Welcome ladies and gentlemen to Survival Sign, the segment belonging to the infamous Inverseman. And today’s topic du jour, the acclaimed “Touhou Project” game series. Now I’ll be introducing this series at an entry level, it’s made for the layman, so if you already know how Cirno is the strongest or happen to be the biggest fan in your hometown (like moi) then you can bypass this piece and tune back in soon!
Now some of you guys may be wondering, “what in Suwako Moriya’s name is Touhou?”
Well, let’s get started with the basics.
I. History Lesson
“Touhou Project” is a shooter game series. In particular it’s a shoot’em up type of shooter. Ever play “Gradius” or ”Mushihimesama”? You pilot your tiny character and weave through a hellfire of enemy attacks and take down huge bosses with lots of life. “Touhou” is in the same genre. If you thought your favorite FPS was hardcore, Touhou will blow it out of the water, “why dodge five bullets when you can dodge five-thousand!” The term danmaku shooter translates to “curtain-fire” because of the sheer volume of bullets, each of which is fatal.
Now what sets apart Touhou from other games in general is this, it’s a doujinshi game. It’s not made by big names like Nintendo, Capcom, Atlus, etc. It’s an independent publication. Team Shanghai Alice creates the Touhou games, but here’s the twist, the development team only has one member, a man who goes by the pen name, ZUN.
Junya Ota was a young programmer entering the Taito Corporation with a knack for music and a taste for beer. Way back in 1996 he wanted to spread his music through the game format, so he made the first Touhou game, “Highly Responsive to Prayers”, on a Japanese computer, the PC-98. From there, ZUN’s solid 8-bit beats blessed our gamer ears. Oddly enough, the first entry in the series wasn’t a shoot ‘em up, but more like Breakout but with bullets. The premise was simple, shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei has to crush invading youkai (a kind of monster, if you will) and save the mystical land of Gensokyo, a fantasy land where magical beings continue to thrive and exist, hidden from our modern world.
Seeing the huge success of the games, ZUN went on to make four more games for this retro computer and starting with the first sequel, went for the bullet hell shooter. The story never got much more complex but each entry gave us new friends for Reimu, like the thieving witch, Marisa Kirisame, lots of new foes, and melodious music all in quaint retro fun.
In 2002 it was the sixth game that revolutionized everything. “Touhou Koumakyou: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil” was the first game for the Windows OS. During the platform jump, ZUN decided that other than Reimu and Marisa, all other characters would be retconned and “start over” (though Alice Margatroid and Yuka Kazami would surprisingly reappear in later games). To this day, there are twelve games in the series, each of which has its unique game mechanics and even spin-off games, and all from a guy who sees this as a hobby more than anything. Continue reading »