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The Popularity is Inexplicable
The shoot-'em-up genre is, at its most basic, a simple genre. You go forward on a vertical or horizontal plane, enemies swarm at you, you push a button to shoot things, and the bullets hurt things enough to make them die. It provides a nice skeleton, but it's still just a skeleton—you need to add different elements onto it in order to flesh it out into something whole.

  • Guwange used "shikigami" to add a tactical option to combat: the ability to attack in directions/areas you couldn't reach and slow down enemy fire at the cost of reducing firepower.
  • Gradius had the legendary "Option" system, which opened up hundreds of strategic possibilities—should I save this until later and get a better upgrade, or become better now?
  • Jets N' Guns allowed you to customize your ship with whatever weapons, shields, movement abilities, and even paint you wanted.
  • Twinkle Star Sprites revolutionized shoot-'em-up multiplayer by turning it into a competitive puzzler with an incredibly saccharine exterior.
  • Radiant Silvergun...well. One could go into an entire essay of what Treasure did right with the glorious Radiant Silvergun.

So...what does Touhou do to separate itself from the pack?

Nothing. It exists only as a plain vanilla bullet-hell shmup, without any real substance and trying to make up for it in sheer style. The graphics are beautiful (except for the character art), the music is wonderful, there's a whole lot of flash...but in the end, it's still just window dressing over the most basic of all staples in the video game world—gameplay.

And how does Touhou's gameplay hold up? In a word, it's lacking. In two words, it's bare bones. That shoot-'em-up basic gameplay overview I said earlier? That's it. Though there's different minor gimmicks from game to game (Undefined Fantastic Object has UFOs that start sucking up items, Imperishable Night has THE clunkiest system for swapping back and forth between people, etc), each game still has a barely-developed gameplay that focuses on nothing more than pretty lights, powerups, and points.

Fantastic for an arcade game in the 70s. Not so much now.

To call Touhou mediocre at best is being generous. With its near-ubiquity across the internet, one would expect something so popular to have more substance.

It does not.
Rather ironic that no one commented on the reviews yet, I must note, but somehow I suspected it was all flash and no substance considering how much people focus on the flash.
comment #3657 Cliche 1st Aug 10
I thought people played it for story and characters. Or am I nuts?
comment #3661 Phrederic 1st Aug 10
It's a sad thing that I have to hold up this review for it's honesty, given my love for the Touhou series, but it's true. The gameplay is lacking, but that's not the reason I personally play it for. I do it for the difficulty. Good review, but doesn't quite touch on as much as it should have.
comment #3666 Amperschwa 1st Aug 10
I have to pretty seriously disagree with this review.

You missed the complex scoring systems that exist in pretty much every game, probably the best set of patterns in any bullet hell game. Also, your comment on Twinkle Star Sprites is funny, because two of the Touhou games are ALSO "competitive puzzlers".

The fact that it has some fantastic music and a fun story is a bonus.

Also, Touhou isn't freeware, so it's plain to see YOU didn't buy the games.
comment #3668 PataHikari 2nd Aug 10
"Also, Touhou isn't freeware, so it's plain to see YOU didn't buy the games."

Fix'd.

"Good review, but doesn't quite touch on as much as it should have."

I'd love to go into more detail, but the 400 word limit barred me. Damn its foul presence, its sinister grip and intentions weigh me down. WEIGH ME DOWN, I say.
comment #3670 TerminusEst13 2nd Aug 10
this comment is dumb.
comment #3674 Glowsquid 2nd Aug 10 (edited by: Glowsquid)
I'm just interested in Touhou for all the content the fans churn out. I don't like playing Touhou because it's a shoot'em up. And I hate shoot'em ups.
comment #3675 112.118.70.100 2nd Aug 10
I highly doubt most fans of Touhou are there primarily for the gameplay. How many Touhou players are actually hardcore Shoot 'em Up gamers? (A distinct minority) They may enjoy the games, but I would venture few hold it up as the pinnacle of bullet hell shooters. The games are, however, enjoyable to play.

"So...what does Touhou do to separate itself from the pack?"

The fan base. The massive library of fan games. The ridiculous number of remixes. I'm a Touhou fan, but I've barely touched the original games. I have played through countless enjoyable fangames though. You're right in saying that Touhou is pretty much bare bones (but really pretty!). And that structure leaves a lot of room for people to make their own enjoyable, creative spins on the series, in writing, music, gaming, art, etc. The series is, for many, just a template.

