Touhou Project: Japanese Video Game Phenomena

Touhou Game 8 (lunatic mode)
Touhou Game 8 (lunatic mode)

While continuing my never ending Internet search for video games (PC or console), I happened to stumble upon a forum that raved about a series of games independently created in Japan by a team called Shanghai Alice. upon further research, I discovered that these touhou (pronounced toehoe) games have a huge fan base over in Japan, and is also making waves in the undergound gaming community in America.


The games are two dimensional curtain scroll shooter games. They are much like traditional curtain scroll shooters, except the player has to weave it's character through endless, rainbow colored, shooting patterns, while listening to intriguing soundtracks. The best part: all of the 70+ characters are cute anime girls that have insane powers.


The controls to all of the games are quite simple. The arrow keys move your character. You fire by holding down the "Z" key, and use bombs or spell cards by pressing the "X" key. Holding down the shift key is your "focus", and decreases your moving speed for better maneuverability. In some of the newer games, holding down the shift key also shows your hit box. Grazes are the number of times your character has come close to an enemy bullet. If you obtain enough grazes, you get an extra life. The windows games are broken up into 4 difficulties: easy, normal, hard, and lunatic.

In game art of Reimu (touhou 6)
In game art of Reimu (touhou 6)

The (quite complex) Storyline:

After downloading and unzipping most of the touhou games from torrents, and installing the available english patches, I have figured out most of the broad storyline. The main character is Reimu Hakurei, a human shrine maiden who resides in the fictional land of Gensokyo. She protects her shrine from youkai, or ghosts. Her weapons are huge ying-yang orbs that shoot her spiritual power.

~Touhou 1: The Highly Responsive To Prayers: This is the first game of the touhou series that was released in Japan in 1996. It was released for the PC-98, which is the equivalent of an American IBM. This game is unique because it has an arkaniod like game play. In this game, something has trashed the Hakuei shrine, and Reimu is not going to let who ever it was get away with out a fight. She travels to another dimension, and utilizes her spiritual ying-yang power to fight evil.

In game art of Marisa (touhou 6)
In game art of Marisa (touhou 6)

~Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland: This is the first curtain scroll type touhou game that was also released for the PC-98. Again, you play as Reimu, and her shrine is overrun by youkai. She once again sets off with her ying-yang to battle evil spirits. In this game, Marisa Kirisame, a human witch that weilds the power of the stars, and mima, a ghost that haunts the shrine, appear as enemies, and become more prominent characters in the later games.

In game art of Mima (touhou 3)
In game art of Mima (touhou 3)

~Touhou 3: Phantasmagoria of Dimension Dream: This is a curtain scroll game also reeased for the PC-98 in Japan. This is a quite unique touhou game because 2 players can battle each other for victory. This type of gameplay is also used un touhou 9.5. In this game, spell cards first appear. Spell cards are powerful magic that only a specific character can use. In a sense, they are the equivalent to a bomb. In this game, you again play as Reimu, and discover some ruins near the temple, along with Marisa and Mima. Only one person may enter the ruins, so the girls call for a competition to see who is the strongest.

In game art of Yuka Kazumi (touhou 9)
In game art of Yuka Kazumi (touhou 9)
In game art of Alice Margatroid (touhou 7)
In game art of Alice Margatroid (touhou 7)

~Touhou 4: Lotus Land Story: In this PC-98 game, Marisa Kirisame and Reimu are playable characters. This game follows the events of the previous game, and once again, the land of Gensokyo is at unrest due to a disturbance in the distance. Reimu sets out to eradicate the evil, but is joined by an old rival.yuka Kazumi makes her first appearance as a powerful ghost, who has the ability to manipulate flowers, and is sometimes referred to as the flower master of the four seasons

~Touhou 5: Mystic Square: This is the last PC-98 touhou game to be released (in 1998). In this game, four players can be selected to play: Reimu, Marisa, Mima, and Yuka Kazumi. This game is most similar to the game play and graphics of the windows games that were made later. In this game, a large amount of demon like creatures are eminating from a cave in the mountians of Gensokyo. Your character must travel through the land of Makai to confront the one behind the problem. Alice Margatroid is first showcased as an opponent. She is a magician who lives in the forest of magic.

In game art of Sakuya Izayoi (Touhou 6)
In game art of Sakuya Izayoi (Touhou 6)

~Touhou 6: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil: This is the first game that was released specifically for the Windows operating system. It's gameplay has grown in leaps and bounds from the first 5 games. In this game, there is a thick red mist that has fallen over the land. You can play as either Reimu or Marisa, as you battle your way to the person or thing that is responsible for the change in climate. A slew of new characters are introduced in this game, such as Sakuya Izahoi, a maid in the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Sakuya is a maid to Remelia Scarlet, and is procifient in throwing knives, and time manipulation.

