Developer: Ankake Spa, Team Shanghai Alice
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc.
Platforms: Windows (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch
Release Date: 13 July 2023 (Windows PC, Switch) – 12 September 2023 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5)
Price: $24.99 USD / $34.99 AUD – Available Here
Touhou Project is a series of indie SHMUP (Shoot ‘Em Up) games in the bullet hell – or “Danmaku” in Japan – sub-genre. The first entry in the series was originally released on the PC-98 home computer in 1997. Nowadays, Touhou games are developed on the Windows platform, and its nineteenth main entry was released on Steam in August this year.
Touhou is a pretty big deal among anime enthusiasts worldwide. Although the main series was never officially translated to English, some of its numerous fan-made games were released in the West. Touhou: New World is the latest fan entry to receive an English localization by publisher XSEED.
Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame are inhabitants of Gensokyo, a dimension parallel to ours where humans and mystic creatures, known as youkai, coexist somewhat peacefully. One day, they have a strange and vivid dream in which they find themselves in a completely different place. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that, somehow, they ended up in the human world.
There, they meet a human girl, named Sumireko, who is fascinated by the occult. She explains that she would love to visit Gensokyo and was about to conduct an experiment in order to breach the barrier separating the two worlds. Before the girls have a chance to protest, Sumireko draws a black orb that instantly teleports them to Gensokyo. This chain of events cause untold troubles in multiple worlds. Now, it’s up to Reimu and Marisa to journey through hell and beyond to prevent a dimensional cataclysm.
Players can choose to experience the story as either Reimu or Marisa. The main plot remains the same, but each girl interacts differently with NPCs and bosses; this is reflected not only on main stages but also on sub-quests.
The plot unravels through brief dialogues between playable characters and other well-known denizens of Gensokyo. Their banter can be funny at times, but the game’s attempt at comedy falls flat more often than not.
Touhou: New World is best described as a top-down view action game with sparse platforming gimmicks and some RPG mechanics like character growth through leveling up and equipable items. Fan-favorite characters Reimu and Marisa are selectable from the start. Their special skill table differs considerably in appearance but not so much in function. Otherwise, they play almost exactly the same.
Progression occurs by navigating an overworld where players can select quests and sub-quests. Sub-quests provide more character interactions, and items used to customize basic attribute points. Stages are designed like a maze where players have to avoid very simple traps while activating switches to progress further. However, the level design is bland and uninspired which made me happy that the stages were so short. Exploration is limited to finding treasure chests off the beaten path, and these chests will always contain equipment with random attributes. While there are multiple types of equipment, including weapons, they do nothing to modify the gameplay besides providing better basic stats.
Enemies are found prancing along the path, but sometimes they come in the form of multiple waves in an enclosed space. This makes things a bit more challenging. Even then, the default difficulty is too easy. Avoiding barrages of shots thrown at your character is redundant since they are able to tank through them effortlessly thanks to a healing skill that’s easily abused. There is an additional “Bullet Hell” difficulty setting that makes enemies attacks more frequent and overwhelming, but I would have preferred a more balanced option.
New World’s Visuals are decent. Overall, the graphics, especially characters’ models, remind me of Grandia 2 on the Sega Dreamcast. However, visual assets are excessively reused, and post-processing effects, like bloom, are a bit overbearing. Additionally, the lack of contrast on brighter scenarios hurts the overall presentation a lot.
The soundtrack has an adventurous upbeat feel to it while on missions. On the other hand, story sequences tend to use more cozy melodies. All in all, New World’s soundtrack is well done and perhaps its best asset. Sound effects are pretty weak and muted, though. The absence of voice-overs is disappointing, as they’re usually good and give more life to characters in other Touhou games.
Touhou: New World has charming graphics and music. However, Touhou Project’s rich cast of characters is underutilized here. The gameplay, while underwhelming, might be serviceable to less demanding players or fervorous fans.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.