If you like games with cutesy anime characters that have outlandish personalities, then you might like Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity on PlayStation 4. However, if that isn’t something that appeals to you in the slightest of ways, then you may feel out of place in this bullet-hell inspired action RPG from XSEED Games. I found myself in the latter category as I played through each of the game’s colorful levels that were filled with a bland variety of enemies and boss encounters. While Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity does have some bullet-hell elements to its gameplay, everything else about it lacks excitement and feels very basic overall.
You have two playable characters to choose from in Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, Remilia and Sakuya. While the story for both characters is the same, both have mild differences in the attacks and abilities you unlock during the game. You control both like any other action RPG, with attacks and abilities mapped to a few buttons, and explore the various environments you visit in the story.
Of the two, Remilia is the better option for moving around faster through each level, since most of her attacks allow her to speed through areas very quickly. There could have been more differences in how both characters play, which would have made going through the game with each a lot more interesting.
The story is very forgettable and almost seems like a throwaway compared to the rest of the game. There are references to older games in the series, which draws from the lore of the franchise which has been around for twenty years. However, if you’ve never played any of the previous games or know anything about the Touhou series in general, none of this will matter to you.
The entire story is told through text dialogue with no voice acting and static images over gameplay, with plot events happening at the beginning and ending of each level. If there was any sort of voice acting during the sections, it would have added an extra level of polish to everything, but instead it ultimately looks rushed and mediocre.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity suffers from a few issues that can ruin the entire experience. Frequently, I found many objects in the foreground of levels would block my view of the action, leading to a few awkward and annoying moments during gameplay. One section had me moving through a level with trees and random objects blocking my view while I fought a large groups of enemies in the area.
Another issue was the inconsistent difficulty spikes for boss fights that appeared throughout the game. Many boss encounters I had were complete pushovers to mashing one button during the fight, while others would have incredibly unbalanced damage output with each attack, leading to more than a few cheap deaths.
I also took issue with how many of the boss fights in Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity were just one-on-one battles with a small character. Only a few bosses I battled were against large enemies with a different camera perspective than previous sections of the game. These were a nice change of pace and were more exciting than anything else. However, these encounters hardly occurred, with the majority of boss fights instead being dull and uninspired.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity isn’t a game for everyone. If you have an affinity for anime styled female characters battling each other, it may have some interesting elements for you. Those who already enjoy the Touhou series will obviously get something out of this. But if you’re expecting a more polished experience with exciting gameplay or an intriguing story, you’re going to be disappointed. It may draw inspiration from the bullet-hell genre, but Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is not as exciting or interesting as the genre that influenced it.
This review is based on a digital review code of Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity for the PlayStation 4, provided by XSEED Games.