"To call Touhou mediocre at best is being generous. With its near-ubiquity across the internet, one would expect something so popular to have more substance."

It is definitely more than mediocre at best. And the substance is enough for the vast majority of players.

Here's an article that might be of interest: http://cardcaptor.moekaku.com/?p=112
comment #3746 Pufferfish101 4th Aug 10 (edited by: Pufferfish101)
Ah, just one more thing.

"...but in the end, it's still just window dressing over the most basic of all staples in the video game world—gameplay."

If Touhou is popular solely because of the gameplay, I'll eat my frilly hat. That said, the gameplay isn't all that bad. It may not be complex, but it's fun.
comment #3747 Pufferfish101 4th Aug 10 (edited by: Pufferfish101)
I think Touhou's popular because of its characters and music. And fanbase.
comment #3756 74.98.204.39 5th Aug 10

comment #3759 IYellalot 5th Aug 10 (edited by: MadeOfAxes)
Sorry about that above comment.

Either way, though I think Touhou is awesomesauce mainly because of the story and the fanbase.
comment #3760 IYellalot 5th Aug 10
I think it's remarkably silly to be fans of a game series without being a fan of the actual games, but that's just me I guess.
comment #3835 TerminusEst13 9th Aug 10
If it weren't for the shitload of Fanon and Memetic Mutation, Touhou to me would be just another doujin danmaku series. It has nice bullet patterns, but it lacks a number of conventions that most commercial shooters have like ground enemies (with the exception of a few in TH02 and 04), a sensible scoring system (I have a lot of trouble caring for score in this series; meanwhile I'm trying to x5.0 everything in Raiden IV, get "triangle" bonuses and maximize end-of-stage bonuses in Cho Ren Sha, and cash in that x30000 multiplier in Mushihime-sama Futari God Mode, even though I've yet to see the final stages of those games),
comment #3849 TsundeRay 10th Aug 10
If it weren't for the shitload of Fanon and Memetic Mutation, Touhou to me would be just another doujin danmaku series. It has nice bullet patterns, but it lacks a number of conventions that most commercial shooters have like ground enemies (with the exception of a few in TH02 and 04), a sensible scoring system (I have a lot of trouble caring for score in this series; meanwhile I'm trying to x5.0 everything in Raiden IV, get "triangle" bonuses and maximize end-of-stage bonuses in Cho Ren Sha, and cash in that x30000 multiplier in Mushihime-sama Futari God Mode, even though I've yet to see the final stages of those games),
comment #3850 TsundeRay 10th Aug 10
(accidentally hit submit while typing)

and, going back to the lack of ground enemies, the background is absolutely meaningless in gameplay terms; you could change the background of, say, EoSD Stage 5 from the Scarlet Devil Mansion to the lake from Stage 2, and everything else would remain the same. Heck, you could even turn off the backgrounds and it would be the same effect.

I've said before that Touhou is mostly fanworks and fandom, with the shooters being a core but very small component of it. Sadly even I find myself focusing more on fan stuff than the games, because the games to me are just another shooter series; there's many other shooters I play and if it were not for the fanworks I wouldn't care about this series.
comment #3851 TsundeRay 10th Aug 10
Also, Terminus Est 13, did you play Shoot the Bullet and Double Spoiler? They're quite possibly the most creative Bullet Hell games I've ever played (They're NOT Shumps though)

"a sensible scoring system"

What does this even mean?

I find the various methods of scoring that Touhou games have far more interesting then the generic "shoot enemies to get more points" system that most SHUM Ps have.
comment #3852 PataHikari 10th Aug 10
Yeah, I played Shoot the Bullet. I didn't like it, either. I can't say I played Double Spoiler, though.

I won't lie, Shoot the Bullet's gimmick was pretty cool if not similar to Giga Wing's Reflect Barrier. Problem being is that while useful in conjunction with other things, relying only on a single mechanic that requires maintenance and charging beforehand in a veritable sea of OH GOD PAIN severely limits your gameplay options—add to the fact that it's simply a gauntlet of boss battles (bosses that only shoot at you, unlike Alien Soldier) without any stages to it, and it ends up being more repetitive than the main games. It really strikes me as a quickie gaiden game for people who are already fans of the main series, not snobby stuffy critics like me—perhaps which is why it's game 9.5.
comment #3858 TerminusEst13 10th Aug 10
@Pata Hikari:

Some of the things you do for score are kinda silly. EoSD dredges up memories of Battle Garegga by having you die on purpose to keep rank low and to get more bombs. IN forces you to be either focused or unfocused for a long period of time.

