Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Touhou 13: Ten Desires (PC, 2011) - UPDATED

Time to check out a PC shooter from the Japan-only Touhou series. This is very much a "bullet hell" type shooter, where the emphasis is less about blasting the enemies and more about evading your way through swarms of projectiles with small movements.

UPDATE: I first played this in 2014 in Japanese, but recently I got ahold of an English translation and gave it another go. Updated shots are sprinkled throughout the original post here, with a bunch of new shots at the end. Did I beat the game this time? Tune in to find out.

Title screen has a lot of options. The games in this series may be short and fairly simple, but I have to say a ton of effort was put into them.

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. Reimu 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 useful for a n00b (me) 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 their hair is color-coded by character?

Unfortunately, she seems to be the worst of the four choices. 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. From what I can gather, the other characters are ghost-hunters while Youmu is a spirit herself.

 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 to get out of danger. Dying with two super-attacks stored is a terrible thing, especially in a game like this where I came within a life or two of beating the final boss several times.

I go with Youmu at first. This game is very basic in design, transpiring over a single screen with  some gorgeous 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.

I could do without the hundreds of powerups raining down the screen, since it's difficult enough to keep track of the general bullet hell when enemy shots are the only things onscreen. In this shot, the red and blue spheres are enemy shots, while the square icons are powerups. 

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. You can see the boss' health as a circle meter around them. Deplete the circle meter to defeat the current phase of the boss, after which they'll refill their life and attack again with a different phase/pattern. The stars in the upper left corner indicate how many more life meters the boss has left before they're defeated entirely.

Next, Youmu does battle with an umbrella-wielding arcane menace. The foreground visuals are really flashy and pretty, while the background visuals have some seriously good-looking three-dimensional imagery going on too.

This zombie boss at the end of Stage 3 is where they start getting difficult, as she rains increasingly ridiculous bullet-hell on you. From what I can tell, the bosses make up the bulk of this game's runtime. The actual stages leading up to the bosses are usually shorter than the fights are.

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. You don't need reflexes for this, just enough concentration to relax and weave.

I look forward to a translation so I can find out what any of these people are saying. SOON.

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. Still, this is the toughest part of the game besides the final boss, and nothing else is even close.

After a game over, I go with Reimu as my main, seen here fighting the boss of stage 5. It's a good call, I think, because her homing missiles make everything easier. Even though I like Youmu, and Reimu does less damage, she's more n00b-friendly. Unfortunately, it means starting the game over. Doesn't take long to get back to where I was, at least. This game is about a half hour from start to finish, maybe 40 minutes if the boss fights drag.

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. The final phase of this battle is completely nuts, as lasers twist and wind all around you. Stay within the "pockets" of the laser-loops as they move around and you'll eventually win.

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. She's thousands of years old, like Matt Hardy's essence DAMASCUS. She can see everything a person wants, past or present, in all ten variations of reality where different versions of them exist. Hence, Ten Desires? I hope I'm getting all of this.

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. Then I noticed she's got two stars left, i.e. this is her third-to-last life meter out of like, five or six.

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.


I can finally read the text of the game, and...to say it's weird would be an understatement. IT Data Security? What?

Some of the dialogue between the characters and the bosses is zany.

They go on about some weird stuff, like this one boss referring to Jesus as an "infidel prophet" while saying that people with powers need to respect the spirit world or...something. I think these witches are all Taoist.

Is Youmu...aroused?

I tried playing as a few characters this time, and they all have different, SUUUUPER weird conversations with the bosses. Given that the enemies you're fighting are reanimated spirits, and you make them extinct...I would say you most certainly CAN die further than corpse-level in this world.

Here's my favorite screenshot from the entire game. The fact that they both have the same facial expression is freaking amazing.

I settle on Reimu again for my main character, and practice with her quite a bit (while still testing the waters with other characters). Her homing weapons may be weaker than the weapons of other characters (made up by not needing to aim), but you can also focus your fire in a direct straight beam to do damage about twice as fast by holding Shift while firing. This was an important thing to get used to using. It makes the boss fights MUCH quicker.

The final stage has rad music...and now I can read the stage names. This is a great one. Here's Marisa in her maximum power form, as I experimented with a few characters in my bunch of attempts to beat the game. She has devastating lasers, but I miss my homing missiles.

I lost to the final boss repeatedly, and kept trying every so often.

The final boss. I already went over the whole "ten desires" thing. She's really hip, though.

This final battle is several stages of hell, to say the least. It didn't SEEM like it should be that difficult, but it always got me. The key was to figure out which phases to use smart bombs on.

This phase is visually-impressive, but not as difficult as it looks. The knives give you a path to weave through them, and move slowly enough to give you a chance to do it. Once I got to the final wave, I blew every smart bomb I had.

I can't believe it. That was a completely bonkers fight. It's too bad I didn't record it. I played through this game many times trying to get to the final boss with enough gas in the tank to outlast her.

"Your discipline is still lacking"


That's it for this game. Despite how tough it was to beat, I can say it was a great time. I got a rush of accomplishment from finally winning the last fight. Wouldn't mind playing the rest of the Touhou series if I can get my hands on them. Though from what I've read...this is one of the easier ones. So I don't know.

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. All in all, it's a pretty sweet game that can be finished in around a half hour (unless you lose).

Other Related Posts


  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.

  3. Nice update! Looks like understanding the dialogue added a bit here, because this was going places.