There are many, many ways in which one can describe the Touhou games: weird, violent, dark, funny, quirky, etc. But the foremost thing that jumps out at me about the series is just how diverse it is. Double Focus, Genso Rondo Bullet Ballet, and Genso Wanderer are such dramatically different games and appeal to such different audiences that they may not even be part of the same series (although Touhou diehards will take it all). Touhou Genso Wanderer differs from its predecessors in being the most accessible game in the series to date. It’s a semi-turn-based roguelike dungeon crawler much in the same vein as The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon, which should please newcomers to both the roguelike genre as well as those just jumping the Touhou wagon.
While the gameplay itself is easy to pick up and understand, the story of Touhou Genso Wanderer is anything but.
It’s nothing you can’t figure out on your own but even as a long time series fan, I found myself revisiting wikis to remind myself of things that this game requires you to remember to fully understand. The gist of it is that your friend accidentally touches a dark artifact, turns evil, and conjures up a tower in the middle of the town that you have to climb to knock sense back into him. Along the way you meet a few other characters and engage with them in visual novel-esque story bits that run on for way too long. having a story this prosaic and intrusive is rare (and annoying) for a dungeon crawler but the amount of paragraphs this game takes to explain ideas that shouldn’t take more than a single sentence is just absurd, and frankly, not something I expect to see in a game that doesn’t have “Neptunia” in its title in some way.
As with any roguelike worth its salt, your primary gameplay loop revolves around keeping your character alive. The longer you survive, the better. However, unlike other games in the genre, this doesn’t just involve combat prowess, but also eating food to keep your “tummy” meter filled up. You can switch out gear and equipment for each member of your party, and doing so is crucial to survival and you acquire more and better loot. There’s also a crafting mechanic called “fusion” where you can combine items to produce stronger items.
Much like the rest of the game, it’s fairly easy to pick up and understand but proper usage thereof is crucial to doing well here.
Combat in Touhou Genso Wanderer is a semi-turn-based affair that takes place on a grid. Similar to Superhot and last year’s Rogue Wizards, you and your enemies take turns moving tile-by-tile until you get close and can attack. You can attack them normally, or use your special attack that consume a mana bar. You also earn XP and level up during each run but death causes you to lose money and XP while retaining your items. So, for instance, if you were using an overpowered sword just before you died, you’ll still have it on your next run to help you easily plough through the early game to get where you left off. It’s a great system, and it quells a lot of the frustration that games like The Binding of Isaac bring with them.
Touhou Genso Wanderer isn’t going to be a game-changer for anyone who doesn’t like JRPGs, roguelikes, or the Touhou games, but a net that wide means a lot of people will probably find value here. And find value, they should, because as unremarkable as Genso Wanderer is, it’s also a rock-solid game with addicting mechanics (once the story gets out of the way). My one minor nitpick with the game is how zoomed in the camera is. The chibi characters look way too big for the environments they inhabit. It works in practice but looks strange on a big screen since this game was clearly designed for handhelds. This means the PS Vita is where Touhou Genso Wanderer really shines. NIS America is one of the few publishers out there still supporting the Vita so if you happen to own both platforms, go for a handheld. PS4 owners, if you feel a hankering for a good dungeon crawl, Touhou Genso Wanderer might be exactly what you need right now.
Touhou Gensou wanderer was reviewed on PS4 and PS Vita using codes provided by NIS America.