Review: Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity


Gives fan games a bad name

Usually, when we talk about fan games here on Destructoid, it means Nintendo just shut one down. But not every company is against fans using its properties to create their own games. In fact, some encourage it. Take Team Shanghai Alice. Its Touhou Project series of bullet-hell shooters has been going for 20 years, and in that time it's been the basis for hundreds of fan projects.

One of those projects is Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity. Developed by Ankake Spa, this game was to be my introduction into the Touhou universe. After spending several hours with it, I can say with certainty that it isn't the game to get me into the series. In fact, it kind of makes me never want to try another Touhou game again.

Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity (PS4)
Developer: Ankake Spa
Publisher: Xseed Games
Release: September 20, 2016 (US)
MSRP: $19.99

Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is billed as a "bullet-hell inspired action RPG" and it really doesn't do any of those things well. It's a bad action game, it's a mediocre RPG, and it's a terrible bullet-hell. You play as either Sakuya or Remilia as you investigate the appearance of a giant monster near town. Though I am unfamiliar with all of these characters, I was able to clearly follow the narrative of this quaint story. There are callbacks to previous incidents in the series, but they're only mentioned in passing and didn't deter my understanding of what was happening from scene to scene. What nearly did deter me was just how boring it is.

The "action" in this action RPG is simple and repetitive. There's one button you press repeatedly for your lone combo and three buttons that can be assigned either a skill – which can be used often and causes some damage – or a spell – which can be used once per charge and does a lot of damage. In my playthrough, neither the skills nor spells got much use. The most effective combat method I found was just running up to the small variety of enemies and spamming my combo, taking any damage they threw my way. Because there are so many health refills throughout each instantly forgettable level, I never had to worry about dying.

In fact, the only times I did die was during the boss battles and that's just because I got careless. These fights against other characters from the Touhou universe are just as easy as every other battle in the game because there is one button that pretty much breaks the difficulty. It's the jump button.

The draw of bullet-hell shooters is memorization of patterns and nimble maneuvering of your vessel around a seemingly impassable barrage of bullets. That's why people spend hours mastering these games. Imagine if, with the press of a button, you could just fly over all of those bullets? Suddenly, the name bullet-hell wouldn't apply anymore. That's what the jump button is here. Boss battles will have the Touhou girls sending out intermittent waves of projectiles, and instead of carefully avoiding these shots, I was able to jump over most of them. Were there some I couldn't? Sure, but those were still easily avoidable on the ground.

There really isn't anything positive I can say about this game, outside of a few choice spots of interesting art direction. The level design is dull, the platforming is simplistic, the graphics look a few generations old, the RPG elements are basic, the music is forgettable, the enemies are pushovers, the difficulty is turned all the way to easy – I'm honestly at a loss for words. I would like to think I have this amazing vocabulary to intelligently convey just how abominable Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is, but the best I can come up with is just calling it bad. This is a bad, bad game.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity reviewed by CJ Andriessen



Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by a plethora of issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.
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CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenFeatures Editor   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games. more + disclosures



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