Some examples of non-TH shooters that don't have generic scoring:
  • Espgaluda II: Manipulating Kakusei Shikai and Kakusei Zesshikai modes to generate tons of bullets that you can cancel for massive amounts of points.
  • Deathsmiles: Using your familiar to block suicide bullets. The more there are, the more likely you'll take damage, but the more points you can get.
  • Sin And Punishment 2 (okay, it's only partially a shmup): Countering projectiles into masses of enemies for coins.

I think UFO and PCB are the two games with scoring systems I find decent.
comment #3867 TsundeRay 10th Aug 10
"I think it's remarkably silly to be fans of a game series without being a fan of the actual games, but that's just me I guess."

Like you said, the popularity is inexplicable. No commercial product could even hope to emulate what's happened to this series. The fan base is unparalleled in content created and consumed. There's something for everyone, ha.

I have a feeling, though, that the overflowing moe of the series has something to do with it.

comment #3891 Pufferfish101 11th Aug 10
in before "BUT TOE HOE IS NOT MOE"
comment #3956 TsundeRay 13th Aug 10
You know, I agree with some of people's complaints about Touhou. So I tried the commonly-recommended shmups (Dodonpachi, Battle Garegga, Espgaluda, etc.) They were worse. I guess I'll never understand you shmup players, because all of the games I played were bland as hell, and the scoring systems either revolved around memorization or simply not getting hit.
comment #4255 99.244.103.97 31st Aug 10
I've become disillusioned with Touhou. It's mainly the rabid fans that push it on every single You Tube video, akin to an ICP fan pushing his dreadful music on all nearby.
comment #4802 ParadoxicTitle 16th Oct 10
I don't actually like the games, just the music.
comment #4847 150.212.50.99 20th Oct 10
You know something else that bugs me?

The reviewer seems to think you need to tack on a bunch of unnecessary flashy crap onto the game. Why CAN'T a shump just be about shooting things
comment #4863 PataHikari 22nd Oct 10
^Yes, hate the people who made the game popular.
comment #4866 150.212.51.62 22nd Oct 10
"The reviewer seems to think you need to tack on a bunch of unnecessary flashy crap onto the game."

That is the exact inverse of what I think.
comment #4949 TerminusEst13 28th Oct 10
Without most of this "unnecessary flashy crap", most people probably wouldn't have ever heard of Touhou.
comment #4953 150.212.51.29 28th Oct 10
"It exists only as a plain vanilla bullet-hell shmup, without any real substance and trying to make up for it in sheer style."

Let's see...

Touhou 7, Perfect Cherry Blossom: Cherry Border system. Rewards players by letting them take a hit without dying and clearing all bullets. If you don't get it, massive point bonus Touhou 8, Imperishable Night: Time Orb system. Collect enough time orbs and you shorten the time it takes to go to the next level. Makes the player balance between focused and unfocused shooting. Each type of shot makes you collect Time Orbs in a different way: either by shooting enemies or by grazing bullets. Touhou 9.5, Shoot the Bullet: Having to take pictures of bullet patterns to progress Touhou 12.8 Great Fairy Wars: Freezing bullets

and finally...

Every Touhou game since Touhou 2: Spell Card system. Super attack. Survive it without bombing or dying and you get tons of points.
comment #4968 MOTHERfan42 30th Oct 10
Touhou 7, Perfect Cherry Blossom: Cherry Border system. Rewards players by letting them take a hit without dying and clearing all bullets. If you don't get it, massive point bonus

Touhou 8, Imperishable Night: Time Orb system. Collect enough time orbs and you shorten the time it takes to go to the next level. Makes the player balance between focused and unfocused shooting. Each type of shot makes you collect Time Orbs in a different way: either by shooting enemies or by grazing bullets.

