This month sees the release of not one, but two brand new ‘touhou’ games for the Playstation Vita. Besides Touhou Genso Wanderer there is also Touhou Double Focus, which is a 2D platformer and is likely to appeal to a very different crowd than Genso Wanderer will.
The story backdrop in Touhou Double Focus is a tad bizarre, yet reminiscent of something like The Neverending Story. Protagonists Aya and Momiji get transported into a magical book and must try to find their way back home. You’ll run into a few other characters as well, but Double Focus’ main draw isn’t the story – it’s the art style and gameplay. Its story, which ties into Aya’s daytime job as a journalist as well – is mostly just fun and lighthearted.
Controlling the action in Double Focus means controlling both Aya and Momiji – switching roles as situations ask for it. Basic skills are the same for both characters, but the way they specialize in certain areas is what makes them right for certain tasks but not for others. For instance, Aya has a crow as her spirit animal and that means her abilities lean towards ranged attacks and flying/hovering. In true Paperboy style, she can attack enemies from a distance by hurling newspapers at them as well – which definitely brought a retro-shaped smile to my face. Also fitting with her background as a journalist, she can damage foes by using her camera’s bright flash.
Momiji has the fox as her spirit animal, and as a result she can climb up walls easier and is much more melee-oriented than Aya. This also translates to her defensive style, because where Aya tries to swiftly move out of the way Momiji keeps things up close and personal by using a shield when she’s being attacked.
Touhou Double Focus is a metroidvania-inspired platformer – which translates into the fact that you’ll regularly run into dead ends that don’t open up until after you find an item, acquire a skill, defeat an enemy or otherwise complete a task. These can range from the cliché to the downright silly, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you here. The game isn’t as long as other metroidvania titles can be, but it’s fairly unforgiving in how its save system is implemented. Failure to progress to the next safe area can result in the loss of 15 to 20 minutes worth of gameplay, which can lead to frustration.
On the Vita, Double Focus is a very nice looking game, with gorgeous sprites and a colorful palette of 16-bit-like backdrops. PS4 owners have a lot more to choose from these days and Double Focus is less of a standout title for that platform, but for Sony’s handheld this is a solid and fun little platformer well worth checking out.