As an already popular franchise in Japan, Touhou games are slowly coming to western shores. This second title is an action RPG set in a charming world so let's see if Gensokyo is a land worth visiting.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is an interesting game. Basically, it combines gameplay from a few genres to craft an interesting dynamic that's surprisingly addictive. You play by exploring dungeons while defeating hordes of enemies and the odd boss. You do so by mainly running around and unleashing melee attacks. Where things get interesting is in your character's skills. Before we get into that, I should mention that you can choose from two different characters: a vampire named Remilia Scarlet and her maid Sakuya Izayoi. They play almost identically with the primary difference being their skills. These are learned as you level up and you can swap them out and map them to three buttons whenever you wish. Most of the skills are similar to what you'd find in a shoot 'em up which is fitting because the enemies fire projectiles, too. Besides the skills, you can use powerful spells whenever your meter is full. Overall, the combination of RPG elements, shoot 'em up gameplay, and even platforming is implemented in a very satisfying way.
As with every Touhou game, the cast is super-charming. Although you only get to control two ladies, you'll meet plenty of bosses and helpful chums along the way who are all bursting with personality. To match the lively cast, a suitably bubbly soundtrack is included that'll have you tapping your toes as you face enemy forces. On the other end of the spectrum, the visuals really aren't that good. There are some bright and colourful areas but everything simply comes across like a PlayStation 2 game. Also, there is no voice work at all which makes the otherwise fantastic cast of characters feel emptier than you'd expect.
One thing that Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity accomplishes quite well is interesting stage design that makes exploration very satisfying. The dungeons range from simple locations with linear hallways to wide open areas with loads of branching paths. As you explore, you'll acquire a wealth of equipment that can easily turn the odds in your favour if you unearth some decent pieces. Shortly into the adventure, you'll unlock a store so you can sell all of your useless gear which is pretty cool. Upon finishing the journey, you'll gain access to a capsule toy machine that has the potential to grant you more awesome stuff. You also unlock a bonus dungeon simply named "Labyrinth".
Even though there are two characters to play as and some extra content after completion, the adventure still remains quite short. You can essentially finish the entire campaign in an evening or two which is rather brief for a JRPG. My only other complaint is that the platforming can sometimes be extremely frustrating. It's difficult to see your shadow when you jump (I'm not even sure you cast a shadow at all) so being able to judge where you land is very tricky, especially when you're jumping towards or away from the screen. Missing a platform can result in you having to traverse large portions all over again or if you fall into a pit then you lose a portion of your money which can be devastating if you have a lot of cash on hand. All of this being said, it's still a very fun game.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is a unique game for sure. If you're looking for an enjoyable and charming journey with a fun mixture of gameplay mechanics then you can't go wrong by giving it a download.
- + Addictive mix of RPG elements, platforming, and shmup-inspired gameplay
- + Charming characters and soundtrack
- + Clever stage design encourages exploration
- - Platforming can occasionally be frustrating
- - Subpar graphics and lack of voice work
- - An overall short adventure