Last time we visited the country of Gensokyo, we looked at a fun-ish VS shooter that, while fun, becomes less so without friends and/or a thriving online community. This time, we have a more impressive Touhou spin-off in the form of The Scarlet Curiosity, an RPG-Brawler hybrid that recalls such old school titles as the Y's series and some entries in the Legend of Zelda franchise. We'll be taking a look at how this Play Doujin! title stacks up to not only other titles in its genre but other Touhou games as well
As most stories in the Touhou universe go, a rumor has spread around Gensokyou that a mysterious monster has appeared in the phantom country and destroying everything in its path. Remilia Scarlet, a vampire, and owner of the Scarlet Devil Manor, takes the strange phenomenon as a chance to show everyone that she is just as capable of solving incidents as Reimu Hakurei, the local Shinto Shrine's priestess and general lazy bum. So Remilia (or her maid Sakuya, who is also playable) leave the manor in search of the mysterious creature and a chance to claim glory for themselves.
From the get go, Scarlet Curiosity is a game that gently holds the player's hand, at least on normal difficulty, by throwing very few enemies at them that also do very little damage with their bullets and melee attacks. These first few levels seem to be somewhat of a training session as the game's difficulty quickly ramps up once bosses begin to appear at the end of every stage. This means that those who dash through stages and avoid enemies will likely be underleveled by the time a boss fight rolls around and have to go back and grind if they simply cannot win the fight.
That being said, combat makes up most of Scarlet Curiosity's gameplay, and most stages consist of wading through legions of enemies with your attacks then, as mentioned above, taking on a boss to complete the experience. Thankfully, Remilia's arsenal of attacks is fairly varied as in addition to her standard claw attack and aerial dive, she also learns new attacks as she levels up that range from the ability to throw blood red spears, to circular attacks that damage everything around her. While most of these techniques are useful for taking out minor minions, roughly half of them are upgraded forms of other abilities and can simply replace the old with the new and go on slaughtering faeries wholesale.These special moves tend to make combat interesting and fun, though they never last very long. The only real problem with fodder monsters here is how there is little variety in the foes you'll face in your quest to quell the mysterious beast. From the start, you'll be seeing a handful of enemies types, including faeries (large, small, sword, lance), evil mushrooms, thorny vines, and wolves. These enemies do not vary by stage with few exceptions, like the kappa near the end of the game, and it can be rather annoying to see the same monsters over and over despite having advanced further in the game. On the upside, these battles rarely last long and are never forced on the player as you can simply walk past them without penalty (Though such tactics can make boss battles difficult later on).
The boss fights are where Scarlet Curiosity really shine, and the player actually has to think and dodge, rather than plow forward and tap the attack button until your foe falls.In another nice touch, each boss sports a special attacked based on their Spell Card attacks from the mainstream Touhou series. The attacks look very nice in 3D, with Fujiwara no Mokou's fiery and phoenix-based attacks being among the best looking, while some, like Suika's Night Parade of 1000 Demons, just throw fodder enemies at you in a goofy manner. Players must learn the patterns of each spell, or be forced to repeat the battle over and over until you do so, much like traditional Touhou games. The only problem with this comes from later fights that give the player no means to heal themselves, as they had hidden in pots in prior spots, which makes it far too difficult to win than it should be.
Combat is the overall meat of the experience here, and that is done well. What plagues the game is small things that seem out of place. Several stages are set up like mazes with no explanation how to get out, while others throw platforming elements into the mix in a game more meant for punching faeries in the face then jumping from ledge to ledge. Due to how imprecise Remilia can be in the air, this can often lead to many pointless deaths and a lightening of her pocketbook, in which a thousand gold is lost every time you die. You also cannot block attacks without a special item found in the game's last dungeon, which seems a bit strange to me.
Overall, Scarlet Curiosity is a much better example of what can be done with the Touhou franchise in the West. While it may not have the character selection or replayability (All you'll be getting here is a second playthrough with the character you didn't choose and a secret dungeon) of something like Bullet Ballet, it makes up for it by being a far more fun, if short, game that is far more well thought out than you'd expect of a fan-made game.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.
Scarlet Curiosity is a good, if short, RPG-Brawler that makes decent use of the setting that ZUN has created for the Touhou series. However, repeated enemies, generic looking stages, and the inability to block attacks from the beginning are a bit grating and prevent the game from reaching its full potential.(Review Policy)
- Tight Controls
- Decent Graphics
- Serviceable Story
- Consistently Fun Combat
- Short Length
- Generic Enemies and Stages
- Platforming Controls