Touhou 9.5, Shoot the Bullet: Having to take pictures of bullet patterns to progress

Touhou 12.8 Great Fairy Wars: Freezing bullets
comment #4969 MOTHERfan42 30th Oct 10
Great Fairy Wars came out after the review, and I've neither played it nor have any desire to play it.

Also, please don't even try to say the Spell Card system is anything special. The Spell Card system is a bomb with a different name to the players, and a minor spot of text that pops up during a boss' phase. Nothing more.

I've already commented on Imperishable Night and Shoot the Bullet.
comment #4974 TerminusEst13 31st Oct 10
Nuking my comment from before.
comment #5082 Pufferfish101 8th Nov 10 (edited by: Pufferfish101)
You should try to appreciate any scoring mechanics in any shmups more.
comment #5739 118.96.211.139 10th Jan 11
"Also, please don't even try to say the Spell Card system is anything special. The Spell Card system is a bomb with a different name to the players, and a minor spot of text that pops up during a boss' phase. Nothing more."

This comment seems to be a fundamental difference in priorities between Touhou fans and other shooter fans. To people who like other shooters and hate Touhou, everything but core gameplay is just window dressing, maybe even a distraction from the real MEAT of the game: strategy, shooting stuff, and scoring mechanics.

To a Touhou fan, the named spellcards represent a different kind of fun. If you think that putting a spot of text up before an attack, usually with some mythological, thematic, or literary reference, makes no difference, then you probably aren't going to like Touhou at all. I mean, that's just text! It's not important stuff, like customizable shields or cool robots with lots of shooty parts! It just, you know, sets a scene and reframes the standard shooting gameplay into a one-on-one duel with an opponent who has a style, a name, and (on Zun's better days) a personality.

I've played other vertical and horizontal shooters, and maybe one of the reason Touhou has fans is because it isn't persistently, painfully, industrial in its graphic design, and it isn't about robots shooting robots over a field of robot tanks. There seems to be an unspoken consensus in the genre that everything has to look as badass as possible, and the only way to do that were to throw lots of robots and missiles on the screen and watch them explode, sometimes in space. There are exceptions, like the occasional RIDE A GIANT SHOOTY BEETLE game, but not enough of them!
comment #6311 75.6.252.67 8th Feb 11
I'm sorry, what? I can see where you got the "nerd" part, but nothing about the comment you were replying to says "lolicon." Back your claims up with logic, please.

Interesting review. I can't really comment on it since I haven't played any Touhou games, but I'll keep it in mind to balance out the rabid fanbase.
comment #6318 150.212.50.228 8th Feb 11 (edited by: murex)
"I mean, that's just text! It's not important stuff, like customizable shields or cool robots with lots of shooty parts! It just, you know, sets a scene and reframes the standard shooting gameplay into a one-on-one duel with an opponent who has a style, a name, and (on Zun's better days) a personality."

Please note that this is called characterization, and not only is mostly separate from gameplay but is the most basic component of any setting that wants to have a continuing storyline. Please also note that more than half (and that's being VERY generous) of the characterization was done entirely by the fans.

I absolutely love worldbuilding and more than realize the importance of a properly-developed character. But just because, say, one of Sanae's cards reference the nine finger cuts used by ninja doesn't A: instantly add some depth to the setting, B: make the actual gameplay any more fun or interesting, or C: give any depth to a character who is only fleshed out in fan works. In the end, it's still a bullet pattern, and giving it a different name isn't going to make it be anything other than a bullet pattern.

EDIT: spelling derp derp derp
comment #6340 TerminusEst13 10th Feb 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
All this talk about characterization reminds me of an old article from the Wizard's Magic The Gathering website discussing the importance of flavor to the popularity of a game. It basically amounts to how the game would only have gained a small fraction of its current popularity if the cards did not have interesting and flavorful names and art. There is even an entire category of players, nicknamed "Vorthos", that play the game primarily for the flavor aspect.

In the same way, I see Touhou's spellcards emulating this same phenomenon. Sure, you might not care about what Utsuho's fourth spellcard is called, but there's a very large number of fans that do. Including me.
comment #6585 Mirrinus 24th Feb 11
By all means, enjoy it. The Castlevania series is much the same way, with its constant references to mythology and legends. Phantasy Star Online has flavor pouring from every orifice and does a fantastic job presenting forth "a whole new world".

