I’m usually not one for the “pure” Roguelike or Mystery Dungeon genre, I’ll admit this. But every once in awhile a game comes along that I can’t stop playing in those aforementioned genres.
…It figures that it would be a Touhou themed game is one of those.
Also available on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4/5
More on this addictive dungeon crawler full of cute girls after the jump.
-So, “Pure” Roguelikes, or “Mystery Dungeons” as they’re called in Japan are essentially turn based dungeon crawler RPGs. The way it works is you explore a large, randomly generated dungeon full of loot and enemies. Every time you act, be it attacking or taking a step, all the enemies in the dungeon will do the same. This means it’s all about thinking and planning, since time essentially only moves when you do. There is no transition to a battle sequence when you run into enemies, you fight them on the map itself, which also means placement and positioning is a major factor in combat. The objective of course, is to reach the end of the dungeon, defeat the boss (if one is present), and do it all over again whether you win or lose. What sets Genso Wanderer apart from other games of this type is a few things I’ll be going into: A more forgiving approach to dungeon crawling where you can feel a sense of progression even if you lose, and of course the Touhou cast and storyline which makes for a mostly lighthearted, enjoyable romp.
The initial premise of Genso Wanderer is dealing with a strange tower that has appeared at the site of a merchant’s store, with said merchant having suddenly gone from humble, friendly shopkeep to evil overlord. Reimu is of course hesitant to do anything about it, being the lazy priestess she is. But when clones of everyone the game’s world of Gensokyo begin to indiscriminately attack anyone and everyone, and weather becomes increasingly sporadic and unstable on top of all that, she’s no longer able to ignore the situation, forced to deal with it so she can return to her ideal lazy life. Yes, Reimu’s reasons for being a hero may be selfish as opposed to selfless, but at least she’s doing her job, I guess?
Now, if you aren’t familiar with Touhou’s storyline, it should be noted that there is some tonal dissonance to be found. The idea is that Gensokyo is a world that exists separate, yet alongside the world humans, divided by a barrier known as the Great Hakurei Barrier, which is maintained by the life of the current Hakurei Shrine Maiden, Reimu in this case. Gensokyo was created to be a paradise where Yokai could live freely, as there was no place for them in modern human society, which is at an advanced “Near Future” state. Gensokyo on the other hand is more akin to the Japan of olden days, with vast roaming countryside, rice fields, and villages instead of massive cities. That said, humans do live in Gensokyo, but are widely out numbered by the Yokai. While some Yokai are friendly with humans, others are less so: with Reimu’s job being to exterminate them if they cause trouble. That said, despite the nature of Gensokyo and how it’s often presented in its lore writing as being a realm of yokai that terrorize and prey upon outnumbered humans, it is hardly a grimdark setting, being far more lighthearted and comical for the most part. While serious things do happen in Gensokyo (Typically called “Incidents”) that Reimu has to fix, battles to the death, and death in particular: just typically don’t happen. Even with all the talk of how yokai eat humans, it never tends to actually happen in Touhou storylines themselves, and Genso Wanderer is no exception. In fact, very few characters in Touhou canon are full on evil. In most cases antagonists become friends of (or at least mildly tolerated by) Reimu after she beats them silly.
Genso Wanderer does take some creative liberties, but if anything I think they just help in creating Aquastyle’s own take on Gensokyo and help make it more distinct. Certain characters make much more use of advanced technology from the human world (as per their lore), and many characters who exist as one off boss fights in Touhou canon get expanded roles and purpose in Aquastyle’s take on the setting. It also goes a bit off the script compared to canon Touhou in giving us an actual flat out evil antagonist that is definitely NOT going to be friends with Reimu when she beats them up: though this antagonist ends up not being the central focus of the game since they are dealt with relatively early on. Genso Wanderer is content to keep the story mostly lighthearted with plenty of moments, humorous and sweet, but still maintaining a sense of urgency, but it’s usually less of a “I need to save the world” thing and more of a “This is cutting into Reimu’s precious nap time” thing. Key word: USUALLY. There are definitely some more serious moments to be had in the storyline where there’s real stakes involved. That said, if you enjoy Touhou? You will find plenty of love for it in the storyline here, with plenty of Touhou’s characters present and providing their own charm to the overall presentation.
