Touhou fans are a passionate bunch. While I tend to dip my toes into the series casually, I truly appreciate the amount of effort and work that goes into fan projects. It’s what makes Touhou a series unlike any other. Touhou: New World is the latest fan-made effort to get an official release in English.
So, how does this fan project fare? Is it worth the price of admission? For many Touhou fans reading this review, Touhou: New World will probably be worth your time. However, there are definitely some reasons why one may want to hold off on it. Hopefully, this review will be able to give you a solid idea of whether or not the game will be for you.
What Exactly Is Touhou: New World?
Touhou: New World is an action RPG combining hack-and-slash combat with the signature bullet hell gameplay the Touhou Project series is known for. The game allows you to play as either Reimu or Marisa, two iconic characters from the series. While both control very similarly, their unique set of abilities and story modes adds some replay value to the game.
While it’s abundantly clear that the game was made on a shoestring budget, there’s a lot of passion for Touhou here, and it shows. Character illustrations are cute and expressive. While New World‘s graphics are fairly dated, the vibrant colors make the presentation a bit more enjoyable. It’s obvious that developer Ankake Spa really wanted to bring the world of Gensokyo to life.
The game is a good fit for handheld platforms such as the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck. It’s easy to pick up and play, and it’s best played in short bursts. While it can provide some solid fun, the game isn’t very challenging and doesn’t contain much depth, either. This proves to be an issue for reasons I will get to in a bit.
There are numerous locations that players will visit throughout a playthrough of New World. This is perhaps the greatest strength of this game’s stages. While you will revisit some areas if you decide to complete side quests, there is a decent variety of environments to explore. Unfortunately, this is where my compliments end when it comes to exploration.
The overall level design is what I would describe as big and basic. Thankfully, the combat is enjoyable enough at first that this initially doesn’t appear to be a huge issue. However, as I progressed throughout the game, the issue became more and more apparent. I eventually found myself mindlessly charging through stages, hoping to get to the next boss fight as soon as possible.
To make matters worse, several environments are full of repetitive rooms and hallways, making them all the less memorable. Some levels try to mix things up with rather simple platforming challenges, but these are fairly inconsistent and feature very basic obstacles. Otherwise, most of the time, you will be fighting simple enemies that fail to provide much of a challenge. Even though it isn’t inherently wrong that the game is a bit on the easier side, it does hurt the enjoyability of these levels.
The combat mechanics of the game aren’t particularly complex. In fact, I’d say they are the opposite of that. However, that does not mean that the combat isn’t enjoyable. Both Reimu and Marisa have a basic melee attack, a unique set of skills, and a powerful spell. You can swap out your skills and your spell at any point by simply pausing the game and going to the skill menu.
Sadly, while numerous enemies stand in your way, few are memorable and take more than three hits to take down. They always die before they ever feel like much of a threat, even with several enemies on screen. The biggest challenge then becomes being able to maintain a combo. Getting hit will make the player lose a combo quickly, but if you can strike back immediately, you can continue the combo.
Boss battles are where the game’s combat mechanics shine the most. While they aren’t particularly difficult, they provide enough of a challenge to make the encounters stand out. While they do tend to follow a somewhat predictable formula, these fights are somewhat unsurprisingly the best aspect of the game. It’s where the bullet hell aspects come into play the most, which makes combat all the more engaging.
The Bloat Problem
Touhou: New World has a pretty big problem when it comes to bloat. I’ve already articulated a bit about this problem earlier when describing the level design, but the issue goes a bit deeper than that. Unfortunately, a sizeable portion of New World‘s content doesn’t feel particularly meaningful. One playthrough isn’t going to take you very long at all, but the game still drags after all of its few tricks have been shown.
Touhou: New World is a pretty simple action RPG. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but the gameplay fails to evolve in a significant way by the time you reach the credits. There are many pieces of equipment to pick up, but they only exist to micromanage your stats. I never felt the need to engage that much with this aspect of the game due to the lack of difficulty.
I think it may have been wise to cut out some of the RPG elements and focus on more intricate level design and combat encounters. The only reason I would visit the shop was to clean my inventory. Otherwise, I didn’t find much of any incentive to spend any money I earned. Overall, the game doesn’t contain enough depth to warrant several of its RPG mechanics and overly long stages.
Should You Buy Touhou: New World?
Considering that Touhou: New World is a budget title made by a small team, I’m willing to cut the game some slack. While I do take issue with some design choices, I had an overall enjoyable time with the game. In short bursts, it’s a great casual Touhou experience. There’s a satisfying amount of content, even if it stretches on a bit more than it probably should.
Players new to the series may find some aspects of the story a little difficult to follow, but it’s otherwise pretty simple and provides an excuse to travel around Gensokyo and other regions. It’s nothing that’s probably going to stick around in your head after you finish playing the game, but it serves its purpose.
Touhou: New World doesn’t really do anything spectacularly well. It’s not going to win any awards, and it will have trouble sticking out among the incredible amount of amazing games coming out this year. However, it should be a fun distraction for anyone who’s interested in some new Touhou action. As long as you approach the game with reasonable expectations, it should provide some decent, casual fun.
Touhou: New World is available for Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 users will be able to play the game on September 12. Be sure to keep your eyes on Final Weapon for more Touhou coverage!
Disclaimer: XSEED Games provided Final Weapon with a Steam copy of Touhou: New World for review purposes.