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Game Info:

The Disappearing of Gensokyo
Developed By: MyACG Studio
Published By: MyACG Studio
Released: January 11, 2018
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action RPG
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Price: $10.99

Once again, an incident has befallen Gensokyo. Strange men with bags on their heads have appeared throughout the land, harassing the populace. The native fairies have grown confused and restless, lashing out at anyone they see. Perhaps most troubling, near-exact replicas of the more powerful of Gensokyo’s citizens have appeared, whose vicious attacks have some intelligence behind them. Two people set out to solve the incident: the Hakurei shrine maiden, as usual, and a certain bored celestial, who figures a fight is a good distraction. The Disappearing of Gensokyo follows the latter, Tenshi Hinanawi, as she gets reluctantly caught up in the incident.

The Disappearing of Gensokyo is an action RPG-shooter hybrid set in the universe of the Touhou Project, a long-running Japanese series of top-down shooters and fighting games centered around myths, legends, and otherworldly creatures. Players control Tenshi, along with a host of other Touhou characters, in real-time combat against groups of enemies and the occasional boss. In keeping with Touhou’s roots as a top-down shooter series, most attacks, both incoming and outgoing, are ranged in nature. The game is separated into sixteen mostly-linear stages, with a few dedicated to boss fights. In between each stage, you’ll see a scene at your home fortress in heaven, where you can talk to other characters, purchase upgrades, and eventually pick a stage to play.

At the start of each stage, you set out with Tenshi and a second predetermined character; you can change the second one with a tiny amount of points, the game’s currency. Every character has four actions they can perform: a primary and a secondary attack, a dash, and a powerful bomb. Any ranged attack expends a character’s ammunition, and bombing pulls from a shared stock of up to five. Ammo, bombs, and points are gathered from defeated enemies and the occasional pre-placed pickup; you can also swap out characters, including Tenshi, by collecting an icon of the relevant girl’s head (a yukkuri, to be specific; if you have to ask, you don’t want to know) – these also drop from enemies, and will grant a large ammunition refill if you already have that girl in your party. Along with ammunition and bombs, you have a shield bar and dash meter; the former recharges rapidly a few seconds after taking damage, and the latter constantly refills at a moderate pace. Health isn’t represented on-screen, but rather through a heartbeat noise and a subtle red haze that grow respectively louder and thicker the closer you get to death.

Each of the base game’s ten characters vary wildly from either other, even within the same archetype – for instance, while Cirno the ice fairy and Reisen Udongein Inaba the moon rabbit are both good medium-range damage dealers, Cirno can slow down or outright freeze enemies with all four of her actions for defensive purposes, while Reisen can set up a field that increases her damage output considerably. Even the dash action is different between characters; while it’s usually a change in speed and distance, a few have special properties, such as Cirno leaving a freezing mist, Reisen creating an illusionary clone of herself, and the vampire Remilia Scarlet being able to damage enemies in her path. Altogether, the vast differences between the characters make for a varied and enjoyable experience, and no character is truly useless – though some certainly outclass others (mostly Marisa Kirisame, perhaps owing to her status as Touhou series co-protagonist).

The Disappearing of Gensokyo
Highlights:

Strong Points: Wide variety of characters, both playable and enemy; engaging boss fights; hard but fair, with multiple difficulties and increasingly-tougher New Game Pluses; great music
Weak Points: Nearly half the roster locked behind paid DLC; rather buggy; iffy translation
Moral Warnings: Violence, occasionally for no reason; magic and magic circles; drinking and drunkenness; fairies, undead, and youkai galore; suggestive themes, lewd jokes and references, and implied homosexuality; language (d*mn, dumb*ss, b*stard, and one f-bomb); rather inaccurately depicts heaven and the people that live there; relentless rabbit bullying

While characters don’t level up, there are two points of progression. Each stage after the first contains three magic pieces, usually either well-hidden (if not practically impossible to find without a guide) or guarded by strong enemies; after rescuing the Buddhist monk Byakuren Hijiri in the second stage, she’ll use her talent as a sorcerer to unlock various passive buffs with those pieces. You’ll eventually get six tiers, each with three effects to choose from, and are freely interchangeable within the same tier. Byakuren will also offer her Buddhist wisdom if you talk to her before a boss fight, giving hints to the player and annoying Tenshi in the process. You’ll also pick up an umbrella in stage three; she, Kogasa Tatara, will set up shop afterwards, using her surprising blacksmithing skill to upgrade characters in exchange for points. Each girl can enhance two of her abilities twice; while most affect attacks, such as power, range, or cooldown time, you’ll occasionally get something more passive, such as Marisa getting upgrades to her movement speed.

The variety doesn’t stop at the playable cast. Enemies come in many forms, with new ones being introduced even late in the game. Most non-melee foes also have multiple attacks, which can lead to a cacophony of bullets if you don’t down them fast enough. Enemy attacks are usually telegraphed in some form, allowing a wary player to dodge just about anything – though when you get locked in a small room with a few dozen ricocheting bullets, death is practically guaranteed the first time through. Death, by the way, removes most of your current in-stage point total and sends you either back to the last checkpoint you reached or forces a restart; the stages are short enough that this usually isn’t a huge deal, but can still be quite punishing. With four difficulty modes, and limitless New Game Pluses that increase enemy health and power, you’ll find both a suitable challenge and a reason to replay.