Ironically, despite the credits rolling upon completing the titular “Tower of Desire” (from the Japanese game title), your adventure has only just begun upon this point, as an additional series of stories revolving around Reimu as well as several of her acquaintances will open up afterward, so don’t think you’re done just because you conquered the Tower for the first time! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We need to talk about HOW one conquers the seemingly insurmountable tower.
As I mentioned, this is a Mystery Dungeon game, so there’s certain rules involved that one needs to be aware of that are always present:
-You begin every Dungeon at Level 1. Any experience you earned on your last Dungeon run, win or lose, is lost at the end! Unless otherwise specified, you are allowed to bring equipment with you however.
-If you die in a dungeon, you lose all the money you’re carrying on your person. That said, any money you store in your Shrine’s donation box is safe!
-There are multiple ways to “Retreat” from a Dungeon. If you use one of these methods, it is considered a loss on your record, but you do not suffer the penalties of dying: IE your money comes back with you!
That said, there are a lot of dungeons in Genso Wanderer, and they may include additional rules and modifiers to shake things up. These can include
-You are not allowed to bring items with you, and have to beat the dungeon using only what you find in it!
-Items in the Dungeon are Unknown, meaning you have to use a means of identification to learn what they do: this can be using a special device I’ll explain later, using a consumable that identifies the item, or just…Equipping/using it. Though the last option may not always be the best…Drinking a medicine only to find out it’s poison, for example.
Now, some good news if this is your first time in a dungeon crawler of this type: Genso Wanderer does have an extensive tutorial that explains all of the game’s specifics, from the basics of dungeon crawling to the items and mechanics that are exclusive to Genso Wanderer. So regardless of your level of experience in this genre, the game will teach you everything you need to know about conquering its many challenges. For the sake of the review, I’ll try to sum up the unique elements of Genso Wanderer as best I can:
-You can’t dungeon crawl on an Empty Stomach! Your Tummy stat determines how well you’re fighting off your hunger. It’s consumed when performing any action, this includes waiting (passing on your turns, essentially) to heal yourself over time. If your Tummy runs out, every action you take will now cost HP instead! Food and Medicine will restore Tummy, letting you keep going. This means Food is always important, so always bring some with or have a means to make it in the Dungeons themselves.
-Every playable character has 4 Danmaku (A sort of magic) abilities at their disposal that cost P. What is P? Power? Who knows. It can be found lying around in dungeons, and enemies may also drop it upon defeat. Danmaku can range from simple long range shots to AOE effects, summoning allies, it all depends on who you play as, since Genso Wanderer has a pretty big cast to choose from.
-Most Dungeons allow you to bring a Partner along. Partners can use equipment just like you can, and have their own unique abilities, such as buffs, heals, and attacks, all varying depending on who you bring with you. More Partners are unlocked as you complete various storylines. Even playable characters can be Partners! (Though you can’t use the same person as a Player AND Partner at the same time)
-Virtually any item in the game can be picked up and thrown, giving use to even “bad” items. Find a bottle of poisonous medicine? You can throw it at an enemy to poison them.
-Talismans are a common consumable that can be combined into stacks of 9 of the same type. Talismans can be used as an item to throw an individual one at an enemy, with the effect depending on the Talisman. Some do damage, some cause debuffs, some may provide *useful* effects to an enemy which means you normally don’t want to use them, and there’s some that are instead used on yourself for beneficial effects. Throwing a Talisman instead of Using it will throw the entire stack, causing the entire stack’s effects to all go off at once, IE, throwing a stack of 9 Lightning Talismans does the damage of all 9 at the same time.
-Spellcards are powerful single use items that have a wide variety of effects: They can put all enemies on a floor to sleep, damage everything in the current room, strengthen equipment, or completely change the layout of a floor and add a ton of enemies. Like Talismans, some are good, some are bad.
