To outsiders, the Touhou games may seem inscrutable, intimidating or just plain out of their usual wheelhouse. That’s understandable; the world and characters are a large part of what holds these games together and almost all of their market awareness. A new pair of releases (and we do mean pair; the two are even sometimes sold as a package) certainly will appeal to fans of the world, but their larger appeal may be in serving two cult-favorite genres that could use some more recent entries.
The game with top-billing, Touhou Genso Wanderer, puts its most important word at the end of its title. It’s a take on the Shiren the Wanderer formula, which has gotten more attention in the west in its licensed Mystery Dungeon forms. It has a bit of its own spin — it implements “bullets” to shoot in an homage to its danmaku past — but generally speaking, it’s a faithful genre resident ready for you to explore its roguelike dungeons.
What separates Genso Wanderer from its peers is its dedication to whimsy. It’s a genre that’s usually very serious about scrounging for items, but Wanderer gives you silly weapons to use, cooks the food you’re holding when you get burned and is flippant about your motivations for even being there. That’s paired with some truly exacting dungeons; this game isn’t even remotely easy and it’s proud of that. Still, it’s that difficulty that may prove most appealing to those who seek it out.
But don’t sleep on the other game, Touhou Double Focus, which puts its spin on the recursive action-platformer known to many as the Metroidvania. Double Focus builds its combat around switching between two characters who share one life bar, and each has a customizable loadout of attacks and items to pair with distinct movement styles. The game plays with the ideas of range and mobility, like a camera attack that damages a rectangular area a certain distance away and danmaku-inspired bosses that require quick switching between Aya’s more floaty movement and Momiji’s swifter strides. It’s a short quest without a ton of polish, but as a bonus of sorts, it can be a fun evening.
Touhou Genso Wanderer and Touhou Double Focus are available now from NIS America for PS4 and Vita. Both versions run well (which is a refreshing thing these days!), and games like these feel right at home when you’re, well, not at home.