We've played an action RPG, a shmup fighter, a Mystery Dungeon game, and now we have a brand new 2D Metroidvania adventure. The question is; do the ladies of Touhou have what it takes to traverse a complex storybook world?
Touhou Double Focus is played by alternately controlling Aya Shameimaru and Momiji Inubashiri who get trapped in a book and must figure out how to return to Gensokyo. You can switch characters by the tap of a button and they each have their own distinct style and set of abilities that make them fun to swap between. Aya is a journalist with the attributes of a crow tengu and she can hover in mid-air, snap photos, summon tornadoes, throw newspapers, resurrect zombies to ride, conjure pillars of water to ascend, and deploy turrets manned by cute rabbit ladies. Momiji has the characteristics of a dog as she can run up walls, fit in narrow passageways, break through cracked walls, and use her dolls to trap and attack foes. Being able to alternate between these two capable chums on the fly makes the mix of exploration and combat an overall enjoyable experience.
Of course, Double Focus has a lovely cast of familiar Touhou characters that are great fun to watch interact. You'll come across many NPCs and bosses that are bursting with unique personalities. Watching them scarf down candy or fall asleep when you try and talk to them will make you at least crack a smile. The visuals during the story scenes are adorable with cute hand-drawn artwork but the visuals in-game are much less impressive. The two main detractors are that characters are very stiffly animated and environments are quite generic and bland for the most part. It pales in comparison to Konami's 1997 Metroidvania classic Symphony of the Night.
As you explore the somewhat complicated map, you'll come across a handful of different bosses and environments. You start in a castle and from then on you'll traverse a desert, a fairy tale area, a water city, and a brief creepy zone known as Bulletpad. It's not a very large world as it took me about five hours to complete it entirely and find every treasure. Speaking of which, there are tons of secrets to discover. It feels very rewarding as you uncover health upgrades, additional abilities, and even containers for Kisume to sit in. If you're lucky, you may even find a couple hidden characters to take pictures of, too.
There certainly are a lot of items and abilities in Touhou Double Focus. Unfortunately, there is a rather clunky inventory system to manage them all. Basically, you have to equip every single item or ability (even passive ones) and you only have three slots to do so. Thankfully, each character can cycle between three sets of equipment by the tap of a button. However, that doesn't change the fact that equipping stuff is a downright hassle. For starters, heal items and such should not occupy these equipment slots but they do. Also, using slots for passive abilities such as one that increases your defense seems like a good idea but then you have fewer slots for useful abilities. It quickly becomes a tedious juggling act. I wish that there was a different button combination for each useable ability, you could use items by bringing up a menu, and the slots were used for passive abilities only. That would've been perfect.
Finally, Touhou Double Focus is a very slow game. Watching Aya leisurely stroll through her journey will make anyone wish Alucard could take her place. Even Momiji running at full speed (which uses up her stamina) is rather slow. When you combine the stiff animation with this slow pace, you're looking at quite a boring exploration-based adventure.
Touhou Double Focus is a solid Metroidvania experience that's held back by its sheer mediocrity. If it had more streamlined gameplay then it would be a notable addition to the genre but at least Touhou fans can find something to love in its charming world.
- + Two distinct characters to control with their own sets of unique abilities
- + Charming story scenes and dialogue
- + Lots of secrets to discover
- - Clunky inventory system that you have to configure almost constantly
- - Slow movement makes exploration boring
- - Bland environments and stiff animation