-Equipment levels up as you defeat enemies with it. Unlike yourself, your equipment levels *ARE* preserved between runs. Most of the equipment in the game evolves into new forms and may gain new beneficial effects at certain level thresholds.
-Equipment can come with built in Abilities, and may also have Seal Slots, additional “Sockets” you can place Seals into which can add even more effects: Such as extra damage or healing to weapons, and additional effect resistances into armors and accessories.
-Shortly into the game, you will gain access to a special device called Nito Fusion which allows you to craft items using raw materials and Nitori Points, which can be found throughout the dungeons you explore. This means as long as you have the right materials on hand, you can whip up a healing item or a spell card at a moment’s notice. Particularly helpful if you don’t have the item on hand itself, as you can carry as many materials as you want, but have a limited number of non material item slots for everything else. Nito Points can also be spent to identify unknown items, but the cost to identify increases the more you use it, only resetting to base costs at the end of a dungeon run. The Nito Fusion can also deconstruct items to get Points and raw materials. It gains more functions as you play through the game that will aid you in making stronger equipment too! This is arguably the most important item in the game, though some dungeons may limit what functions you can use, or not allow you to use Nito Fusion at all!
-Gaps are useful items that can hold other items, essentially making them a sort of Bag of Holding. That said, only Preserve Gaps allow you to freely place and remove items. Other Gaps require the Gap to be broken by throwing it into a wall before you can retrieve what’s inside.
-Every enemy has their own unique behavior and abilities. Some may attack from afar. Some may warp you elsewhere. Some may steal items from you or even destroy them! Getting Seals or Abilities on equipment to negate all these negative effects will be a long term goal to be able to safely conquer any dungeon that allows bringing in your own gear.
So, Dungeon crawls aren’t just a nonstop Dungeon run until the end all the time. Most (but not all) Dungeons in Genso Wanderer do contain Rest Points that may contain merchants you can buy items from, or allow you to spend money to heal yourself to full HP and Tummy. Usually a merchant in these areas will also sell the “Return” spell card which allows you to freely warp back to your home base without losing the money you’ve picked up. Some rest areas also offer additional services such as equipment upgrades and modification: And typically once you reach a Rest Point, you can use it as your starting point on future dungeon runs…Albeit at the cost of being Level 1 when you arrive. This is part of what I like about Genso Wanderer though: You aren’t required to conquer a dungeon in a single attempt where everything just happens to go right. You can fight your way up to the first rest point of a dungeon: Sell off any items and equipment you don’t need for money, buy a Return Spellcard to warp back to base, and deposit the earnings and any useful items you do want to keep for future runs but won’t be using immediately, such as extra food/medicine or equipment you may use in later Fusion projects.
As I mentioned before, while your first goal is to conquer the Tower of Desire, things hardly end at that point. Once you’ve finally gotten your equipment strong enough and have all the items you deem necessary to conquer the Tower of Desire, the game truly begins (despite the credits rolling). More challenges and dungeons, primary and optional, will open up for Reimu to challenge. And on top of that, you will also find additional storylines you can play involving characters other than Reimu, with the ability to use these characters anywhere (not just their storyline) after that character’s own storyline is completed.
It’s not just Reimu’s “friends” that have new adventures waiting for them after you finish the first part of Reimu’s story either: Reimu herself has several stories to contend with on her own beyond the Tower, ranging from testing an amusement park (Full of dungeons of course, many with their own unique rules and gimmicks!) and dealing with the Tower’s lower levels that extend into Gensokyo’s sprawling Underworld, and a final confrontation that I’ll just let you see for yourself. But even after you finish what is considered the actual final boss of the main storyline, there’s still a ridiculous amount of content for dungeon crawling addicts!
Beyond the game’s story based dungeons, a ridiculous number of optional dungeons also exist, some being sub-stories, some being for farming items and getting gear EXP, and some being purely for the challenge, with a massive dungeon in the Theme Park being considered the game’s final challenge: It’s over 100 floors and will feature upgraded versions of bosses you’ve faced throughout the game! Long story short, if you’re here for the dungeon crawling, you will find a LOT of it in Genso Wanderer Reloaded.
