Indie Game Review: Touhou Youyoumu: Perfect Cherry Blossom

Another review from me, in my attempt to catch up to the Touhou series in as short a frame of time as possible, which is a feat mind you.

Following the success of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, ZUN quaffed down more of the alcohol he loves and plotted out what is considered one of the strongest titles in the Touhou series, Perfect Cherry Blossom.

Perfect Cherry Blossom is probably the most well-known of the Touhou games overall, being a major improvement in all aspects over the predecessor. The storyline goes as thus, winter appears to be much longer than usual, and the residents of Gensokyo fear that spring will never come. The protagonists of the previous game, the Shrine Maiden Reimu Hakurei and the Ordinary Witch Marisa Kirisame, and the vampire-hunter-turned-maid of the chief antagonist of EoSD, Sakuya Izayoi gear up and investigate the unusual occurrence as to who stole the spring.

The gameplay remains largely unchanged from the previous game, it’s a successful formula that works, but there are a few significant alterations that make this a bit less of more-of-the-same.

One of the changes that makes PCB more forgiving in spite of its much higher difficulty is the ability to see the graze range and your character’s hitbox. Danmaku (Bullet Hell) games often have a very small hitbox on your character and on the bullets, but all you get to find it out usually is either experience, or a slight mark on the character. In the screenshot above, you can easily make out Sakuya’s hitbox as indicated by the large white dot (and as a white patch on her uniform when you’re not focusing).

Another addition is the Cherry Gauge, which has a massive effect on your score. While the previous game granted points from the point items based solely on the difficulty and how high on the screen you were when you collected them, the Cherry Gauge, which increases as you attack bosses, destroy enemies, or collect cherry point items, is the sole determinant of how much you get, up to amounts equal to the gauge itself, instead of the 50,000 minimum.

Sakuya vs Chen

Above it is the Cherry+ Gauge, which shows how many cherry points you have gained since your last Supernatural Border, when that hits 50,000, you go into a Supernatural Border, which grants a sort of shield for a limited time, which will protect you from a single bullet. While under the effects of it, it’s your main chance to score as highly as you can by destroying enemies and instantly collecting the point items they drop at maximum value.

And another slight alteration was made to how extra lives are acquired. The previous game only granted extra lives every few tens of millions of points, now, it’s determined solely by the amount of point items you accumulate, with the required amount quickly escalating as the game goes on.

Even though I said the game is a bit more forgiving than EoSD, PCB quickly hits the bullet hell levels of the danmaku genre as early as the first stage, and it also escalates as quickly as the previous.

As is always, the bosses are the highlight, and this time, they’re really out to get you. By the third stage, they’ve already gotten sick of you and they’re pulling out a range of unique attacks that make the patterns of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil pale in comparison.

And again, ZUN has composed an excellent score that easily outdoes EoSD, with the tracks being of multiple genres and very fitting, it shows just how talented he is. While writing this, I listened to Capital City of Flowers in the Sky for a pretty long time.

The small changes to the game are for the better, and it remains a solid staple of the Danmaku genre. Having three different characters with two shot types each, you’ll easily find out what one you’re best with (I find I’m best with Reimu and the Persuasion Needle shot, even though I used Sakuya for the screenshots since she’s the easiest for me to handle and I have a thing for albino maids who throw knives and stop time :3), and likely have a lot of fun with this. Having spellcards and shot types that depend on whenever your focusing or not will take getting the mechanics down-pat a bit longer than it does with EoSD, but you’ll still pick it up in a few seconds.

Okay! I get it! You guys want to kill me! Stop shooting danmaku while I’m trying to write a review! It’s hard to get the screenshots you know!

Touhou has been called the I Wanna Be The Guy of shooting games, and Gradius on crack, and this game is the epitome of those comparisons, being what is probably the hardest of the series.

(PS, those screenshots were taken on Normal, you don’t want to see Lunatic, trust me)

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  1. Still gotta review Imperishable Night and Phantasmagoria of Flower View (which I have yet to get a hold of) before I can fully catch up, then the spinoffs by Twilight Frontier if I feel like it, but I’m not big on fighters. Or maybe La Mulana, depends on what mood I’m in and how addictive reading random visual novels is.

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