Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity (PlayStation 4) Review

By Eric Ace 01.10.2016

Review for Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4

Touhou is a series that has grown rapidly online due to a rabid and loyal fan base. The games generally are shoot 'em up in style, although there is the occasional fighter thrown in. The series got many fans mainly due to its very good music and multitude of remixes, and is notable due to just how many music remixes, fan arts, and fan works compose what was a single man's creation. This latest entry, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PS4, is developed by Ankake Spa, and Cubed3 delves in to see how it has turned out.

Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is the type of game that if someone is not in the target audience they will not get it at all and will skip regardless of what praise it might garner; likewise, fans may automatically reject criticism due to someone not being within the niche. That is not the case here. Anyone who is within the target audience, and a huge fan of the Touhou series way before it ever got popular, will be so utterly enraged by this, as it fails on so many levels while also potentially ruining the series' name.

Touhou has a pretty simple formula normally: anime girls engage in shmup combat, dodging energy shots, all the while having really good music playing. This is an example of both its historical gameplay and its music - from the third release, about 20 years ago; the music is catchy and the action memorising. The series occasionally left the genre to move into things like the fighting realm, but often returned to its roots.

This is a sort of action RPG / platform hybrid, and allows you to pick either of two characters, Sakuya or Remilia - a maid or a vampire - and set off. Being bored, it is time to go find something fun, and they head out and slowly find a mystery that takes them around the area. Each level is then played by platforming, grinding mobs, and then a boss fight. This repeats until the game is over.

Screenshot for Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4

At first glance it seems like it could be cool. There are enemies to fight and level up off of; there are new skills that can be picked; there is even equipment with random drops and loot to pick up, plus a story, world map, and item shop. Alas, things can look great on paper and be total wrecks in reality. Here, everything suffers from a massive lack of quality control. The entire romp whipsaws from 'Wow, this is kind of cool' to frustratingly difficulty platform action with horrendous controls and an awkward camera. The graphical backgrounds are often forgettable, with the exception of two levels that are so colourful it actually comes off as a negative overall for drawing attention to how bad every other level is.

The enemy models are completely bland and amazingly grating. There are five models that will be encountered in total: fairy, frog, wolf, flower, and crow. It is as bad as it sounds. Whether it is the character commenting on how unliveable it is in this volcano it just fell into, a town, or cave, players are treated to an endless cacophony of 'caw!' from the literally hundreds of crows or frogs that are on each level and demand killing.

Combat occurs two ways: there is a button mash combo of some punches, and then there is a spell button that can be customised based on what move is learned. As you move forward in the level, there are hundreds of little enemies to plough through; there is nothing particularly smart or strategic. Mash the button, get the experience, move on, and don't fall off the edge... and then kill enough enemies and level up, gaining a very small stat boost.

Screenshot for Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4

There is an item drop, loosely similar to a 'loot' system. There is a common, uncommon, rare rarity to the drops, but there are simply just so many items that drop that it does not matter meaningfully. At the end, 'rare' becomes the most common item dropping. There is a money system, and an item shop, but none of it matters. Anything you could buy would be out-levelled instantly by the first of fifty drops in the next level. For some random reason, jumping is faster than running, and to a large degree levels and equipment do not matter, thus jumping through the levels rather than fight anyone is a much preferred option once the latest gear has quickly been picked up.

The music, which is arguably the best part of the series, is a complete let down. It sounds like the tunes are loosely based on the real themes, but given to one guy learning the piano and trying to replicate them. Some of the platform sections are maddeningly difficult, with control/camera issues, so hearing some songs that are only thirty seconds long on repeat goes a long way to increasing the frustration and helping compound the overall badness.

Among the largest of crimes is the complete freewheeling of the canon. Sakuya is a calm, collected 'elegant and perfect maid,' and a pretty cool character normally. In Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity it feels like she is a RPG trope of a warrior with a strength of ten, and an intelligence of one. In every exchange, she stands there with her intolerable toothless grin (because each character is only drawn once, excluding some with very minor mouth changes), wondering what is going on and preferring to attack people rather than talk, hoping the plot may go somewhere.

Screenshot for Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4

The singular positive moment occurs very occasionally with a couple of the bosses. There is wildly random difficulty spikes associated with some of these bosses, though, and most can truly be beaten down in the corner by mashing one button over and over. The good fights actually have decent music, there are a lot of obstacles to dodge, the combat has to be strategic, and the wins feel solid. If this sliver of positivity made up the rest of the game, this review would convey a completely different story. Instead, gamers are left with hopping over and over through meaningless dungeons - the volcano, the hot springs; it's all the same - while packs of frogs and crows make their animal noises endlessly while players try to time jumps in something that should never have had death pits to fall into. All the while, Sakuya is smiling with her dumb, confused face, one seen over and over for the six hours it takes to beat the story, with her talking about beating random people for information regarding some nonsensical mystery. It is all combined to make for a travesty that is not befitting the Touhou name, past or present.

Screenshot for Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Even being for those in the target audience, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is an annoying, frustrating, and even enraging experience. The singular good thing is the occasional boss fight done right. The rest of the time the pathetic platform antics, horrid ode to the series' wonderful music, the destruction of a good character, and repetitious combat is impossible to overlook. The entire game radiates a cheapness beyond what might be captured in a screenshot. Any fan of the series looking objectively will be appalled a game this bad has had the Touhou name slapped on it.

Developer

Ankake Spa

Publisher

XSEED Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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