Game: Genokyo Defenders
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer/ Publisher: Neetpia/Unties
Price: £17.99|$19.99 |€ 19,99
Age Rating: Europe 12+| America 10+
Release Date: November 29th 2018
Also available on: PS4
Review code kindly provided by StridePR
The Tohou Project is a series of bullet hell shooters set in the land of Gensokyo. This is a spinoff game of that series. All kinds of creatures such as spirits and fairies inhabit Gensokyo. At the start of the game, you play as the ice fairy Cirno. Instead of playing their usual game of Danmaku (the style of shooter game they feature in) she has learned about war games. So she goes from place to place bothering people by making them play war games against her.
Visual novel cutscenes take place before and after each level. The art for the characters is nice, although the voice acting is Japanese only. Tohou fans might be more interested in the story than I was, as it’s more about the characters interacting than anything special.
The War Games are a tower defence game, you’ll have a base to defend (in this case stopping enemies from reaching), and some spawn points the enemies will start from along a path. Enemies will attack in waves and before each one you have some free time to lay down various traps. These traps can either cause damage or do other things like slow them down. Generally, tower defence games are about setting these traps up as they’re what you need to fight the enemies.
Defeating enemies will give you money to create traps, as well as regenerate MP and drop UFOs. These UFOs change colour will add to your gauge on the right side of the screen, if the gauge is full you can unleash a special attack.
Gensokyo Defenders also gives you a playable character to move along the field. They all have an auto attack but also have a magic bar with two spells they can use. The right stick aims attack, which on the Nintendo Switch can make it a bit touchy. Cirno, the first character has freezing spells which both damage and stop enemies in their tracks. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock more characters such as Rin who has a spell that uses no MP and can turn fairy enemies into allies. At first, you might have to play a level with a particular character, but after completing it, you can play with anyone.
Enemies will throw projectiles or touch you causing damage. The only indicator of this being your health bar. If you die, you’ll respawn within a few seconds, so it’s best to avoid it. Bosses may also appear usually being the character you were playing against, and they will specifically target you rather than head straight for the goal.
As you progress through the game, you will unlock various characters and trap types. Some of which are more useful than others. At the end of every match, you’ll receive a star rating out of three based on your base’s health. These give you points which you can use to upgrade the traps and characters, such as lowering the cost or increasing the effectiveness.
The stages are set in a few different areas, some of which have lethal obstacles. Water, lava and spikes will kill both you and the enemies. For these stages, the springboard trap is a nice choice. Flying enemies can easily ignore these hazards, and it’ll be up to you to take care of them.
There are a couple of other difficulty options that can be unlocked, easy mode is done when you only receive a one-star ranking. I couldn’t recommend that as the first half of normal mode can be slow enough as it is.
Asides from the about twenty levels there are some stages for the “three fairies” which slightly reminds me of Pikmin 3’s character swapping as you share health between the three of them and can switch them to different places, to control the battle.
It also has an online co-op mode, although with a lot of smaller games you might have significant trouble finding anyone to play with. At least if you have a friend with the game you’ll be able to play it.
All’s fair in love and war games
The presentation of Gensokyo Defenders is sorely lacking. The only good point I can give it is the music, yet the rest of the sound design is just not good. There’s no sound or physical feedback from getting hit and Rin’s “miaow” is terribly annoying.
Graphically it’s awful, which doesn’t help out this quite average game. This isn’t just a matter of preference as the design also impacts the gameplay. Since you get stuck on corners (and allies) if a stage is a bit dark like the volcano one you won’t see the path end and repeatedly get stuck onto it. In some stages, decorations blocked the view of the path as was the case with some very big trees. The animation is also lacking, such as the player character having no animation for their auto attack. At some points, I found untranslated text, which is especially annoying in a game with only Japanese voices.
The game progression makes it feel like a mobile game as you have to replay levels to get a better rating in order to earn points to make your traps even remotely effective. Using your character is important as most traps won’t cover the large paths.
Personally, I’m not sure if I like it. Tohou fans and people really desperate for a defence style game might get some fun out of it. The people I played it with and I certainly didn’t.