No genre in gaming is as love-hate as the roguelike. One second, you're kicking butt and the next, you're dead. Touhou Genso Wanderer is a love letter to the classic Mystery Dungeon series so let's see if these shrine maidens were built to survive.
If you've played any Mystery Dungeon game before then you already know how to play Touhou Genso Wanderer. For the unfamiliar, you traverse dungeons by moving along a grid and your enemies take a step whenever you do. This makes it a turn-based game that feels like it's happening in real-time. You play as the delightful Reimu Hakurei who's on a mission to figure out what happened to Rinnosuke Morichika after she haphazardly broke his treasured Golden Sphere thus transforming him into the evil Buyking. You'll run into dozens of kooky enemy types that are quite fun to challenge in battle. Thankfully, you have an arsenal of tools at your disposal. Besides weapons, you can throw or use a variety of items that can give you the upper-hand such as throwing poison or drinking a potion. Just make sure the bottles are labeled correctly!
In addition to the basic setup, you can also unleash a variety of danmaku shots that use up points. These allow you to strategically take out tough foes or swarms of enemies. For example, using a Double Barrier attacks every enemy that surrounds Reimu while a Sealing Needle can pass through multiple foes in a row and simple Yin Yang shots are good for harming distant adversaries. Taking advantage of this system is often the key to getting out of sticky situations but recharging the required points can take a while so it should be used sparingly. Overall, the mix of classic Mystery Dungeon gameplay and these danmaku shots makes for an enjoyable formula.
Besides finding items dropped from enemies and laying around dungeon floors, you can also use an innovative crafting system known as Nito Fusion. Spending Nito points allows you to combine pieces of weaponry or armour to gain new attributes or simply strengthen their base stats. This is referred to as Fusion and there is also a Mix option. Mixing grants you the opportunity to blend items and gathered materials in order to make new items. As you experiment, previously unknown recipes will unlock and it's very rewarding watching your repertoire expand. These two systems are welcome additions that'll help you amass a more competent arsenal.
As with every Touhou game, Genso Wanderer is full of adorable characters. Their charming personalities are great fun to watch unfold through the dialog sequences while the Japanese voice cast does an awesome job of fleshing out their distinct characteristics. Both allies and enemies look great while traversing the dungeons. The colourful and well-animated 2D characters are very appealing. However, the environments in which the dungeons take place are mostly bland. Even the colourful ones lack detail and have textures repeat far too often. This makes wandering from room to room feel more tedious than you'd expect.
Unfortunately, even though Genso Wanderer features helpful danmaku shots and the interesting crafting systems, it simply doesn't do enough to set itself apart from other Mystery Dungeon games. Whereas the Shiren the Wanderer series is constantly reaching new heights with every release, Genso Wanderer merely feels like a cheap substitute for the classics. One thing that I always consider when playing games that are clearly inspired by other games is that they have to form their own identity which Genso Wanderer almost accomplishes but it doesn't quite break out of the established Mystery Dungeon mold.
Another disappointing aspect of Touhou Genso Wanderer is that it allows you to grind endlessly in order to overcome difficult situations. Keep in mind that the bosses get intensely challenging which brings about another problem in the form of difficulty spikes, but I digress. If you have an item that allows you to warp back to base, you can enter the dungeon, accumulate a wealth of items, warp back, sell your unwanted stuff, and upgrade your equipment infinitely. This takes a lot of the challenge away so it shouldn't let you do it.
Touhou Genso Wanderer is a capable Mystery Dungeon game but it doesn't quite live up to its contemporaries. That being said, those who crave more classic roguelike fun after last year's phenomenal Shiren release will find a lot to love here.
- + Enjoyable roguelike Mystery Dungeon gameplay with nifty danmaku shots
- + Innovative crafting systems
- + Adorable and charming characters
- - Doesn't do much with the already established Mystery Dungeon formula
- - Allows you to endlessly grind
- - Environments are mostly bland