I think what I enjoy most about Genso Wanderer, and what I mentioned before: Is that it gives you a sense of progression in most cases, even if you can’t finish the current story dungeon. You can still make your gear stronger and find items to help you out, win or lose, and can always take on other optional dungeons (After you finish the Tower for the first time anyway) to find new gear that may help you. Then you have the Nito Fusion system on top of it, which will let you further strengthen gear and potentially craft new, even stronger gear from it. This is very much a Mystery Dungeon for people who want to feel like they’re getting somewhere, even if they aren’t beating the current dungeon they’re on.
That said, this does mean the game can get particularly grindy at later points, especially the late and endgame where you’ll be levelling up gear to use as material for advanced Nito Fusion upgrades so you can make your gear even better and take on increasingly tough challenges.
On the plus side of this, even though your own character will always begin at Level 1, your gear maintains levels, and you can customize it with Abilities and Seals to give it all kinds of useful extra effects on both the offensive and defensive side. This essentially means your “character build” is based on the equipment you use, so you still have a very satisfying form of customization and building, although there is admittedly a meta a lot of players tend to fall into for being so good. It’s kind hard to say no to being able to hit multiple enemies, each multiple times in a single swing, with HP being healed for every hit you land on top of it.
That said, Mystery Dungeon/Roguelike Purists will feel right at home in one of the late game Dungeon types: Wells. Well type Dungeons are unique in that you are not allowed to bring anything with you. No weapons, no armor, no Nito Fusion materials. You are only allowed to make use of what you find in the dungeon, and you have to get through it alive in some shape or form in order to keep what you’ve found in it. They’re the purest form of the Mystery Dungeon crawl, and definitely something you can spend a lot of time doing once you unlock them if you enjoy the thrill of the unknown.
Now, you can’t go into a Touhou game without bringing up the music. And the folks at Aquqstyle have done a fantastic job here. Whether the songs are original tracks made for Genso Wanderer, or arranges of tracks from previous official Touhou games, everything here is a joy to listen to. You’ve got smooth jazz, you’ve got epic orchestral pieces, even a few rock out moments. It’s a broad but satisfying soundtrack that is very much worth a purchase alongside the game itself, as it can be quite enjoyable to listen to outside of the dungeon crawling of Genso Wanderer. Case in point, I’m listening to it as I write this review. If you’re a fan of Touhou music, you’ll obviously be a fan of Genso Wanderer’s music. If you’re new to Touhou, this soundtrack may just end up being what sends you down the rabbit hole of Touhou arrange albums…Because there’s a lot of them. I mean a lot. There’s terabytes of Touhou albums out there now. TERABYTES. All for *one game series.*
The artwork also deserves a special mention: While Touhou’s creator ZUN has crafted a fantastic world and a great cast to populate it, let’s be honest: His artwork hasn’t always been the best (Zombie Reimu, anyone?). Aquastyle’s artstyle however is quite charming, helping give each character their own distinct look and uh…Body type (Translation: Not all the girls are flat as ironing boards like in the official artwork) which helps set them apart from each other more. They basically take ZUN’s character designs and style (which help offset his art quality) and do their own thing with it to create a good look and style, but at the end of the day you still recognize the girls as being from Touhou.
Now, there is admittedly a LOT of DLC for Genso Wanderer as well, and some of the steam reviews on it can be very misleading, so I’ll help set the record straight on that. First, let’s go over the “Big” DLC of Genso Wanderer…Clock Remains.
The Clock Remains DLC is a small expansion pack of sorts for Genso Wanderer, and the meatiest of the DLCs by far. On top of adding a new playable character in the form of Touhou series regular, the time stopping maid Sakuya Izayoi, it also adds a new hub and several new dungeons, including new endgame challenges and dungeons featuring some of the strongest Seals you can find in Genso Wanderer to make the best possible equipment builds. Sakuya herself adds a lot to the gameplay experience due to her strongest Danmaku ability being capable of completely stopping time, the maid’s most notable power in Touhou canon. If you only intend to grab the “bare minimum” DLC to enjoy Genso Wanderer, the Clock Remains DLC is the one you want to grab.
