Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Touhou 13: Ten Desires (PC, 2011)

Time to check out a PC shooter from the Japan-only Touhou series. It's been a while since I played a PC-native single-player game like this. Let's get started, shall we?

This game has your standard difficulty levels... and LUNATIC MODE. No, that's okay. Thanks, but...yeah. No.

There are four selectable main characters. All of them look about eight years old, but since this is a Japanese game they're probably all "17" or "18". Hakurei seems to be the hero, and her primary weapon includes homing shots. Very useful. 

 Aside from homing shots, her super move is a huge, damaging circle of power. It's best used at point-blank range.

The witch theme becomes particularly pronounced by the time you scroll over to the second character.

 She uses a straight laser as a weapon, which isn't as good as the homing weapons of Hakurei. However, her super-attack is better: A MASSIVE BEAM.

This green-haired maiden is the most likeable of the lot, and Sanae is a great name. Notice how they all have different-colored hair?

Unfortunately, she seems to be the worst character. She uses a wave beam with a decent area of effect, but it doesn't seem to be very powerful compared to the other weapons. Her super-attack is a giant energy star that is unwieldy to use.

Rounding out the pack is Youmu, who has trailing sprites/options as a weapon. Her super-attack consists of CLAWING UP THE SCREEN.

 Said super-attack is really damaging and impressive to look at. Since every life you have gives you two super-attacks to use, it's important to not let them go to waste. If you're in any danger of losing a life, pop a super-attack. Dying with two super-attacks stored is a terrible thing.

I go with Youmu at first. This game is very basic in design, transpiring over a single screen with  pretty background visuals shifting in and out. Enemies drop a tidal wave of powerups (that you need to gather tons of to actually power up) and it's important to differentiate them from damaging enemy shots. 

Take a hit and you'll have ten seconds or so of hyper mode with which to GO NUTS on the enemy before you blow up. It's a silver lining, I guess. Since the game returns you to where you left off every time you die (until you run out of lives), this ten second beastmode is pretty useful. I wonder if there's a way to save yourself from blowing up at the end of it. Like if you do enough damage in those ten seconds, you'll be spared the lost life? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case.

The bosses are nefarious witches themselves. Time for a WITCH DUEL.

They seem to have a bunch of life meters; these fights go on for MUCH longer than the stages leading up to them do. 

Next, Youmu does battle with an umbrella-wielding arcane menace. The foreground visuals are really flashy and pretty, while the background visuals... well, they could just be a black screen and the game would get away with it, but they have some seriously good-looking three-dimensional visuals going on too. Since the background visuals have no effect on the gameplay, though, it's important to not be distracted by them.

This boss is where they start getting difficult. Not only does this girl have her arms up all the time like a zombie, she also rains increasingly ridiculous bullet-hell on you.

SERIOUSLY WTF. The good news is that enemy shots (usually) travel very slowly in this game, so the challenge is in carefully weaving between the enemy shots rather than just reflexively getting out of the way.


Stage four's main enemy is a deadly one...and she's bro'd up with the stage three boss, too. Hopefully they don't think to team up later.

There's something appealing about this game. For the most part you're just keeping a stream of shots going, like any other shooter, but the visuals and music make it a nice experience. I just wish I were playing it with a controller rather than a keyboard.

At the end of stage four my worst nightmares come true, as the blue-haired death lady teams up with zombie lady to UNLEASH DESTRUCTION. This was where I met my first game over. Second time around, with a better understanding of the game, I got by.

After a game over, I go with Hakurei. It's a good call, I think, because her homing missiles make everything easier. Unfortunately, it means starting the game over. Doesn't take long to get back to where I was, at least.

The boss of stage five has her own bullet-wave pattern, and as usual it's quite difficult to dodge. And yet, the movements of these bullet-waves are very pretty to watch in motion.

Finally, I reach the last stage. Our heroine now sports not one but FOUR Yin-Yang Options (No relation to rappers The Ying-Yang Twins...well, hopefully not)

Here's the final boss, complete with Beats Headphones and unfortunately stiff "Something About Mary" hairdo.

This fight goes on and on and on and on, and at times the attacks become nearly unavoidable. I could only hang on for so long, especially after the grueling trek of going through the whole game again to get here.

At some point the music hits a crescendo and she launches wave after wave after wave after wave of multicolored energy balls. This was the most intense barrage in the game, and with the music crescendoing I was CERTAIN that this was the final stage of the fight. Nope, after this she just went right back to doing other things. Eventually I bit the dust. This is as far as I got in my four runs at the game. At least I got to see the whole thing and do this post. One of these days I'll make another attempt at the game and hopefully beat this blistering final battle. It's so far beyond the rest of the game in difficulty, though. Won't be easy.

Last but not least, here's the soundtrack. Give it a listen, as it's quite remarkable for a shooter. Notable tracks: ...all of it, but here are a few notes:

 0:00 - The best title screen theme I've heard in a loooong time
17:50 - The zombie lady has a really cool battle theme that sounds like it's out of a later Mega Man X game
20:26 - My personal favorite stage theme

38:08 - The final stage theme, which also sounds very Mega Man X like. It has SWEET drop-offs.

So, final verdict on this game? It's very cool visually and the music is amazing. I have no idea what the story is about, aside from that it involves witches who despise each other. It's a bit too bullet-hell for my liking at times, and the enemies aren't as compelling as, say, the usual alien menace. All in all, though, it's a pretty sweet game that can be finished in around a half hour (unless you lose).

Tomorrow: Shooter Week concludes with BLAZING LAZERS for the TG-16/PC Engine.

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  1. Normally when you download the games there is a "th[insertnumberhere]" executable and a "th[insertnumberhere]e" executable. In this case th13.exe and th13e.exe. The "e" stands for english, so play that to understand the story. It's the translated version.
    The last names come first for some reason, so Hakurei is Reimu and Kochiya is Sanae. Unless you were just referring to her her as Hakurei because you liked her last name.
    Also, this game's character variety is...surprisingly varied. The only witch is Marisa (who is also a human), the rest are either humans, buddhists, youkai, ghosts, jiang-shi...
    For a brief story overview: All 4 characters have noticed these odd spirits floating around (AKA those things you collect for spirit gauge stuff) and go out to investigate...that's it. It's formulaic for the series---an incident happens and the characters investigate, and meet others who want to stop them.
    A few tips:
    If your spirit gauge is full, you can press C to enter it willingly and you won't die when it ends.
    Those little stars near the boss's name indicate how many phases it has left, so if you find yourself wondering how much longer, look up top.
    If you're having trouble with a particular spell card, you can practice it from the main menu if you've beaten it at least once.
    There is an extra stage that shows up if you beat the game without continuing, so be prepared...it's super tough and you can't continue! And has an extra boss...(though it's not like a stage 7, it shows up on the main menu.)

    1. I can't believe I made such a dumb mistake regarding the name order of the girls. It's a japanese series, so their family names come first, and THEN their first name. I feel so embarrassed.

    2. Haha, no worries man.

      I never did finish this one. Gave up on the final boss after a few tries. It still urks me because I've beaten almost every game I've ever played, and this one wasn't even that difficult. I simply could not get past that final boss though, and starting at the beginning was too much.

  2. We've gone from ships to penguins to people. Personally I think the penguin is the pinnacle of shooter characters.

    Auto targeting is very useful, but then again, I really like lasers.

    If you take a crack at this again you can use a program like Joy2Key to enable controller use instead of keyboard.