Indie Game Review: Touhou Koumakyou: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil

I thought I’d break out one of my strengths, finding and reviewing Indie games. What I define as an Indie (Independent) game is simple. A game created by a small group of people or an individual, outside of their current employment, sometimes released as freeware, and sometimes as commercial.

A lot of us have heard of Touhou, and not all of us know what it is. I’ll try and keep this review a tad on the “For Dummies” side, so you can make sense of it.

Touhou is a series of Bullet Hell shooters, originally created by Amusement Makers, but now the Touhou Project is spearheaded and executed by ZUN, the sole member of Team Shanghai Alice. As a Bullet Hell shooter, it’s not unusual for the screen to be filled with bullets at any given moment. That’s the gist of it, now, let’s review before I make another paragraph of rambling.

Stage 2 mid-boss, Daiyousei

The basic premise of Touhou is simple, you control one of the many girls in Gensokyo (which for some reason has two men, one hasn’t been seen at all and the other hasn’t appeared in the games), and you track down and do battle with the ones who are causing problems in Gensokyo. As a bullet hell shooter, this involves lots of vertical shooting and avoiding bullets. Simple.


The series is well known for it’s bullet patterns, and the large amount of bullets infesting the screen at any given time. Thinking you can hug the bottom of the screen and dodge them at the last second will get you through this will end in harsh lessons, Touhou plays like most Bullet Hell shooters and shooters in general, with a few twists.

Hong Meiling's first spellcard, Gorgeous Sweet Flower

One of the most notable ones, a staple that showed up early in the series, are the Spell Cards used by the bosses. In Touhouese, Spell Card is derived from words in Sanskrit that mean “60 seconds” and “Pure Hell”. It’s basically when a boss has taken enough abuse and breaks out a more powerful attack in order to destroy you, and it’s one of the most defining characteristics of the Touhou series, and the genre of Bullet Hell in general

Even though the bosses are the main highlight of the difficulty, and this is indeed an extremely challenging game, the normal enemies can also make life Hell for you. It can be easy to get backed into a corner, especially on the later levels

Late part of the fourth stage

You can tell from the screenshots that this indeed is an extremely difficult game, but despite that, it’s fun. Touhou is one of those games that rewards people who take risks, point items for example, give far more points at the top of the screen than they would at the bottom. Also, narrowly avoiding a bullet, also called grazing, is a pretty good way to rack up a nice score as well.

I’m usually an RPG person, and I don’t like shooters too much, but I have to say that this game, though not the best in the Touhou series (I’ve played three so far, and gonna expand my inventory on that), is still a damn good game. It’s rare I get a feeling of tension when things get hectic, but this game does accomplish that.

Fair graphics and good gameplay aside, another thing I love about this game is the music. ZUN is without a doubt a talented composer. A lot of the tracks in EoSD are really catchy, and you never get sick of them, the music fitting the areas well, and having a sound test, a rarity in modern games sadly, means you can let your favorite bore into your ears whenever you feel like.

The only complaint I have about this game is the sharp difficulty curve. Even though the game’s first two levels are easy enough, the difference in difficulty between the third, fourth, and fifth levels is extremely sharp. Even on the Normal difficulty you’ll have a lot of trouble. That aside, this is a really fun game. I actually lost lives getting most of those screenshots since I had to hit the Print Key button with the hand I use for movement. 😛

Beginning of Stage 2

This is a game well worth playing if you want a serious challenge. It was a commercial release at a convention, so I wont be giving out download links. I’ll be reviewing the other Touhou games in the series and more Indie/Doujin games as time goes on, they can all use a bit more awareness to them.

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  1. So, my first actual post here and my first review for a pretty evil game made by a drunken Japanese musician and game designer by the name of ZUN. Took me a while to get the thumb thing right, I’m rusty on WordPress.

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