Sometimes your favorite genres can take you through the most unexpected terrain. I think (and I also hope) that I am not the only one who has immersed himself in a marathon succession of articles and texts full of dense knowledge thanks to the fact that in a work that is leaving us with a certain meaning, a concept that is not mentioned, even in passing, is mentioned. It is familiar to us. I remember, not without a certain mixture of amazement and amusement at my then self, having stuffed my chest and back with so many articles on demonology at the end of my first viewing of Hereditary that, almost certainly, I could have scored so high on some Hypothetical exorcist tests like above must have been on obscure lists of potentially dangerous subjects. In any case, perhaps it is best to leave these murky matters aside and focus on the fact that, thanks to having played two (2) games in the Touhou Universe, this text is on the way to making me a true expert™ in the franchise within the Indomitable Legion also known as the editorial office of Eurogamer Spain.
And all because I am passionate about metroidvanias.
I suspect Team Ladybug too. Not in vain, of a production that covers three main titles – until the date of writing these lines, of course -, two are metroidvanias. Not bad. Where there is no suspicion is in the fact that Team Ladybug are unrepentant fans of the Touhou Universe. If the first appearance of Touhou Luna Nights on PC, back in 2019, left little room for doubt, the interest of its publisher (Playism) and the development team itself to see the light of day on all possible platforms entails a commitment to disseminate the life and work of these characters to which few can aspire.
Even so, and leaving audiovisual propaganda aside, the plane we are interested in observing is the video reveler. And that’s where Touhou Luna Nights has a lot to say. Of course, making it clear that this project is more of an idea carried out through pure passion and effort than of means behind it. Although this statement could be shocking when looking at its fantastic pixel-art or the careful melodies that accompany the adventures of this curious universe – the argument is, simply and simply, that Lady Remilia gets bored and creates a universe parallel to the one she commands her maid, Sakuya – the truth is that the structure of this metroidvania suffers, without a doubt, from excessive rigidity. Although the main lines of the genre are there – the everlasting map, the freedom of exploration, the objects that will unlock new paths and a pinch of backtracking – the fact that Touhou Luna Nights bases its progress around chapters whose access will be guarded by final bosses results in progress whose linearity may make more than one genre purist raise their eyebrows.
Now, where Team Ladybug shows its true potential is in the other game mechanics, since mastering mapping is just one facet of that multi-sided coin we like to call metroidvania. Yes, I know that coins only have two sides, leave me alone. Another of them is made up, of course, of the skills that we will use – and abuse – to make our way across the length and breadth of the stage and subdue our enemies. And what skills; It doesn’t take Touhou Luna Nights even five minutes to tell us that Sakuya is capable of slowing down time as he pleases to face battles in which, strictly speaking, the odds were against him. It is no longer that the rivals blatantly play the card of numerical superiority, which they also do, but that they also hit like wrecking balls and reappear as many times as necessary. And this is in general terms. If we go into detail, we will see a progressive increase in enemy resources that begins with the occasional spirit that timidly dodges our attacks and culminates in crazy things such as defensive positions with miniguns managed by fairies. Where did this concept come from? No idea. Is it canon? Even less of an idea, but if I didn’t ask, neither did you.
Fortunately, such an escalation of weapons by the rival team will find a well-deserved reflection as Sakuya expands her capabilities thanks, of course, to the various improvements scattered throughout the Touhou Luna Nights mansion. Needless to say, at this point in video game history, there will be few things that a metroidvania player would like more than a good double jump, except, perhaps, turning into a morphosphere or Alucard’s great hair. No one will be surprised, therefore, by its inclusion as part of a compendium of skills that seeks to mix classics such as the aforementioned double jump with important innovations that will revolve around being able to stop time around us. Thus, we can stop our enemies in their tracks and plant a good handful of blades a few centimeters from their faces so that they all happily collide the moment the time current returns to its channel. And all this without mentioning the fact that we can swing around our enemies – and their projectiles – to recover vital or magical energy depending on whether we have chosen to freeze time.
The result is an original mix of playable mechanics that, however, does not fully realize its full potential. If to the already mentioned linearity of its progress we add factors such as a modest duration – it is not unreasonable to aspire to complete it in approximately five hours – or backtracking that, on many occasions, provides few benefits, the result is one more What an evident lack of situations and incentives that display all the possibilities of this playable framework. Everything related to combat and temporal manipulation skills is saved from burning, of course. The first for obvious reasons – we are going to be launching projectiles from the opening whistle – and the second thanks to an early appearance that entails a much deeper development than the rest.
Touhou Luna Nights is ultimately a project of pure passion, for better and for worse. With an incontestable artistic section, its proposal brims with great ideas and the desire to stomp its feet in a genre as tough and popular as metroidvania. Its edges are evident and have already been mentioned, but its successes in playable terms make it a much more than recommended title for those who want to try a fresh proposal full of self-confidence, which shows that there is life beyond the usual references. . Of course, I still have no fucking idea who all these Touhou people are.