Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity review – By a fan, for the fans

Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity began life as a fan game before being swept up into the official canon. It takes two of the series’ popular characters, a vampire by the name of Remilia Scarlet and her maid Sakuya, and sends them down similar quests to hunt a giant monster wreaking havoc in the local establishments. Remilia only cares about fighting the monster to defeat her boredom, and Sakuya serves to only make her master happy. A random newspaper article tips them off, and that’s all the game needs to provide an adventure much larger than either of them bargained for.

While their campaigns don’t different greatly from one another, bumping into the same boss fights and toppling through the same dungeons, their combat sets the two characters apart. Remilia relies more on deathblows and haymakers, bringing down enemies with fierce attacks, and Sakuya, who I tended to use more often, picked away at monsters with combos, ranged attacks, and lighter hits.

Combat revolves around similar ideas found in the mainline bullet-hell games mashed together with dungeon crawling exploration and hack ‘n slash combat. Recognizing bullet patterns, dodging projectile attacks, and waiting for the perfect moment to strike are all supposed to be the crux of Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity’s gameplay. If we’re being honest, this fun idea only works on paper.

With a proper set of equipment, these two main characters can soak up a lot of damage. Absorbing hits, replenishing health with frequent power-ups, spamming AoE attacks, and not overly caring about enemy patterns worked just fine when blazing through the levels. When it came to boss fights, only one proved to be a challenge that required precise memorization. The rest fell with basic combat tactics, and none of them brought me down once, a far cry from the difficulty found in the Ys games, of which comparisons are being made.

With the main Touhou series infamous for its difficulty, this was a really easy game.

Dungeons start off as a simple affair of running through halls and striking through hordes of monsters, but later dungeons manage to toss in light platforming elements and other complexities. I wouldn’t say that they vary greatly in their design, but many of them drag on for far too long. Every time Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity begins to finally look like it will be adding a new element into the level design, that new element gets overused to the point of knocking the game back into its ruts.

Some corridors lead to dead ends that at least provide opportunities for treasure chests, most of the time coughing up loot that is weaker than the random bits you can pick up from enemies. The economy too plays very little into the game, throwing tens of thousands of coins at players, and very rarely providing items that are worth purchasing.

Graphically, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that this game was on par with this year’s hit I Am Setsuna in terms of the quality of the 3D. The art backing Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity comes up short, but they deliver the occasional moments of brilliance, my favorite being the flaming, floating lotuses through a forest stream at night and the game’s central shop. Thoses have a nice touch that a majority of the other levels lack.

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