Before we dive into the review, here’s a quick bit of background for those that may not know. The Touhou series began twenty years ago as a budget indie bullet hell title in Japan, and, over the years, managed to grow into quite a phenomenon. There are now over a dozen official games, but there are hundreds of fan games, thousands of fan comics, and even a handful of professional anime episodes to name a few.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been until this year that we began seeing officially English translated Touhou titles, and, rather than the official PC bullet hell games, we’re actually getting a few fan games that fall into a variety of different genres while still exploring the fan favorite characters.
Having recently finished up Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, it’s time to share our thoughts on the title. Will fans of the popular series enjoy this attempt at blending a few genres, or will it fall flat?
The title stars Remilia Scarlet, a mighty vampire, and Sakuya, her loyal maid. Over the course of five hundred years, Remilia has found herself growing quite bored with life. She just happens to learn of a monster residing in a nearby lake, and decides that attempting to completely destroy it may provide a bit of entertainment for her.
Things don’t turn out quite as she expected when she arrived at the lake, however, as the monster was not around. Instead, it had apparently decided to launch an assault on her place at the same time.
Arriving back home to see everything in ruins, Remilia isn’t very upset. Indeed, she actually seems quite happy, as she now has an actual purpose.
Throughout the story, plenty of Touhou characters gain screen time, and the way all are brought together through the mystery of the giant beast honestly leads to an entertaining story. Unfortunately, newcomers may feel a bit lost, as the game doesn’t really do any world building or explaining, being geared towards existing fans.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is a 3D dungeon crawling game with some light action combat in which you fight enemies, level up, and get new skills and equipment. The title implements a fun loot system that grants gear from both chests and enemies, but it feels like there are so few items in the game that the system ultimately goes to waste.
The two characters, Remilia and Sakuya, both utilize different kinds of weapons which you will only find in their respective campaigns, but, as time passed and I approached the end of each story, I had only found maybe six different weapons for each. The weapons and other items themselves add in slightly different stats, but the system feels like it could have done so much more.
As you level your characters, you will gain a large number of different skills to utilize, as well as a handful of powerful magic spells. You are limited to three slots, but there is quite a bit of nuance to the various skill properties that add some depth to combat. A skill that has been designed to simply be a dash-dodge that dishes out no damage can instead be transformed into a powerful lunge attack if you time your attack right before activating the skill.
The sheer number of skills and their properties helps grant you a lot of room to play however you wish, though it can feel a bit slow at first as you begin to unlock them.
Though the game is a dungeon crawler, those looking for the bullet hell charm shouldn’t be too disappointed. The powerful but limited spell system feels like the bomb attacks, and you will even encounter proper projectile attacks throughout the game. Fairies, for example, will fire off the same fast series of bullets, orbs, and stars, and the bosses also refuse to hold back. This leads to exchanging physical blows one second and attempting to dodge screen-filling projectile assaults the next.
The bullet hell portions honestly help show how dedicated the developers were in remaining true to the original titles.
The combat can be pretty simple if you wish, just mashing attack and dodging, but mixing up and experimenting with the different skills helps add a reason to do more than just running in, mashing attack, and proceeding to dodge.
Graphics and sound
The Touhou series has always been known for iconic, intense music and Touhou: Scarlet Curiousity is an exception at times. Though there are quite a few tracks that are extremely nice, but there are also some that are extremely solemn and clash with the on-screen action.
In terms of visuals, both character models and environments appeared to be something you would expect to see on PlayStation 2, however the lighting is quite nice, featuring a realistic glow and shine with glowing projectiles giving off vivid sparks.
When all’s said and done, Touhou: Scarlet Curiousity likely won’t draw in too many new fans, but fans of the series will likely enjoy the 12 hour (each character’s story lasted around 5, then there’s post-game content) adventure. It is a shame that some things, such as the looting system, were polished a bit more, but it’s still a fun little title.
Final Score: 3.5/5