-long banters about nothing, simply to showcase the cute shrine maidens, me, as a mediocre Touhou fan can´t really get any value from that. Maybe big fans will enjoy the long slice-of-life sections but I definitely didn´t. Especially when “important” story revelations occur, they don´t stop, making it seem like the game doesn´t even care about the main plot. Combined with the really wooden translation at many points, nothing really feels enjoyable about this experience.
On the other hand, the Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded isn´t that pretty nor good to play. While the 2D art style mixed with the dungeon design can be appealing at times, it takes some time until you´re used to it. Given, even though I always saw the environments as generic, the sprites look pretty good. Sadly, once one opens up the menus, it becomes evident how unbelievable clunky everything´s structured. From the inventory, consisting of a mere list and tons of text, to the clunky equipment screen … there´s just so much text, tiny symbols and weird things going on here. At times, I didn´t know where I was in all the menus. This may very well be the thing which robbed the most fun from me.
So what´s left? A pretty mediocre but decent dungeon crawler with sometimes annoying stuff taped on top of it, like the terrible menu or confusing level structure. Mixed with the way too long chattery dialogues, there isn´t a whole lot to love except the working base gameplay. In the end, I had some fun but doubt that anyone would want to pay the asked 40 bucks for this disappointing experience.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]