Gensokyo Defenders (PC) Review

Developer: Neetpia | Publisher: Sony UNTIES || Overall: 7.0/10

What do you get when anime girls with varying breast sizes need to kill fairies for a nonsensical reason? Gensokyo Defenders. What do you get when you’re confused about everything you are seeing on screen and don’t know if you want to furiously masturbate or blow your brains out? Gensokyo Defenders. But most importantly, what do you get when you combine a twin stick shooter with tower defense? Gensokyo Defenders.

Gensokyo Defenders is a tower defense game that relies on the action elements of your character to do most of the work. While you won’t be exactly be placing towers, rather, traps instead, there’s a bit of strategy to be had, but its clearly not the main focus. You’ll be using spells to defeat hordes of fairies coming for your magical circle. There are various fairies and floating spheres/marbles to kill, but most are just making a break for that sweet sweet magic circle. While traps are secondary to the strategy they are still vital.

The most intriguing part about the game is that you use a number of spells to defeat your enemies. Each different character you unlock has three unique spells, but the traps are shared between all characters. Traps are unlocked, so you’ll be able to find a combination that best suits your needs as you progress and change characters. In using your traps and spells, the goal is to live through all of the waves of fairies; when you get to the last wave, a boss will appear and you’ll have to defeat them to win. Typically you will unlock the boss you just killed, as well.

That’s about all that makes sense with this game. I’m not sure if its the localization, but I haven’t got the slightest idea why anything is happening and why there are so many friggin characters talking. It seems like a new character pops up on the screen for each line of dialogue and then they never come back. Is it an excuse to cycle through all of the art they made for this game? What the hell is the point? The first character you are introduced to in the Tutorial level isn’t even your main playable character, instead it is an ice fairy named Cirno and she is being followed by a news reporter for an article she is writing about the “war games” they are having with fairies. The ice fairy girl goes around and challenges people and everyone thinks she’s annoying and begrudgingly fights her. That’s about all I can piece together, and I can’t really explain why the player is meant to care. Also, UFOs sometimes drop from enemies and they upgrade your spells. Don’t know why, they probably just thought it was funny, kind of like a piece of toilet paper that got left in your ass the whole day.

The controls are pretty awful if you are playing without a controller. The interface is obviously made for a controller, but even then it isn’t exactly the most intuitive thing. Placing traps on the floor requires you to use the directional pad or WASD — mouse clicks are almost useless in the entire game. Switching between traps feels a lot more of a chore than it should be, and it should be a lot easier to sell traps that you mistakenly put down. To do anything with traps, you have to cycle through all of the traps you have equipped, and then tap the right trigger button one more time to sell it. That can be up to seven button presses for one trap to be cleared. Playing with mouse and keyboard is hardly better, but ironically it is much more tolerable.

In the end, Gensokyo Defenders is playable and pretty challenging with a lot of content. However it seems like this game is meant for people who enjoy looking at cute anime girls. So, there’s that, I guess. After I wrote this review, I looked up what the characters are based on, and it appears to be in the “Touhou Project” which I had seen before, but never really knew much about. This game definitely just exists for people who are fans of these characters.

 

Midnight Sanctuary, The (PC) Review

Developer: CAVYHOUSE | Publisher: Sony UNTIES || Overall: 8.5/10

Note: This is a non-spoilery review.

The Midnight Santuary from CAVYHOUSE and Sony Music Entertainment’s game publishing arm, UNTIES, is not unlike a very long anime movie.  At the beginning I sort of thought “why isn’t this a movie?”  By the end of it, I discovered the subject matter tends to be a bit “mature,” the story muddled at times, and the art style quirky; this is really the only format that suits it.  It is obvious that the way the story is presented and experienced, it wouldn’t really “work” as a movie.  What The Midnight Sanctuary ends up feeling like is if you took a Japanese RPG and sucked all of the “game” parts out of it.

While the storytelling is linear, there are portions that are non-linear.  You experience a major plot point, then the story splinters into multiple points, allowing you to “explore” Daiusu Village as you see fit, and then finally culminating in another major story point.  Rinse and repeat and you have the flow of the visual novel.  There are no puzzles, quizzes, or anything of the sort.  You’re really just experiencing the story at your pace and having a little “freedom” to experience what you will.  In this sense, it can hold your attention, as it gives a little interactivity in discovering the mystery that lies beneath the “happy” atmosphere of Daiusu Village.

The general story is in regards to the village itself inviting the main character Hamomuru Tachibana, a pastor from a larger city, to document the history of the village.  The village is unique in that it was built by Christians, but their form of Christianity splintered, observing the “Crane Wife” as a Saint who will one day return to rapture them, not unlike a female version of Jesus Christ.  While the story isn’t really about actual religion, there are references to scripture and events in the Bible.  Mix in some good ol’ Japanese “anime stuff” and you’ve got an interesting story that will clock in at about 2.5 hours or so.

The most readily apparent thing about the visual novel is its art style.  Much of it is very simplistic and stylized to look like something that didn’t get out of an early phase of development.  Most noticeable is that many elements of characters or items are transparent.  Behind the scenes at all times is a complex mural of the Crane Wife and some other textures, that changes filters and colors depending on when and where the story takes you.  The mural is very complex and it is hard to focus and see what you’re looking at; I often just gave up, but generally assumed it was a person or something utilizing those transparency effects.  The symbolism of using this effect to begin with was lost on me if there was any particular reason for this choice.  Many of the generic villagers shared the same model, but had a different bandana to signify who they were.  There are several “non-transparent” people who look like a “normal” anime 3D character, though most expressions are vapid and they move around like puppets.  A couple of characters look a bit alien with their lanky arms and huge hands.  The girl Eku also had one of her eyes half closed like she hadn’t slept for a couple days, which accentuated the weirdness.  Additionally, whenever she turned around she would almost pirouette; this is just one example of the odd animation that is seen in this title.

The voice acting is exclusively Japanese, but there are subtitles.  The voice acting is very good from what I could tell, but since I couldn’t understand it, I would just read ahead in the story really quickly and skip a lot of the talking.  Understanding the emotion of the story is more likely if you listened to lines the whole way through, so its definitely an important factor of enjoyment if you’re going to stick with it.

The story was a lot longer than I thought it would last, but I suppose that is part of the value in this title.  It didn’t feel like there was much that needed to be cut out, but the major plot points could maybe have been skipped to in order to leave out the filler.  While the story gets a bit gruesome at times, it doesn’t get gory nor really crazy, though it seems like it easily could have.  Most of the locations in the town are visited several times, so there’s no lack of re-use of assets.  The story takes a few “interesting,” if not shocking, turns.  Another curious aspect is that you are actually given a character who is referenced as “The Watcher,” but outside of a few scenes you are entirely attached to the hip of Hamomuru.  There’s also not much of a conclusion for The Watcher, though they explain the character a bit at some point.

My foray into the “visual novel” genre is very cursory, but it seems like something I could get behind if it were on my iPhone.  There’s very low effort involved in controls and it seems like it would be a nice thing to pick up for a few minutes to kill.  However, on a PC it feels like a bit of a waste of time since I have to be sitting in the chair at the keyboard controlling it.  As of now, it is only available on PS4, Switch and Steam.  A VR version is coming out later on Steam, and is already out on PS4.  While I wouldn’t suggest this title for children, teens/young adults will probably get a bit spooked out with it.