Touhou is a franchise I’m only mildly familiar with, having only played the eighth game, Imperishable Night. However, even I still know two things. 1. The music is always amazing and 2. ZUN art is the best art. That said, I’ve always wanted to play more of the games and my wish was granted. We got not one but three announced this year for western releases. That’s kind of nuts. This particular game is a fan created one, instead of an official release from Team Shanghai Alice. As such it’s a bit different from your standard Touhou games. Even so, don’t discount it, this is Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity.
For those of you who don’t know, the Touhou series is basically several Danmaku or “Bullet Hell” games. The catch though is that while in other games the bullets just seem to swarm you, Touhou goes one step further with very artistic and beautiful patterns. Not only are these visually stunning, but they also allow players to easily see the open spots so they can dodge… in theory. That’s kind of the beauty of the game itself. It’s easy to learn, but difficult to master. What may seem like a simple pattern to move around, may not be as easy as you think. Sometimes the answer is as simple as to just sit there. We’ll get to that, but first let me explain the premise.
The game features two characters, Remilia Scarlet and Sakuya Izayoi. Each character hailing from Touhou 6: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. Remilia is a vampire and master of her mansion and Sakuya her loyal maid. Remilia plays at night and attacks with several close but powerful attacks, can glide, and also as a really nifty diving attack that saved me quite a bit. Sakuya instead plays day stages, uses knives, and can stop time. So both play a bit differently. This game also is a bit different from regular Touhou games as it’s more akin to a roguelike. Where you visit a dungeon that has several rooms in it. Each with its own enemies and chests. The maps didn’t feel random, but the areas are huge. It’s important to search around though as you’ll find items in chests including new weapons and armor. These can be swapped out at any time and even equipment with the same name, can have slightly different stats. Let’s move onto combat though and you’ll see why this is important.
The game uses a top down view, but you can jump. This is your greatest friend in staying alive. Enemies attack with bullets, just like in the mainline Touhou games. So dodging them becomes easier when you can just leap over them. Combat basically plays out using a strategy of hit and away. Close in, strike, and get out before the counter attack goes off. If not, you’ll be too close to dodge most likely. In addition to your regular attack, you also have two special attack slots. I say slots, because like equipment, you can change which attacks you use. These attacks do have a cost associated with them and will drain your SP. In addition, you have one slot for a much stronger area special, which ate the equivalent of your bombs in this game. Utilizing this can get you out of danger and neutralize enemy shots. Picking the right attack for the right situation is important, but sometimes you just need to know when to run as well.
This is actually what I did for a lot of the demo as thankfully I was already around level 8 and had some good equipment. Due to the size of the areas I decided to just go hunting for the boss. Remember how I mentioned jumping around was a lifesaver? It really comes in handy if you need to head to a specific area quickly as you can bypass a lot of the enemies and bullets with it. Just be careful as there are platforming sections and you can fall into the water and take damage. Thankfully you respawn close to the jump. The area I played was the Lost Bamboo Forest and had no map (you are supposed to be lost after all, other stages will have one), but eventually I made my way to the boss, Wriggle Nightbug from Touhou 8: Imperishable Night.
Wriggle was an early boss in that game and the same holds here. However, that doesn’t mean she’s easy. You do need to be careful and time your dodges. Then she uses her spell card (Touhou terminology for the Danmaku attacks that utilize patterns) and you may freak out a bit. The key to victory was very simple though. Just stand still and jump in place, landing between waves of the attacks. I must have taken quite a bit of damage running around trying to dodge, but really that jump button was a life saver. Still after some healing I managed to get the best of her as Remilia. I also tried the stage as Sakuya and was able to come out victorious again now that I knew what to do. So what are my final thoughts?
I’m actually quite like Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity. While it’s not a mainline game, it does pay homage to a lot of its elements. That does include the music. In particular I was able to pick out Wriggle’s theme during her fight. The music itself has more of a piano flare to it and is a little more relaxed, but fits the game very well. If you like roguelikes, I think this will be a good pick for you and if you’re a Touhou fan I do recommend giving it a try.