Introduction to Touhou for Newbies
Subsections on This Page
* What is Touhou?
* Aren’t these in Japanese?
* Getting Started
* How to Play
* Reading the Screen
* Pickups & Automatic Collection
* Focusing & the Hitbox
* Focused Fire vs. Unfocused Fire
What is “Touhou?”
Touhou is an extremely popular series of vertical shooting games of the “bullet hell” or “curtain fire” variety, also known as “danmaku,” where enemies not only shoot directly at you, but also fire patterned bullets to weave through. Created by Zun, the Touhou game series entails an ongoing story of events set in the fictional realm of Gensokyo, revolving mostly -though not entirely – around incidents regarding the main character, Reimu Hakurei, and the Hakurei Shrine. The series is best-known for its beautiful bullet patterns, seamless story development, and intriguing character interactions; like typical RPGs, character personalities are well-developed, considering the game type, and the dialogue is infused with both drama and humor, making Touhou fun not only in the combat aspect, but also interesting to watch unfold.
Aren’t these in Japanese?
Originally, yes. However, I save you some trouble by pre-applying English patches when they are available, especially when it comes to the official games. (They also come ready-to-play; no need to use potentially confusing methods to use an .iso file to install them.)
1) Difficulty Selection
The first thing you’re asked to do after hitting “Start Game” is to select your difficulty level (seeing as not everybody is able to walk in the rain without getting wet when they first start).All Touhou games come with four selectable levels of difficulty to choose from:
2) Character Selection
There are two or three (or occasionally more) characters interested in resolving the game’s incident, and you’re asked to choose which one you’d like to play as. Reimu and Marisa are always available choices, and in recent games, Sanae has started making regular appearances, alongside other characters in some cases. Different characters, as you’d expect, have different shot types.
3) Shot Type Selection
After you’ve chosen your character, you’re asked to select from two or three shot types that character has to further customize your experience (except in specific games where characters only have one shot type, in which case this step is skipped).
Once you choose a shot type, you’re whisked away to the gameplay screen, where play begins!!
How to Play
Now you hafta know how to control yourself, yes? Here’s how it works:
Menu Keys (All Games)
Shooting Game Controls
You’ll use the bottom key row in addition to the arrows for movement:
Photography Game Controls
If you wanna play “Shoot the Bullet” or “Double Spoiler,” here’s how it’s done:
[Z]: Shutter(Hold to display viewfinder, release to snap.)
[Shift]: Focus (Hold Focus & Shutter to speed-charge camera.)
[X]: Flip orientation of frame (“Double Spoiler” only)
Fighting Game Controls
Playing IaMP, SWR and UNL is more complicated than shooting straight up, of course; it makes active use of six keys on two rows. Only SWR and UNL use the spell card buttons.
[X]: Weak Projectile
[C]: Strong Projectile
[S]: Switch Spell Cards
[D]: Use Highlighted Spell Card
Great Fairy Wars Controls
Since you can freeze stuff, it controls differently from the other games:
[Z]: Freeze (must hold briefly to charge first)
Reading the Screen
On the left is the playfield, of course. On the right is the information panel, which keeps you informed of your remaining lives and spell cards (bombs), current power level, and other things like your score. A game’s unique counters (such as Cherry Points in “Perfect Cherry Blossom”) are usually displayed in the lower-left corner of the playfield (as is the case for the UFOs in “Undefined Fantastic Object,” as shown in this screenshot). If you’re playing a game from any modern era, the difficulty level you’re playing on is also prominently displayed somewhere on the right side of the screen.
Pickups & Automatic Collection
Along with enemy bullets, as you destroy enemies, the screen also becomes populated with all sorts of pickups; there are unique ones in some games (those are explained in the individual games’ sections), but in every one of them you’ll run into these two things:
Power-Ups. Obviously, it’s a good thing to have tons of firepower, and this is how you get it. Collect power-ups to gradually increase your firepower (items bigger in size are, of course, worth more power). In classic titles, you start at 0, and max firepower is 128 points, increasing your firepower every 32 points; in most modern games, you start at 1.0, the max is 4.0, and your firepower increases every whole number.
Point items. These add to your score, and are worth more points the higher up on the screen you collect them. In classic titles, they’re something like coins from “Super Mario Bros,” in that when you collect enough, you’re automatically awarded an Extend (extra life), though in modern titles, they simply add to your score (which, depending upon exactly which game, may or may not have much to do with getting extends).
Spell Card (Bomb). It doesn’t matter whether it’s a large star with an “S” or a smaller square with a “B” on it, if it’s green and looks important, it does the same thing – it adds one spell card (bomb) to your stock. (These don’t appear in games where bombing costs you a power level instead of coming from a separate stock of bombs.)
Life Pieces. In some modern-era Touhou games, you can collect 5 of these hollow stars to directly earn an Extend; they’re dropped by bosses and minibosses in some games, and also dropped by red UFOs (in “Undefined Fantastic Object,” of course).
It can be hard to keep up with all the items floating down the screen, so when there’s a small lull or a good opening, there’s another way to collect items.
In all Touhou games is a point about 4/5 of the way up the screen called the Point of Collection, or POC for short. If you manage to maneuver your character above that line, you automatically collect all items that are currently on-screen. Some modern games are even nice enough to tell you at the beginning of stage 1 exactly where the POC is (as shown here in UFO).
Focusing & the Hitbox
When you hold the Shift button, your character Focuses. This has three very important benefits:
1) It visibly displays your hitbox (the part of your character’s graphical sprite which, when a bullet hits it, actually makes you die; more below).
2) It slows your character down for precision movement.
3) It switches your character from unfocused fire to focused fire (more on that below).
Focusing is what makes weaving through seemingly impossible bullet patterns possible. If you can squeeze that tiny dot between two bullets, you live, regardless of if bullets are touching any other parts of your character’s sprite.
Focused Fire vs. Unfocused Fire
Unfocused fire allows your character’s full movement speed, and generally revolves around area coverage; you get good crowd control this way without much effort. Unfocused fire is generally used for stage enemies, but can also be useful for bosses who move around a lot.
Focused fire slows you down for precision movement, and your character will concentrate their fire directly above themselves (well, in most cases, anyway) to cause maximum possible damage to a single target. For obvious reasons, focused fire is the generally preferred way of battling bosses, but can also deal with pesky normal enemies.
It is pretty obvious to any newbie that using a spell card (bomb) causes massive damage to everything onscreen. However, the point many players emphasize on using bombs is that they clear all enemy bullets from the screen – in other words, rather than bombing to cause damage, players prefer to bomb when they get themselves into a situation they cannot get out of any other way, thus being able to continue on instead of dying.
Characters generally start with 2 bombs, and can acquire more by grabbing spell card pickups, though they’ll also be given their default 2 bombs back when they die if they died with less than 2 bombs in stock.
Be warned that some games in the series do not differentiate your bomb stock, and instead cost one Power level to use (which ones are noted in the indivdual games’ entry).
Moedan is a training game for newcomers to Touhou. You play as Flandre Scarlet and are given two spellcard options: Wide Shot and Linear Shot.
For game information and for download links, please check the following page: