PC-98 Touhou – This stuff isn’t half bad

by eternal on September 6, 2008


Over a decade after the launch of a certain infamous series of danmaku games (which, ironically enough, didn’t even start as danmaku), I think it’s safe to say that just about every otaku has at least heard of ZUN’s endeavours in the world of doujin soft and the production of arguably one of the best shmup series ever made. From the intensity of capturing trying to capture Yukari’s Boundary of Life and Death, to the heart-pounding conclusion of every 1cc run where you clear the last pattern with zero lives and zero bombs, and even to the fanboys constantly arguing over whether Marisa should be paired with Reimu or Alice, Touhou has, through some means or another, become a staple in otaku culture. However, there’s a certain little part of the series that people tend to forget; those five SNES-style games that started it all.

 Now, I know what you’re thinking, or at least I think I do – you’re probably thinking that the previous-gen Touhou games are antiques compared to the current generation, and that they will never be able to compete in terms of quality. Well, if you ARE thinking that, then…
…actually, I suppose you’d be right. From EoSD onward, it’s pretty much indisputable that the series took a turn for the better, with the first questionable turning point being the jump after IN (which was, in the minds of many, flawless). However, the word “bad” is subjective; how does one define a “bad” game from a good one? Was Super Smash Bros Brawl bad just because it (arguably) didn’t live up to it’s predecessor? Likewise, is Mystic Square bad simply because it isn’t as good as a game that was released four years afterward?

I couldn’t save any good gameplay screencaps due to the lack of a replay function, so here’s some Alice instead.

The way I see it, the old Touhou games are pretty good if you go in expecting what you see. Had I filled this post with screenshots (a few are coming up, don’t worry), you would probably see an ancient, all-around ugly shmup with enemies that look more cute than threatening and background that are reminiscent of the first Legend of Zelda – and instantly, you’d probably be turned off of the prospects of actually trying one of the games. However, this is where the discrepancy appears, between the graphics and the gameplay; with a working focus button, different shooting styles including homing bullets, and patterns awfully similar to what we see in the modern games, I quickly discovered that the games aren’t bad at all.

ZUN’s Engrish will never cease to amuse me.

Ah, bullet hell…what would I do without you?

Can anyone figure out what the English in the stage name says? Because I can’t.

Imagine, THIS used to be Reimu

See what I mean now? Well, you probably can’t tell much from the pictures, but really, despite the unappealing graphics and character designs (compared to what we know today), the gameplay is shockingly solid. One of the biggest benefits of playing the PC-98 series (which most of us won’t be able to reap due to the lack of translations) would be the opportunity understand more of the story and history of the series, but even failing that, it’s worth a shot if you’re ever itching for a good danmaku challenge. I don’t plan on dwelling on the games too long – a Normal 1cc run on each is fine by me – but from what I’ve seen, they’re probably decently hard as well, or at least hard enough to make a Lunatic run more than a walk in the park (but less than Subterranean Animism Extra). I toyed around in Extra for a bit and didn’t do too bad, though actually clearing one of them would probably take a lot longer. Either way, though, each game would probably occupy at least as much time as your average doujin shmup, and they’re probably just as good, too.

In short, if you haven’t grabbed the PC-98 pack off Doujin Style yet (or if it’s sitting in your hard drive not yet unzipped), then do yourself a favour and give Mystic Square a shot. Who knows, maybe you won’t be as disappointed as you might think you’d be.

The colours are ruined due to the fact that the picture was taken in full screen, but I just couldn’t resist.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

M12 September 9, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Dude, I don’t care about graphics. If the game play kicks ass, I’m in :D.

Old-school styled games are the best. Nothing beats the SNES days.

M12s last blog post..Gaming Idiot M12-san: Starcraft


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