Review – Scarlet Weather Rhapsody / Touhou Hisoutensoku

Ah, Touhou, when you hear that word your bound to think of the immensely challenging (re: downright brutal) shoot-em-up games that have dominated the series for several years. Scarlet Weather Rhapsody & it’s expansion, Touhou Hisoutensoku, takes the Touhou project in a new direction into the realm of the fighter.

If I had to describe Scarlet Weather Rhapsody in but a couple words, I’d say fast-paced, furious, and downright fun! The game gives you a wide variety of  characters to chose from,  up to 20 total with the Touhou Hisoutensoku add-on. From solid all-rounders like Reimu and Meilan, to projectile specialists such as Yuyuko and Reisen, there’s a character for just about every play style around. Just picking up the game for the very first time, SWR has a simplistic control setup. You get one button for close-up melee attacks. Two for both weak and strong projectile attacks, and a final button for air dashing. Special moves can be easily accessed through simple button commands such as a quarter-circle forward, or the classic shoryuken motion. Even if you haven’t played a Street Fighter style game before, it only takes a couple of minutes at most to master the basics. Both projectile attacks as well as air dashing are governed by spirit orbs, which drains after every use. They refill quickly, but in reality serve to balance the use of projectile attacks throughout the game.

Spell cards act much like the ultra combos of SWR, but much more robust in nature. With a simple press of a single button, you can unleash their awesome power, no need for incredibly complex commands! Spell cards can be used for anything such as upgrading special attacks, restoring health and energy, to unleashing devastating attacks on your opponent. Each spell card power requires a fixed number of cards to use, so use them wisely! Another unique aspect to both games is that you can use the profile settings of the game to create your own unique spell card decks, up to 20 cards total. This gives Scarlet Weather Rhapsody a certain metagame aspect not seen in other fighters. Touhou Hisoutensoku expands on this aspect further by giving each character access to four selectable decks to choose from.

Another unique aspect to both games lies in the weather effects. Rather than having a timer counting down to the end of the match, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody throws weather which generates random effects into the game. For instance, a drizzle effect increases spell card damage, while blue sky lets you cancel special attacks into other specials. In effect, the weather brings a lot of random elements into the game, making for even more unpredictable battles!

Game mode wise, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody delivers. First off you’ve got story mode which gives each & every character their own unique scenario to play through. Unlike other fighters, this doesn’t consist of just a best of three round showdown, SWR really makes you work for every battle. First off, you only get three KO’s throughout the entire scenario, and your spell card desk is similarly limited, so you better not mess up! To make matters even more challenging, after you’d downed an opponent for the first time, they come back and unleash powers not seen in the arcade mode. And you thought bullet hell in their shooters was bad enough. You’ll need every trick in the book along with some well timed air dashes to survive. Overall, story mode is not for the faint of heart at any difficulty, and those who’ve survived at the famed lunatic difficulty level are few indeed.

Arcade mode is more your standard fighting game, with a simple best of 3 setup. Here you don’t need to worry about any ultimate attacks, or trying to keep 3 lives & meager supply of spell cards throughout the entire game. You just go in, and basically smash the opponent into the dirt. Very simple yet incredibly fun.

Of course, no fighter would be complete without the ability to play against a live opponent. Both Scarlet Weather Rhapsody & Touhou Hisoutensoku come complete with local versus play, as well as network play on a LAN or online. Though I’ve not had much experience with online play, lag for the most part has had minimal if any impact on the game play experience.

Graphics wise, if your looking for next-generation 3D effects and the like, well look elsewhere. Scarlet Weather Rhapsody makes use of sprite-based graphics on simple (if not well-drawn) backgrounds. Truth be told though, this gives SWR more an old-school feel to it, and allows it to run on just about any system without a hitch. Even a 5 year old single core Athlon 64 can run this game at full FPS without breaking a sweat. Music wise, the game features an impressive soundtrack. A real testament to the labor that it’s creators placed into the game.

Gripe wise, the only real problem I’ve had with the game is upgrading it from Scarlet Weather Rhapsody to Touhou Hisoutensoku. Without much in the way of guides to walk you through the process (basically, you have to patch SWR to the current version, then install TH, then change an .ini file to point to the SWR install path…) It took around 2 hours to get a working version of the expansion running and upgraded to the current version (1.10 at the time of this writing). Thankfully, this was the only painful aspect of this otherwise excellent game. Also, version 1.10 gives the ability to apply an English translation patch to the game. =)

Overall, if your looking for a fun fighting game that you can easily pick up and do well right from the start, then both Scarlet Weather Rhapsody & Touhou Hisotensoku are well worth a spin!

– Dennis


31 Responses to “Review – Scarlet Weather Rhapsody / Touhou Hisoutensoku”

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