In game art of Yuyuko (touhou 7)
In game art of Yuyuko (touhou 7)

~Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom: This game is the second touhou game gears towards a windows operating system, and one of the most popular games in the touhou series. You can play as either Reimu, Marisa, or Sakuya as you battle through another intense storyline. In this game, spring has failed to show its face, and the land is stuck in an eternal, clod winter. Perfect Cherry Blossom is unique because it has "cherry points" that you collect. If you collect enough cherry points (50,000 I think), you enter a supernatural border, which makes your character invulnerable for a given amount of time. Like the previous game, this one introduces a whole batch of new characters like Youmu Konpaku, a ghost that is an excellent swordsman, and Yuyuko Saigyouji, a ghost princess.

In game art of Youmu (touhou 7)
In game art of Youmu (touhou 7)
Official art of Reisen
Official art of Reisen

~Touhou 8: Imperishable Night: This game is the first to use dual characters as a selection. You can play as Reimu and Yukari Yakumo (a youkai) on the Illusionary border team, Marisa and Alice on the Aria of forbidden magic team, Sakuya and Remelia Scarlet on the Visionary Scarlet team, or you can play as any character individually. With the dual characters, holding shift will switch to the other character and her attack. If you use a bomb while holding shift, you use your secondary character's special bomb. I think this is the most popular and well known touhou game of them all. In this game, new enemies appear such as (my favorite) Reisen Udongein Inaba, a moon rabbit with ungodly powers. The story starts out when your character realizes that Gensokyo is stuck in eternal night, and sets out to find the culprit. In this game, there are two endings you may encounter depending on how well you play through.

~Touhou 9: Phantasmagoria of Flower View: This game is much like the third touhou game. you can battle against another player or a computer in curtain scroll madness. The annoying thing about this game is you have to keep pressing the fire button instead of holding it down. Reimu, Marisa, Sakuya, and Youmu are all playable characters. There are no new characters in this game.

In game art of Kanako (touhou 10)
In game art of Kanako (touhou 10)

~Touhou 10: Mountain of Faith: This is the newest touhou game that has been fully released and is availavle in America. I have not found an English translation patch for this game yet. You can play as Reimu or Marisa, with three different forms of attack which you choose in the main menu. I have found online that the storyline consists of Reimu being threatened by a mysterious person. She sets out in autumn to find the person behind the threats. Kanako Yasaka is one of the new faces in this game, and is deemed the goddess of wind and rain.

Additional Notes:

There are more games that I did not mention in the above list because they did not follow the main story line/ game trend. I will provide a brief description, but i have found that they are rare, and hard to find on the Internet:

  • Touhou 7.5: Immaterial and Missing Power: This is a collaboration between Shanghai Alice and Tasogare Frontier. It is actually a fighting game that can be played online with other users.
  • Touhou 9.5: Shoot the Bullet: This is a game where you play as Aya ( a reporter), and do not shoot bullets, but are in control of a camera. It is very difficult
  • Touhou 10.5: Scarlet Weather Rhapsody: This is another fighting collaboration game between Shanghai Alice and Tasogare Frontier.

Games to Come?

I have heard of the 11th touhou game called Subterranean Animism, that features Reimu and Marisa as playable characters. I believe it has already been released in Japan, but I have not been able to get my hands on it yet.

Final Thought:

The touhou project games are a fun and quick release from the day. The characters are fun and lovable. I suggest giving these games a try (7 and 8 are the most fun), and spreading the word about this underground cultural phenomena.

Touhou 8 lunatic mode (last stage)

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Comments 10 comments

Nochibou 7 years ago

In other words nice post

Blah 7 years ago

I would like to tell you that the art that you have for Reisan is official art, not fanart.

Otherwise, good post.

Andrew 6 years ago

Awesome page. I just discovered Touhou Project myself. Now trying the very first game using an emulator.

Kean 6 years ago

Actually there are new characters in Touhou 9, namely Shikieiki Yamaxanadu and Komachi Onozuka.

kiki lakewood 6 years ago

where did you find the torrents?

hey 5 years ago

can you buy it now in 2011? cze i want it

Flandre Scarlet 5 years ago

hey "hey", u can download it, look up gensokyo memories, it has download links to the games, glad i could help :)

Risanderu Yumikozuki 4 years ago

Actually, new characters include Aya Shameimaru, Medicine Melancholy AND Shikieiki Yamaxanadu and Komachi Onozuka. Also, you misspelled several names. Fir example, it's Yuka Kasami, not Kazumi.

And also, the incident in Imperishable Night was the false moon that appeared during the Harvest Festival, the eternal night was made by the player(s).

Risanderu Yumikozuki 4 years ago

Oh, and have fun, and great post.^^

nami 4 years ago

i love this game it is the funnest game i have played

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