Game Title: Touhou Genso Wanderer
Developer: Aqua Style, NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
Availability: Digital Download (Europe, North America)
PSTV Support: Yes
Touhou is a franchise I’m a tad familiar with. Years back, I was playing a user-created RPG Maker game when I came across this amazing battle theme music that I thought was incredible. I looked it up, finding out that it was called U.N. Owen Was Her and is associated with a character from Touhou Project known as Flandre Scarlet. Afterwards, I looked further and further into the franchise, finding an overwhelmingly deep set of games, lore, and more.
I recently reviewed Touhou: Double Focus for the PS Vita, though my first Touhou game was one of the Touhoumon games, made with an altered version of the Pokemon GBA Roms. So, even with Double Focus out and about, my Touhou RPG itch really wasn’t scratched. But in game this other game that released the same day as Double Focus.
So here is my review of the PS Vita and PSTV version of Touhou: Genso Wanderer!
Our story takes place in the land of Gensokyo, where the Shrine Maiden Reimu encounters an unfortunate event as a strange magical orb turns her friend into a magic-powered super-villain set on cloning the inhabitants of the world and taking it over from a giant tower that the orb’s power creates. After a hopeless attempt of resistance, Reimu must traverse the land of Gensokyo, make her way to the tower, and stop him, if she can.
The story of Genso Wanderer is a hundred times more serious and proper than Double Focus. Everything is as serious as a normal JRPG would with a cast of characters from the serious Reimu to her many companions she picks up on her journey. The game also does an amazing job at setting up and teaching you lore for the Touhou franchise. In fact, you could say they do too good of a job.
By too good of a job, I mean there’s way too much lore thrown at you everywhere you go. Every time you find a town, each individual shopkeeper gives you a 5-10 minute backstory of their life, followed by Reimu’s strict and serious personality trying to learn and then her companions coming in with the usual comic relief that inevitably derails the entire conversation for another few minutes more. Don’t get me wrong, though. I love how far they went, but we don’t need 10 minutes of lore for every single shopkeeper all at the start, all at once. It’s a bit overkill.
Genso Wanderer is a game that will bring back memories of Shiren the Wanderer and Sorcery Saga. Just like those games, it is a turn-based rogue RPG rich in grid-like dungeon exploration, being punished upon dying, and lots and lots of difficulty curves. If you recall either of those games, you know what you’re in for, and then some.
Genso Wanderer progresses from Reimu’s Shrine at the base of the mountains in Gensokyo. You then travel through dungeons and towns as break points as you constantly move and travel towards the tower where the Final Boss resides. It’s a pretty simple premise, though actually getting there is another story.
In rogue fashion, you traverse various floors of dungeons that are generated randomly, so you never know what kind of difficulty or mob numbers you’re dealing with. Your goal is to get through that dungeon’s floors and to the next town where you can resupply, enhance your characters and items, rest, and move onto the next dungeon. You can save anywhere, though, so there’s not a massive feeling of constant danger, unless you get hit by a really by random floor, like the Cornered Battle floors where you need to be OP to survive.
Navigating dungeons is just like Shiren and Sorcery. You walk around on a tile-based map and for every movement you do, every enemy on the map takes 1 movement step. Once enemies come close to you, it turns into a game of guessing enemy movement and moving accordingly to get your enemy close enough to attack before they can attack you, be it hiding in a narrow passage to not get overwhelmed or simply luring them towards your mage ally so they can take them out for you.
As you travel up, you start gaining experience, levels, and picking up items and equipment. This is all good and fun, but the final bit of depth is the Tummy Gauge. You lose stamina as you go and if you lose all of your stamina, you will collapse, so you’ve got to use items to heal your HP but also eat food to restore stamina. And when you have dungeons that are 10+ floors a piece, having supplies ready is a must.
Preparation is also key because of the biggest challenge aspects about rogue RPGs: Dying. If you die, you will be reset to the very bottom of the entire game, back at the Shrine and have to re-climb up every single floor to where you were before. Although you do not lose all of your items if you die (which is a blessing compared to other Rogues), you will have all of your progress reset and have to re-climb dungeons.
This also coincides with the difficulty spikes. As you find towns between dungeons, you’ll be spending a lot of time upgrading, resupplying, and just re-preparing for what’s ahead. The game’s difficulty spikes and it spikes very quickly. When I first ran through and found the first dungeon to be very easy on a run, I headed to the 2nd and got completely destroyed by a single normal mob enemy. Not upgrading and re-preparing at the many types of shops in towns is an easy way to die and have to completely start over. It may be an Action RPG, but the biggest aspect is Strategy.
As far as time goes, it’s a time sink. A HUGE time-sink. Across learning the game, the mass amount of story and gameplay content, you’ll probably be spending at least 70 hours playing this game, probably more if you go for optional content as well. A lot of people wonder if there was a reason to justify the $50 price tag, and the fact that it’s a 70+ hour game is definitely the reason. Maybe that’s still not real justification for charging that much for a PS Vita game, but it’s there.
First of all, I am glad to say that Genso Wanderer is compatible with the PlayStation TV. No special controls here, but at least it works on the micro-console, unlike Double Focus. And if you watch my video review, I’m extremely glad because it gave me a reason to put in UN Owen was Her as background music for one of my reviews.
Controls are pretty simple. The D-Pad is used for movement, while the Left Analog Stick doesn’t do a thing. The Right Stick can cycle the skills you can use with the L trigger, though. You’ve then got the R trigger that allows you to dash in stages to cover distances much faster than normal.
Now, the face buttons. X lets you attack while holding down the Square button lets you change the direction you’re facing. Triangle brings up the customization menu, and Circle is the same as R with letting you dash.
It’s pretty simple if you’re used to Rogues and the game does a nice job with the tutorial dungeon in explaining everything to you.
There’s nothing bad about the game’s graphics. The environments and the lively character models all look perfect. It’s all in 2D, but it just looks great. The only thing that doesn’t look great is the map. Instead of having a mini-map as you progress dungeon you can toggle, the entire map is on-screen at all times. When you get a more complex map, it easily starts to cover up your screen. You can’t turn it off, only move it, so it’s a massive hindrance on looking at your surroundings.
Music fits the Touhou scene very well. The game doesn’t have all of everyone’s favorite Touhou songs, but it’s got plenty to really fit the tone of the game and the Touhou Lore, itself.
Performance is great. No complaints there. Load times are short. FPS drops don’t happen at all. It’s optimized extremely well.
In conclusion, Touhou: Genso Wanderer is great for fans of Touhou and those looking to broaden their knowledge on all of its lore. It’s not perfect, considering there’s a bit too much story explanation and the mini-map is a giant frustration on larger maps. But a rogue fan simply can’t argue with 70+ hours of content in a well-optimized Vita game. It may even be worth the full price of $50 USD that NISA is charging.