Have you ever played any of the games in the Touhou series by ZUN? If you haven’t, then maybe you should spend a little time attempting to rectify this void in your gaming experience as soon as possible. The Touhou games are basically advanced versions of traditional arcade shooters known as “danmaku” in Japan. The generally accepted subgenre of these types of games is “curtain-fire shooter.” As the name of the subgenre suggests, curtain-fire or danmaku shooters are shooting games with a large emphasis on fancy bullet dodging. As such, you may find that the bullets in Touhou games move quite slowly when compared to more conventional arcade shooters. If you think that these games are easy-peasy however, then you’re in for a huge shock. Here’s a video of a high-level playthrough of a typical Touhou game. (not mine, of course)
Hmm… if you’re thinking something along the lines of, “this game is awesome!” – then you wouldn’t be the only one. Although the Touhou games have never achieved mainstream popularity when compared to the AAA industry giants such as Final Fantasy, Call of Duty or God of War, the simplistic, low production value but technically competent games of the Touhou series get the most important part of gaming right – the over-all gaming experience. Of course, having a really catchy BGM helps out as well. Thanks to awesome music combined with awesom-er gameplay... along with gratuitous use of little girls (even though some are more than 1000 years old), the Touhou games and the characters that they've spawned throughout the years have a huge underground following.
In any case, today I’d like to talk about a little bit of a spin-off from the norm of the Touhou Shooters in the form of Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, or more specifically, its faster, meaner expansion, “Scarlet Weather Rhapsody: Hisouten Soku” AKA Unthinkable Natural Law for some. Now I’m not going to go into the details of the naming conventions or what is the most correct way to refer to these games. It doesn’t matter! All you need to know is that this game is awesome!
Anyway, a little bit of history. The Touhou fighters originated from a game known as Immaterial and Missing Power which was co-developed by Tasogare Frontier who are well-known for developing Eternal Fighter Zero and more recently, a Puella Magi Madoka Magica platformer called Grief Syndrome. IAMP provided a different twist to the usual fighting game staples with its overemphasis on dodging and projectile warfare. The game introduced an innovative new system called “grazing,” which is taken from how you can graze bullets in the Touhou Danmaku games. Grazing in IAMP allows you to literally go through projectiles fired right in front of you. Basically, almost every projectile in the game can be grazed except for a few special ones.
In SWR, the developers upped the ante on the grazing system by basically allowing full flight. Scarlet Weather Rhapsody also saw the introduction of spirit orbs for the first time. These orbs are basically your lifeline in SWR. The spirit orbs are used to throw projectiles, block bullets as well as melee attacks, as well as for grazing and flight. I could go on and on about the mechanics of the game, but the SWR wiki already does it much better than I could.
So let’s talk about SWR Hisouten Soku a bit. What makes it fun? Why is it such an awesome game that I’ve been playing since its initial release say 4-5 years ago? Well, you could play the story and arcade modes and get your kicks out of that, but the real fun comes in the form of netplay or VS mode against an opponent IRL. SWR Hisouten Soku is the most un-button-masher friendly game that you will ever play – hands down. Noobs will fumble away and spam with long-range C projectile bullets while foolishly expending spirit orbs trying to fly away. On the other hand, experienced players who actually understand the game’s mechanics will patiently dash and graze through their nubcake opponent’s desperate barrage of bullets with a smirk on their faces. Really, nothing beats grazing through a hail of Yuyuko’s homing wisps and landing an easy 2-3k BnB (bread and butter) combo upon an unsuspecting noob.
Of course, cherrypicking on nubbycakes does get old pretty fast; this is why it is in close competition with other players on a similar level as you where the game really shines.
Well, after that long tirade, you might be wondering: “so what makes this game different from Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3?” Well, actually, aside from the simplified mechanics… nothing? Oh who cares! It’s a game featuring little girls trying to beat the crap out of each other with a smile! What could be better than that? Go play it now! I leave you with a little gameplay video to whet your gaming appetite. (again, not mine)
Technically, the games aren't free... but I doubt that will stop you from playing them if you're "determined" enough.