Gensokyo Defenders

It seems Touhou is the big thing in the world if indie titles these days. For those that are unfamiliar, Touhou refers to the Touhou Project, a series of Japanese bullet hell shooter video games developed by a single-person Team Shanghai. Plots generally revolve around strange phenomena occurring in Gensokyo, a fictional realm inhabited by humans and Yōkai. The series has a rich background and I definitely recommend looking it up if you like that sort of thing. There have been so many games released that it is a little hard to keep up with, but today we are looking at Gensokyo Defenders (“GenDef”), which finds the shrine maidens and fairies duking it out in an all-out tower defense war. Get ready to battle.

Wait. Did you read that right? I’ll give you a minute to go back and read it again.

Yep. GenDef is a tower defense game. Thankfully, it feels and plays like a twin-stick shooter, and incorporates many classic elements from the series. The basic gameplay centers on somewhat large-scale battles which consist of numerous waves that each have two phases. Phase one allows you set traps by spending money that you earned from performing well in battle. Don’t worry about conserving your money either, it doesn’t carry over between stages. So spend your to your little heart’s desire. There are many different traps to choose from, so learning how to use each one effectively will greatly increase your performance in battle.

The second phase is where the game really starts to feel like that twin-stick shooter we talked about. During this phase, the battle phase, your character is on auto-shoot so your job is basically to just aim and move. You can build defenses also, but I rarely found any time to do so with the consistent onslaught of enemies. Each character has their own basic projectile attack, some spells that use Magic Points, and the “Last Word.” The Last Word is a special move that, once you’ve filled the special meter, you unleash on your enemies. As you move through the game, the stages become increasingly more complex and difficult with the intricate level design and new enemy types. I am not normally a fan of tower defense games, at least I haven’t been for a while, but GenDef is different as it blends the genres, which makes it incredibly addicting.

GenDef contains a cast of characters that are familiar to those who are fans of the Touhou series. The humor was on point during the dialogue scenes, even through the language translation. The soundtrack is mesmerizing with its upbeat, toe-tapping tunes. The area the game doesn’t shine in, though, is the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, GenDef looks decent, but the graphics are ambiguous and the interface is clunky. I found myself unable to see the enemy bullets at times, which put a real damper on my experience. The subpar presentation is the biggest downfall to the game and I wish Team Shanghai would have spent a little more time with it.

GenDef has two gameplay modes: story and online. The online version is basically a cooperative mode where you and others clear the stages. The Story mode is a campaign for a single player where you unlock characters, upgrades, and traps as you progress through the stages. You might find yourself, as I did, replaying some stages using your newly unlocked goodies so you can get that perfect 3-star rating. You may find yourself replaying even without the new goodies as you are often introduced to new enemies with no prior knowledge of how they operate in-game. So you may plan differently on the second time around based on their behavior.

I’ve only played a few Touhou games so far, but GenDef, despite being a tower defense game, is probably my favorite. It’s definitely rough around the edges, and could use a serious graphical overhaul, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had as your waging war with the charming ladies of the Touhou universe.

3.5 stars out of 5


Disclaimer: a review copy was provided to Skewed and Reviewed for the purpose of this review.