Bosses are likewise diverse, but they are generally a much different beast than the common grunts. Each of them follows a similar pattern, starting off with a few attacks before ramping up the difficulty as you deal damage – either by flinging more bullets at you or changing to a more complicated pattern. Every attack is fully dodgeable, even if the isometric viewpoint makes that somewhat tricky; it’s balanced by having the harder-to-dodge patterns deal comparatively less damage. They’re hard, but they’re fair; you’ll die a whole lot, but as you recognize their attacks, you’ll invariably get better and better, making it all the more satisfying to finally take them down.

Despite its solid design, the game is somewhat lacking in its technical aspect. For one, it has its fair share of bugs. Though I personally only encountered two of note – Cirno freezing when she’s supposed to transform into her yukkuri to become playable for the first time and forcing a stage restart, and a text bug in another stage that overwrites a lengthy conversation between Tenshi and Marisa – the Steam discussion page has a lengthy bug report topic. The bugs reported got as serious as crashing the entire computer; while problems of that magnitude are likely rare, it’s worth considering. Also, since MyACG Studio is a Chinese developer, the in-house English translation is a little wonky – along with the fact that it starts in Chinese and requires fumbling through the menus to find the translation option (hint: the settings menu is the third choice on the title screen). It’s by no means unintelligible, but some conversations can get clunky, alongside a few translation errors – keeping the Scarlet Devil Mansion as its original Japanese “Koumakan,” mistranslating a character’s name (Hata no Kokoro, which is “Kokoro Hatano” in-game), and so on. To their credit, the developers are rather active on both fronts, using community bug reports and translation fixes to clean up their mistakes; in fact, the translation has improved markedly since release, especially in the first half of the game.

The Disappearing of Gensokyo
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 65%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 2.5/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

There’s also the issue of DLC to bring up: as of this writing, there are nine characters locked behind a paywall – nearly half the roster. While not necessarily a bad thing on its own, especially considering characters that don’t appear in the game otherwise, a few seem pulled from the main game just to sell: namely, Byakuren, Kogasa, and Iku Nagae (Tenshi’s handler throughout the game, and a main character in her own right). The first two even have achievements dedicated to their functions – finding every magic piece and purchasing twenty-four upgrades, respectively – and unlocking them through those achievements seems obvious. Though most characters are $0.99 apiece, all but a couple are lumped in bundles – if you want to buy Kogasa, for instance, you’ll have to buy Iku as well. Considering the DLC is now nearly the same price as the full game, and the characters’ silhouettes appear prominently in the in-game roster screen, it’s difficult to interpret it as anything but a cash grab.

Visually speaking, the game looks decent, but somewhat aged. The environments are nice, the effects on the various attacks play well, and the overall design is solid, but the character models aren’t exactly of the highest quality – certainly not terrible, but still rough around the edges. You can pick between four levels of camera zoom, but upon closer inspection, it’s obvious that the models, and especially their animations, are created to look better from afar. The art in the dialogue scenes is well done, but some pictures look slightly blurry, as if they've been re-sized.

The sound design, however, is something else entirely. As typical of most Touhou fangames, the sound effects are ripped from the official games: the tick of collecting items, the powerful hum of Marisa’s Master Spark, and the “pichuun” of defeat are all here. The music, also typically, is made up of remixes of Touhou series songs, which are generally fantastic across the board. The boss fights even feature Japanese vocal tracks of the boss character’s theme. The only negative to be seen is how the music restarts with the level, so when you’re getting continuously blown away by a boss thirty seconds in, you’ll hear the first thirty seconds of their song over and over again. The soundtrack isn’t for sale, but the game comes with a music room for your listening pleasure.

Morality-wise, violence is a given; considering the main method of attack in Touhou is through “spell cards,” magic use and magic circles are common. Most of the boss fights happen for no reason, and mostly because Tenshi runs her mouth – the other characters will make note of this, at least. The Touhou series in general is filled to the brim with youkai and other fantastical creatures, from fairies to undead to demons to Shinto gods, and this game is no exception. Alcohol is mentioned at a few points, and the first major boss, Suika Ibuki, is an oni who is drunk roughly one hundred percent of the time. The main human enemies, the “sinsacks,” are only concerned with sexually harassing the girls of Gensokyo; along with referencing them and their desires, there are some lewd jokes and references, including Tenshi complaining about her breast size. There is also some implied same-sex attraction between a few characters – some subtle, some much less so. Foul language is semi-common, mostly of the PG-13 variety, but one of the game’s two endings has a character drop an f-bomb. Your home base is in heaven, though of a distinctly Japanese variety, and the people that live there, Tenshi and Iku included, aren’t particularly heavenly. Finally, if you’re sensitive to bullying, be prepared to feel really bad for poor Reisen, who can hardly go a scene without getting abused; it’s played for comedy, but even then it gets to be a little much by the end of the game.

One last thing to note: while not strictly necessary, fans of Touhou will likely get more enjoyment out of this game than those unfamiliar with it. It’s certainly a good game in its own right, and each stage has a few notes scattered about introducing relevant characters and terms, but it’s still chock-full of references to both the official series and the vast fandom; for instance, the game won’t explain that one playable character, the hell raven Utsuho Reiuji, is also known as Okuu, and will be called both interchangeably. This even minorly affects the gameplay, as most boss attacks are ripped from the official games; even if this doesn’t lend a slight advantage to those who have seen the patterns before, it’s still a treat to see 2D attacks impressively made into accurate 3D representations. It may not be enough to make or break the experience, but it’s something to keep in mind.

In short, The Disappearing of Gensokyo is a well-designed game, even if bugs and excessive DLC prevent it from realizing its full potential. If you’re lucky with the former and don’t care about the latter, you’ll find enjoyable characters, engaging enemies, and a satisfying level of difficulty. Touhou Project fans should absolutely give this a look, while others might want to wait for a sale first.

-Cadogan

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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