Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4
This post was originally written by James Herd.
Touhou Project, which is a series of bullet-hell shooters dating back to 1995, has lasted the test of time thanks to its extremely loyal legion of fans who have created music, anime, memes, games, and much more for the IP. Initially created by ZUN, a solitary Japanese man who is the sole member of Team Shanghai Alice, there have been fifteen ‘official’ games and countless other media produced by passionate (or obsessive) fans, which includes the recently released Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, developed by Ankake Supa and published by XSEED Games and Marvelous USA, Inc.
While the series normally sticks to its origins, Scarlet Curiosity adopts a top-down beat-em-up style that puts players in the shoes of immortal vampire Remilia Scarlet in a wild goose chase seeking the monster that destroyed her mansion, meeting (and fighting) a variety of different mystical beings along the way. Set in the world of Gensokyo, where various lifeforms live alongside humans peacefully, the story sends Remilia (or her dutiful maid Sakuya Izayoi) all around the general area on an interesting investigation that seems to be light and carefree, even when dealing with serious topics.
It’s rather obvious that this game didn’t have the highest budget from the start, as voice acting is something painfully missing from the mix, especially during the pre-fight dialogue scenes, which are completely silent. That said, once the player is given control of their chosen character, the music kicks in and the real fight begins. Speaking of battles, Scarlet Curiosity provides quite a few challenging boss fights that require you to evade their unique “spell cards” which unleash an intricate bullet hell design that can make things infuriating if you don’t level up appropriately.
For the most part, the game doesn’t offer much of a change as the story continues — it mostly stays static in terms of how the mechanics work which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though grinding eventually becomes a tedious task that fades into annoyance. However, as soon as you complete the main story it’s worth the irritation because you’ll slowly but surely grow into an overpowered fighting machine, which is pretty fun in the latter half of the game. As you progress through the various areas that are available for exploration, you’ll notice the finely crafted environments and characters that might make players forget that it’s technically an indie game. It’s actually quite detailed in terms of character models and environments, though the chances of enemies (or even your character) clipping through the floor is entirely possible in some cases.
Overall, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is an extremely polished game that throws players directly into the world of Gensokyo, delivering a well-crafted translation from the series’ 2D-roots to a 3D-setting. While it definitely didn’t have the highest budget — a fact made apparent by the utter lack of voice acting or music during the pre-fight dialogue sequences — the music that is present during the dungeon exploration is actually quite fascinating even if it does get repetitive the more time you spend playing. Regardless of whether you’ve been a loyal fan of the series for years or if you’re just remotely curious, you can pick up Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity from the PlayStation Store for $19.99.
Score: 3/5 – Fair