There have been so many Touhou games releasing recently that it's hard to keep up. This time around, everyone's favourite shrine maidens and fairies are duking it out in an all-out tower defense war so get ready to battle!
You read that right; Gensokyo Defenders is a tower defense game. Thankfully, it incorporates classic elements from the Touhou series and also plays like a twin-stick shooter. The basic gameplay involves somewhat large-scale battles that consist of multiple waves that each have two phases. In the first phase, you set up traps that cost money and you earn that money by performing well in battle. The money doesn't carry over between stages so you can blow it as soon as you can afford whatever trap you want to deploy next. There's a large variety of traps so learning how to effectively use each type is a rewarding endeavour.
Where the gameplay begins to feel more like an action game is in its battle phase. During this phase, you move and aim your character around while she automatically shoots. You can also build defenses but I rarely found the time to do so due to the crowded onslaught of enemy forces. Anyway, each character has their own basic projectile attack, a couple of spell cards that use MP, and a special move known as "Last Word" that requires you to fill a meter in order to unleash. The stages get increasingly complex as they introduce new enemy types and intricate layouts so being able to stay on top of your game is challenging and ultimately satisfying. Overall, Gensokyo Defenders is an undeniably addictive blend of genres that'll keep you hooked from start to finish.
Of course, Gensokyo Defenders contains a familiar cast of Touhou characters and it's great fun watching them interact. The dialog scenes are funny and entertaining so I'm glad that the translation team retained the classic charm of the franchise. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is fantastic and full of jaunty tunes that had me tapping my toes as I played. Unfortunately, I wish the visuals matched that level of quality. Gensokyo Defenders looks decent, that's for sure. However, the interface is super-clunky and the graphics are frequently ambiguous complete with enemy bullets that are often difficult to spot. After playing for hours, I got used to the subpar presentation and HUD but that doesn't make up for the fact that they could have refined these visual aspects much more.
Gensokyo Defenders consists of two main modes: Story and Online. I couldn't find anyone online to play with but as far as I can see, you basically cooperate with others in order to clear stages which I imagine would be pretty fun. The Story mode is a single player campaign where you unlock new traps, characters, and upgrades as you progress. Doing so is super-rewarding and I found myself replaying stages with newly unlocked goodies so I could achieve all 3 stars on them. That being said, I am disappointed that there is only the one offline mode. I would have liked to see a local multiplayer mode or some sort of mini-games as well. My only other complaint is that some of the Story mode stages require trial and error to beat. Specifically, when certain enemies are introduced, you never know how they'll behave until it's too late. After learning what to do, you can try again but it is frustrating to have to do so.
Out of all the Touhou games that I've played so far, Gensokyo Defenders remains one of the best due to its unique and addictive gameplay. It's definitely rough around the edges but there's still a ton of fun to be had waging war with these charming ladies.
- + Addictive blend of tower defense and shoot 'em up gameplay
- + Awesome cast of characters and music
- + Rewarding unlockables and upgrades
- - The interface and overall visuals are very unrefined and ambiguous
- - Only has one offline mode
- - Some stages require trial and error