Subterranean Animism

Here, I write my impressions and opinions on Touhou 11 and the entire Touhou series as it stands today, though I shall concentrate mostly on the former. Feel free to skip this entire post because it’s just a huge wall of text.

I’ve had the good fortune to play a bit of the demo for 東方地霊殿 ~ Subterranean Animism (Touhou Chireiden). Honestly speaking (or writing. whatever), Touhou has been going downhill since Mountain of Faith. Both SA and MoF are technically Touhou, but they don’t feel like the Touhou I know. It was a lot slower paced, focusing on bullet-dodging skills and the incredible, intricate danmaku patterns. MoF and SA were just too fast, going more for freestyle (mostly) rather than slow, thick patterns of bullets one had to weave through. The biggest difference between the pre-MoF Touhou and the current ones though, is that the former was composed of games which were tough – damn tough – yet still humanly possible (see: GIL, ASAPIN), but the latter almost feels cheap, in a sense. We have games like PCB and IN. Sure, they both have beefy enemies, but it never really felt cheap. One could still deal with them all, given that enough practice had built up enough skill. On the other hand, MoF and SA (the latter being especially guilty) had too many enemies, with other enemies that took an unfairly long time to kill, even with 4.00 power – so long that you couldn’t be able to deal with all of them, given their speed and endurance. In other words, the game’s design with regards to enemy abilities and player abilities is much more heavily skewed, favoring the former (though considering this is a curtain fire shooting game, any unexperienced person would find that difference unnoticeable).

On the game’s mechanics, well, I never got the hang of how it all works yet but those “belief items” seem to have stayed, and rather than a counter with the total amount of belief collected slowly diminishing (and the possible maximum point item value along with it), we have a “total belief counter”, a “signal bar” (because that’s what it looks like), and a “multiplier counter” ranging from “x 0.01” to “x1.00”. From the half hour I spent playing SA, I gather that one needs to graze bullets to not only raise the total belief counter value, but also the multiplier counter value to x1.00 so that one can get the maximum value per point item when collecting under the POC border. The signal bar is basically a graphical representation of the multiplier counter, so a full signal means x1.00, and no signal means x0.01. Power levels have been maintained, but the maximum power level is set at 4.00, rather than its predecessor’s 5.00, which allowed an extra bomb (referred to in SA as a “special”. The process in gaining lives has been changed too. Now you need to collect star outlines which look like this:

Bosses drop these whenever you deplete their health, and it takes 5 or 6 to form one full life icon, which is automatically added to your stock.

As before, there are only 2 selectable main characters – Reimu and Marisa. The former can team up with Yukari, who provides rotating options (think Type 4 from Gradius V), Suika, who auto-collects when all buttons aren’t held down and augments your shots with her own “left-right arrangement” options, which are basically straight shots which can turn left or right when they hit something, or Aya with her super-speed (hold ctrl without shooting) and “direction-assign” options, which initially is like a cross between Myon and Sakuya B from PCB (aims at the opposite direction of movement; lockable. As you get more and more, the options position themselves opposite each other, so it ends up looking like this:

Pretty neat, but horrible for bosses. In other words, Reimu sucks without her kickass needles and homing amulets.

For Marisa, you can partner her with Alice, who gives dolls (5 8 maximum) that shoot lasers, Patchouli who seems to have switchable options, though I’ve no idea how that’s done, and Nitori, who – you guessed it – shoots missiles. Not SUPER YOUKAI WARHEADS, but yeah.

The music is… acceptable. Nothing on par with the holy trinity of Touhou (EoSD, PCB, IN), but good enough. Worth mentioning is the 2nd stage’s theme, which totally reminded me of Ryo Ohnuki’s bass synth. It’s not as well synced as EoSD’s and PCB’s are to the stage flow either, but that’s forgivable.

Through the number of playthroughs I’ve done with this game, I’ve realized one important thing as well. I have lost most of my skill when it comes to shooting games. For this, I blame Giga Wing. Its reflect force has conditioned me to be much, much more reckless when it comes to evading projectiles and rushing into the field for score. The lack of a proper playing surface (monitor under level eye vision) means that I can’t dodge for shit either. Hopefully, a bit of remodeling for my desk can fix that.

Until then, I need to get back the skill I’ve lost. And perhaps rekindle the now slowly dying concern I have for Touhou.

By the way, the TouhouWiki is a much better place to go to, in regards to the game’s technical aspects.

9 Responses to “Subterranean Animism”

  1. May 27, 2008 at 5:10 am

    SA definitely feels a lot different from previous Touhou games. I don’t think the difference was so dramatic with MoF but I suck at SA. I doubt it’s just because I haven’t gotten used to the patterns but because the mechanics have been changed a lot. Reimu’s lack of homing amulets sucks too. At least we get individualized bombs back.

    As for Patchy’s options, try the “skip” button to switch. I haven’t tried it myself but I know that pressing skip while playing as Reimu C gives you Aya-like speed.

  2. May 27, 2008 at 9:38 am

    There’s a new Touhou out? wow… I never even passed the 4th level in Touhou 10 (Fuujinroku?).
    Also, don’t the Touhou series always have good music?

  3. May 27, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I’ve been play SA and maybe it’s just me, but this looks like the easiest Touhou ever, I remember I couldn’t even clear the demo of MoF and now I can finish the whole game with all three Reimu and Marisa helpers.

    And the music is really not that good, but you can’t expect ZUN to always come up with awesome songs. But most of the time I can’t listen to the musics since I’m too busy with waves of bullets. x_x

  4. 4 Rin
    May 30, 2008 at 12:43 am

    My friends always want to get their hands on any new Touhou…
    Just too much for me to handle…

  5. May 30, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Oh, thanks for the SA coverage. Needs more pictures though.

  6. May 31, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Honya, seems hitting shot and focus at the same time switches them – TouhouWiki is definitely useful when it comes to this stuff.
    ritchan, not necessarily, but it’s usually the case.
    Deathy, funny – I find it harder than TH6, 7, and 8. And mind you, the music is incredibly important. If it weren’t, I doubt there’d be so many remixes.
    Rin, practice makes perfect 😛
    Owen, yes, yes it does, Unfortunately, it’s rather tough to play and take pictures , so I didn’t bother.

  7. May 31, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    But that’s what replays are for! Or does it desync in the demo now?

  8. 9 pus2meong
    November 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    push shift and z key to switch marisa+patchy’s shooting pattern.

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