For those unfamiliar with the Touhou series, myself included, Scarlet Curiosity may come across as a bit incomprehensible. Touhou is a long running Japanese Indie bullet hell series which grew to popularity and spawned a whole host of spin off games, fan made games, comics and so on. It’s got a history and host of unique characters and lore, so jumping in with Scarlett Curiosity – a game that’s not a part of the main series, nor even of the same genre (this being an action RPG) – is a bit of an ask. The game has its own story line, and it isn’t all that difficult to follow if you ignore some of the surrounding context, however, the game also feels more of a fan service creation, which makes me hesitate about how much the game would have to offer to the average western gamer. On the other hand, I did enjoy at least some of my time with the game.

 

Scarlet Curiosity follows the story of Remilia Scarlet – a vampire princess – and her maid Sakuya, both of whom are playable characters. Following news reports of monster sightings and troubles, of which the vampire princess is being blamed for, they set off to investigate. Upon returning, however, Remilia finds her mansion destroyed and under attack. Unsure of the forces behind this, she sets off to uncover the truth and get revenge.

 

The game plays as a third person and isometric action RPG – the camera angles switching up depending on levels (sometimes you play with a more top down view, other times you are closer to the character) – which sees you hacking, slashing and using magic to clear semi-open levels of monsters, fairies and all sorts of mythical and dangerous creatures.

 

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Depending on the character you choose to play as, you’ll start out with a few basic attacks. I played as Remilia, for example, so had a slash attack with her claws, a spin attack, a dash attack and a powerful spell. As you progress and level up you will find new items to boost your stats, for example, new claws that deal extra damage, jewellery to boost mana, and so on; and you will learn new skills and spells to utilise. Using skills uses up a portion of mana which recharges automatically over time, and spells can only be used when your spell meter has been charged – making them more finite in use.

 

You can chop and change skills and spells as you learn them, some being flat out more powerful, others requiring more skill to use – so, for example, I chose not to opt for the more powerful bomb attack because it was much more difficult to aim than a close ranged attack. It’s fairly simplistic and the progression is highly linear, but there is at least a range of skills and spells for you to use. You can even purchase items at a shop unlocked half way through the game, though I never personally needed to use this – it was also a pain to use anyway as you couldn’t effectively compare your current equipment with what was in stock.

 

Levels are often a bit maze-like, featuring multiple paths, some dead-ends and the odd secret (chests, and pots that contain health). And all are absolutely littered with low level enemies for you to slaughter. The actual combat isn’t terrible, in fact there’s a visceral satisfaction to the attacks, even if it is a little floaty. But one of the game’s main problems with regards to gameplay is the repetition. Particularly when the only challenge you face is in boss fights, much of the game becomes a chore to play.

 

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That’s not to say the combat is totally uninteresting, however, as despite being an action RPG it also clearly takes the series’ main genre as inspiration, featuring some rather bullet hell enemy attacks. Foes that fire patterns of projectiles and magic require you to dodge, jump and intercept in order to avoid getting hit. With the ordinary mobs this isn’t much of an issue, but when it comes to boss encounters things get a little more serious.

 

As Remilia’s quest presses on, she finds characters at the end of levels out and about making trouble. And of course, in order to pass them you must first defeat them in battle. The boss fights are certainly the most interesting thing about the gameplay, and actually I found them to be very enjoyable. Each boss has its own set of attacks and patterns to work out, requiring you to dodge masses of projectiles and attacks. You fight a small variety of bosses, from small ones to large monsters, each providing a different challenge – the small ones tend to be a straight up one on one fight, whereas the large monsters may be set in a side on or circular arena (for example, the boss in the middle, you moving around it or from side to side). Initially I found them to be quite easy, but there was definitely some tense encounters later on. It doesn’t quite make up for the levels getting a bit tedious, but the effort is definitely there.

 

To the game’s credit as well, there are a few mechanics that try to vary the levels, such as platforming and side scrolling, but ultimately these diversions aren’t very well implemented – particularly the platforming, which suffers as a result of the controls being floaty. The game is also basic in terms of visuals. Textures and character models are poor, and there’s not much in the way of effects. I will concede that the game is colourful, however, and the soundtrack isn’t bad.

 

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It’s a shame really, because this is clearly a very ‘indie’ production, and there’s been effort put into it, and the makings of some good gameplay. But for anyone who isn’t already invested in the series and its characters, I’m not really sure why you’d play this. I’d say it was worth it as a cheap curiosity, but the game is far from cheap, sitting at a ridiculous £15.99 on PSN. There is a decent amount of content there – maybe lasting 8 hours for one character, and the ability to play through as another one with different abilities, but still, that’s a big ask.

 

If you’re interested in the series already, you may find enjoyment here, but perhaps wait for a sale. Otherwise, I can’t see it being worth your time.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1, and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games - Silent Hill 2 and Shogun 2 being a couple of my all time favourites. I became adamant that I wanted to be a video game critic after discovering YouTuber TotalBiscuit, and subsequently took on (and completed) a Journalism course, hoping to one day play and talk about video games for a living...or, you know, just as a hobby.