Touhou: Basics and Beginnings

Still kicking? Really? You’ve been dead for months. Admittedly, so have I, but I’m not the frickin’ admin! And at least I can spell, and I’m the only other person who posts! Hmpf!

*Gets off his high horse*

Well now, back to humility, and my worst nightmare in more ways than one, Touhou. Let me explain why…

Why is Touhou my worst nightmare?

Okay, first off, I’m playing from Touhou 6: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil onwards, and nothing before. Why? Because my computer can’t run the earlier games, but that shouldn’t matter too much. Also, as of now I’ve only played EoSD, so this will be entirely based on it. Fortunately, EoSD set the general formula for the later games. The Touhou Project (東方Project) is a series of vertical scrolling danmaku shooting games. If you don’t know, danmaku means “barrage”, and is the name for a genre of games that don’t really get outside Japan. Thanks to that, the first reason it is my worst nightmare was obtaining, patching and then figuring it out without a manual. Not as hard as it sounded, actually.

The second reason is the difficulty. I simply cannot pass the Stage 3 Boss. To make it worse, I can just about reach her without continuing, with instantly locks you to the bad ending. Keep in mind, there are six stages, each with a midboss and endboss, unique spellcards for most of them, and pretty crazy dodging even when you aren’t facing a boss at times. And I’m playing on normal! There’s two more difficulty setting above that! Hat’s off to anyone who can reach the good ending on Lunatic.

Well, How’s it Played?

It’s simple to control, three buttons are needed for the main games, X, Z, the Arrow Keys and Shift. Before you go saying “That’s all the way across the keyboard“, remember that there is a Shift Key on the other side of the keyboard as well.

Z – It’s your confirm key. You’ll be wanting it to select difficulty, characters, and the like. This is used to fire bullets in-game.

X – It’s your cancel key. You’ll be wanting it to undo your previous selections. This is used to fire “bombs” in-game. In games without bombs, it performs the same function as Shift.

Arrow Keys – They’re your selecting keys. You’ll be wanting them to select your selections. This is used to control motion in-game.

ShiftThis is often called the “Focus” key. Using it makes your characters motion more precise, concentrates your shots and, in later games, shows your hitbox.

Then there are your statistics. Not always so simple. You have your Score, Players, Bombs, Power and Graze. Notably, each one except graze can be increased by collecting special items, but they will only mentioned if they are the primary method of increasing the stat in question.

Score is, obviously, the score you’ve amassed. It can be boosted by raising your Power, raising your Graze, or by collecting the blue items dropped by foes. During bosses, dealing sufficient damage to the boss without losing a life or using a bomb will cause them to give large bonuses to score, depending on the difficulty setting and spellcard.. Keeping in mind that you are a One Hitpoint Wonder in a game genre aptly translated as “Bullet Hell”, it’s trickier than it sound.

Players are your lives. You start with three, and if you continue, you’re given three. One hit means losing one life. Simple as pie.

Bombs are the player’s versions of later discussed Spellcards. Using one clears all bullets from the screen, grants you temporary invincibility, and deal devastating damage to bosses. You’re granted three each life, and they’re used to escape tricky situations. If your ninja-quick, there is a period shortly after being hit where if a bomb is triggered, you will be spared a life. But you have to be really fast.

Power may sound as simple as “Players”, but it’s not. You gain power by catching red items dropped from enemies. The higher your power, the more bullets you shoot, or the more effective your shooting patterns are. This can be raised to about 120 points, at which point you enter “Full Power Mode”, which triggers some interesting gameplay effects. First, Power Items now function as Score Items, except their value starts low and increases exponentially. Second, if you pass a point towards the top of the screen, called the “Point of Collection“, all items on the playing field will be moved to you. But keep in mind, losing a life will set you back one Power Level, and Continuing will reset it to zero, although there will be 5 “Full Power Items” nearby, which do exactly what they say on the tin.

Finally, the most obscure of the statistics, Graze. In all honesty, even though I know what it is and how it works, I still can’t gain enough of it to be any good. Basically, it’s a part of your score. By addition I mean it makes up most of your score if you’re in any sort of leaderboard. How do you gain it? By being as close to the bullets as you can. That’s right, this stat exists to bolster the scores of the people with enough balls to move as little as possible. Where I am, all the graze I gain is from when there’s not enough room to be far from a bullet, or when I nearly forget to dodge.



Simply put, Touhou is a simple game made to simply screw you over in the simplest way possible. It’s HARD. So why am I going to do a series on it? It’s FUN. That’s right. A genuinely fun Nintendo Hard game.

Just for fun, here’s my gameplay on Lunatic difficulty. I just about reach the Stage Two boss. I’ll have to introduce you to the ⑨ sometime.