As far as the other notable DLCs go, the Character DLCs are recommended if you really enjoy the game and want more people to play as. Some people will tell you that “You don’t need to buy the character DLCs, you unlock them through playing the game.” This is objectively FALSE. It is true you can unlock many of the DLC player characters as Partners you can bring along with you to help out, but you CANNOT PLAY AS THEM unless you buy their DLCs. That said, I will give a quick breakdown of each DLC character, in case you need more of an idea of what you’re getting with each of them before making a purchase.
-Alice Margatroid is essentially a character who relies on her Doll summons to do the work. Her Doll Summon danmaku summons 2 at a time, with up to five being deployable at max. Any Danmaku damage bonuses on your gear will apply to them, meaning a Danmaku damage build Alice can often leave the dirty work to her Dolls while she just sits and watches the chaos unfold.
-Utsuho Reiuji is a character that’s all about highs and lows. Her biggest gimmick is gaining enough P to use use her strongest Danmaku: X-Mode. X-Mode puts her into a powered up state and replaces her other Danmaku skills with MUCH stronger attacks. In this state she can become a living projectile that slams through enemies or unleashes cannon blasts that just wipe out anything caught in her way. She is put into a weakened state once her transformation wears off though, meaning you have ideally kill everything before that happens.
-Suwako Moriya has the unique ability to walk on water, giving her more movement options in dungeons than other characters. Especially in “Lake” type dungeons where large bodies of water divide up the islands and their small pathways connecting them. Her Jump danmaku ability also lets her leap over potential ground hazards such as traps and enemies.
-Tojiko Soga is my personal favorite DLC character and in my opinion, a bit broken. She has a permanent Float status, which means she cannot trigger any ground based hazards such as Swamps, and more importantly, Traps. She can also fly over water and open pits. And if this isn’t enough, she has a railgun danmaku with infinite range that can go through walls, piercing all foes it goes through!
-Kasen Ibaraki admittedly doesn’t offer anything too special beyond having some unique danmakus, one of which offers a unique form of crowd control where she can grab and throw enemies.
-Rei’sen is another Summon type character like Alice, but instead of summoning an army, she just summons one big and powerful Mecha Rabbit. She can also command said Rabbit to fire a powerful beam attack at will, but at a cost of a % amount of said Mecha Rabbit’s HP. Rei’sen also has the ability to steal items from enemies. Not to be confused with Reisen Inaba from Imperishable Night, this is a different Rei’sen.
-Satori Komeji is a character for people who REALLY like Spellcards. Her biggest gimmick is that when she uses a Spellcard, she proceeds to memorize it, and her last Danmaku ability lets her use that Card’s effect again at will, consuming P in place of another Card. She can also place landmines and potential confuse enemies, giving her some crowd control capability. It should be noted however: She loses the memory of a spellcard after using the memorized version or advancing a floor in a dungeon, you can’t just spam that spellcard forever.
-Hata no Kokoro is super cute (This is important, the game even says so). In terms of functionality however, she is very much the embodiment of RNG. Her basic danmaku attack will add additional effects to two of her other danmaku, one will attack enemies while adding additional negative effects, while the other will provide some kind of buff to Hata. The effect you get depends on what kind of mask you throw with her basic danmaku, with that mask granting an additional beneficial effect to her buff danmaku, and a negative effect to her second attack danmaku. So if you like a character who basically is always rolling the dice? You’ll like Hata.
-Cirno the ice fairy is a Touhou fan favorite, and a DLC that is both a player *AND* partner character. Cirno specializes in a power-up state similar to Utsuho, but without the weakened state when it wears off, and you can toggle the power-up state at will. While powered up, Cirno regenerates more health than normal, counter-attacks anyone within range who misses an attack against her, and both her danmaku and character exclusive spell cards are buffed. This particularly shines with her strongest danmaku, Icicle Machinegun, which fires 9 shots that randomly target all enemies in the room, which can be quite devastating when they only have one target to pick.
