One of my favorite things about NIS America is their willingness to take a chance on bringing various Japanese RPGs to the West, especially on the Switch where I can play them on the go and on the TV. Titles like Disgaea 5 Complete remain some of my favorites thanks to the excellent combination of memorable characters and strategy. There have been games that have come along that have completely blown my mind because they check every box that I didn’t even know needed to be checked for me to consider a game to be a classic or a top 5 all-time A-list title. As a point of reference I will bring up Shining Force III that I played on the Sega Saturn. It was just so much fun that I played it from start to finish without removing it from my system. That is a rare occurrence as I have a relatively short attention span that has me jumping from game to game, always looking for the next thing.
I’ve reviewed several games for Nintendo Times now, and the titles that get the 9+ have done that to me. My personal take on how much I enjoy a game is how much it pulled me in, begging me to play more and more of it. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are two fantastic showcases. Some games are immediate in their attractions, while others need time to simmer and get my juices flowing. Unfortunately there are some that never hook me, and Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded falls into that category.
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded starts with an animated short that sets the story in motion. The young female protagonist that you control is mesmerized by an orb another guy has in his possession. She can’t help but touch it, which has the catastrophic effect of changing him into something he isn’t and releases evil upon the world. I’d be lying if I said the opening cinematic makes sense, because the game really doesn’t take the time to explain anything. In fact, I played for several hours before I even realized that the first ally I befriended was a girl and not a boy. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but the plot constantly seemed to come out of left field.
I don’t really know when I started to just get completely derailed by everything in this game. I was “in” during that opening scene and following along. I mean, if you can’t get past the opening scene then give the game to someone else to review. I was still tracking nicely with the overhead ‘grid-like movement’ floors, understanding the hunger system, traps, and all that role-playing goodness. I was also playing other games at the same time that also had a ton of tutorials with a multitude of things to learn and concepts to follow to understand the mechanics of battles and gameplay. I was even able to stomach the fact that even if you faced the other way, the enemies could move one grid square closer to you. In other words, this wasn’t my first RPG rodeo.
Perhaps I began to check out when it dawned on me that I was going to be subjected to a bunch of dungeon floors and on many of them I would be in the same room with the entrance to the next floor. So you take it on yourself to explore, which often resulted in simply fighting enemies to grind levels. Granted there are treasures to find and items to collect, which can often be combined into new things. The problem is that my inventory soon became full and I was forced to drop items to make room for food as my characters became hungry.
I think what’s most apparent is that many JRPGs have evolved to include quality of life options. It’s not 1995 any longer and I expect games to include new ways of dealing with monotonous things, such as item management (unlimited would be nice), hunger (stupid gameplay mechanic unless playing a survival horror game), and grinding (many games have solved this issue by planning out dungeons and encounter rates and scaling to better match your level). In order for me to stay invested in a JRPG the story has to be compelling, the combat system has to be fun, the music has to be memorable, and the gameplay systems have to make sense. A failure in any one of these areas is usually acceptable, but once a game missing several of these checkboxes then I begin to check out.
The gameplay loop involves entering a randomly generated dungeon to collect new items and fight various enemies to gain experience. Thanks to the procedurally generated content, you never know if you’re about to play an easy floor or a very difficult one. Exploration is hindered by hunger, as your characters need food to continue. The problem here is compounded when you discover that to regain HP you must walk around. To say the game makes exploration stressful is an understatement. Some might find this type of rougelike RPG fun as each dungeon run brings something new and unexpected, it just didn’t do it for me.
This is one of those games that actually pushed me further away from playing it rather than pulling me in. There aren’t control issues, sound problems, or gameplay glitches that prevented me from enjoying Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded. The biggest obstacle was myself; every time I thought about sitting down to play it again I found an excuse to play something else. I had to force myself to play the game for the review and that’s never a fun time. As someone with no history with the series, but typically enjoys most of the titles released by NIS America, I came away disappointed. The story is bland, the battle arenas are uninteresting, traps are random and annoying, and there doesn’t appear to be any reason to care about any of the characters or whether they succeed or fail. The learning curve was waxing while my interest was waning. Eventually, one snuffs out the other until the game is eventually deleted from the Switch’s internal memory.
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.