-Daiyousei is the second DLC character that is both a Player and Partner, and is arguably my favorite Partner character in the game due to being able to provide a fairly constant supply of buffs and healing when she is said partner. As a player character, she maintains this buff specialty but also relies on terrain manipulation by creating fire and water hazards where some of her danmaku attacks land. Just remember: Fire will destroy items, so be careful about killing an enemy with a fire based attack if you’re trying to get an item from them.
-Tenshi Hinanawi is the last of the combination Player/Partner DLC characters, and is more of a brawler type character. Her most notable Danmaku are her earthquake which is an AOE that scales in size based on how much P you have remaining after spending the initial cost for the earthquake, and her dash attack which allows her to dash towards an enemy and melee strike them, effectively closing gaps in a single move instead of having to take multiple steps (and thus turns). If you like just being up and in the enemy’s face at all times, Tenshi is great just for her gap closing danmaku.
Something to note about all DLC characters: They cannot be used in story dungeons until you have cleared that story dungeon with its designated character: IE you cannot do the initial Tower dungeon as other characters until you beat it once as Reimu. You *CAN* however bring any of the DLC partners with you from the getgo. DLC player characters cannot be brought as partners until you unlock them as such, and DLC is not required for these characters. IE, the only characters that require a DLC purchase to use as partners are Cirno, Daiyousei, and Tenshi.
The Costume DLCs are of mixed value. The Santa Reimu costume does come with a particularly useful weapon and armor set which provides some great early game benefits, but loses a lot of its value after your first clear of the Tower, as power creep renders them far weaker than other options. The summer bikini costume doesn’t really offer anything too great unless you just want a new look for Reimu, as it comes with no equipment.
The Images of Equipment DLC is another mixed bag. The weapons and armor themselves are not that impressive in terms of function, but you do eventually gain the ability to transmog your weapons and armor to look like whatever you want, and some of the Equipment DLC can be great for cosmetic usage. The other use of the Equipment DLC is in that endgame equipment upgrading involves a process called Melding where you combine weapons together to increase the weapon’s max level and thus maximum attack potential. Using previously melded equipment as the meld component for a piece of equipment that has never undergone melding can result in a MASSIVE power boost to the equipment, IE, taking 10 pieces of DLC equipment, maxing them out, melding them all into one piece of equipment, and then melding THAT onto a fresh piece of gear that has never undergone melding will yield a much higher stat boost with far less levels on that piece of equipment having to be gained overall before you can do your next meld. Basically, if you care about endgame and want to make better equipment easier via melding, OR you just want some cool looking transmogs? Yeah, get it. If you only intend for a casual playthrough of the story content, you can skip this.
And that’s pretty much all the DLC of Genso Wanderer Reloaded. Honestly, you don’t really need the DLC if you only intend to do a casual story playthrough of the game and drop it after that point. The DLC is for the hardcore dungeon crawlers who want more to do beyond the story and intend to challenge all of the post story content that exists and want more characters to do it with. Even the Clock Remains isn’t entirely necessary as its new storyline doesn’t tie into the overall plot of Genso Wanderer Reloaded, though if you want more dungeons to crawl through, it’s definitely the one DLC of the bunch to grab.
So at the end of the day, Genso Wanderer Reloaded gives you a staggering amount of content, even without its DLC. Both casual and hardcore Mystery Dungeon fans will find a lot to love here, and if you’ve ever wanted to try a Mystery Dungeon game? This is probably one of the best ones to start with due to it more approachable nature and ability to progress and upgrade outside of dungeons, as opposed to having to always start at square one every time. As such, it’s a game I can easily recommend to anyone Touhou fan or not if you’ve got a dungeon crawling itch you need to scratch for awhile. And if it’s not enough for you, there’s also the sequel which recently got an english update: Lotus Labryinth R, though it’s a somewhat different beast and one I will cover another time.