And yet, Touhou's flavor still doesn't instantly make the gameplay any more fun or interesting or add any characterization/worldbuilding to a flat world. You can add as much flavor as you want, but it needs substance first. I've said before that I think it's remarkably silly to be fans of a game series without being a fan of the actual games, but I suppose that it really is just me.
comment #6738 TerminusEst13 9th Mar 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
Fan of the music, not the games.
comment #6739 130.49.70.185 9th Mar 11
I agree the gameplay isn't anything fancy. It does its job, but no more. I do think you're actively diminishing the value of "flavor" though. The music, the patterns, the spellcard names and all that are the primary appeal of the game. No one would bother making Fanon about the characters if they weren't already interested in them. There's a seed of interest there, and while it isn't very fleshed out that's half the point. Supplementary works like Perfect Memento that would normally set everything in stone instead raise as many questions as they answer. Which I'm sure is intentional.

Regardless, ultimately the gameplay is all about holding two buttons down and moving very carefully. If you're not interested in the flavor then you're not interested in the flavor, but it's clear that a number of people are interested in it.
comment #6815 Clarste 14th Mar 11
If I may crack a really bad joke, I'm fond of Dawn of War's music and the mythology references in God of War, but that doesn't make me want to leap into both and make doujin of mai waifu Kratosia in God of Warhammer 40k. :p

Joking aside. The gameplay is ultimately about holding two buttons down and moving very carefully, yes, like a plethora of other shmups. It's bland, uninspired, and generic, and no amount of flavor can save from ultimately being just another shmup. I'm not at all diminishing the value of flavor, I just said that I more than recognize the importance and listed off two games I enjoy for their flavor. I just think that you can have all the flavor in the world, but without substance it doesn't do anything. It's like a cake made entirely of icing, or a dessert with no meal.

It's an unfleshed world, a skeleton of an idea supported by shining sparkles and pretty graphics and moe girls—just like the actual games. The fans need to do Zun's job for him by filling in all the blanks and giving any sort of information about the world. Normally typical affair for an open-ended game like Braid, Limbo, or other artsy games, supposed to be about raising questions, challenging the viewer to figure them out for themselves, etc, etc, but Touhou isn't about that. The questions raised are only an exercise in futility, because it's clear that Zun has no interest in fleshing out the world and wants the fans to do it.
comment #7039 TerminusEst13 25th Mar 11
Not sure if you're also referring to the supplementary material, but I may as well mention that ZUN has expanded on his fantasy world in the official novels, manga and fanbooks.

I don't see any reason to be so worked up over 'Touhou'. Aside from the insane fanbase, it's fairly harmless.
comment #7123 AliceMargatroid 29th Mar 11 (edited by: AliceMargatroid)
Of course it's harmless, it's just a game. You could say that about all non-political forms of entertainment, really.
comment #7667 TerminusEst13 12th May 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
To me, what makes the whole Touhou thing is exactly that half of the backstory of the characters are made by the fans. Not like ZUN didn't bother to make a giant universe (he has written books about Touhou, frikken BOOKS!). The metagame out of it is the juicy part. He gives characters. They (fanbase artist, and the like) bathe them in charisma, and the product is finally brought to the fans (who rejoice). Anyway, my relationship with the games is more about love-hate. Love comes from the music (Oh god so MUCH), the art, the characters and the challenge. The hate comes from the Continue screen.
comment #7743 Sheikiah01 21st May 11
Joking aside. The gameplay is ultimately about holding two buttons down and moving very carefully, yes, like a plethora of other shmups. It's bland, uninspired, and generic, and no amount of flavor can save from ultimately being just another shmup.

But despite all that, it's fun, and really, isn't that all that matters? No need to fix what isn't broken. Sure, the gameplay is, as you say, basic, but it's easy to get into, fun to play, and that's more than enough substance behind the flavor. The focus is on the dodging and patterns (which, I might add, are done incredibly well), and not so much on how you shoot things. A game doesn't need to be tremendously complex to be good, and Touhou is a prime example of that.
comment #9409 ShinyMoogle 22nd Aug 11 (edited by: ShinyMoogle)
Of course fun is all that matters. That's what games are for, after all. Someone can have fun with Mass Effect, or they can have fun with throwing rolled-up paper balls into a trashbin. If someone wants to have fun with just throwing balls into a trashbin, by all means please continue—I'm certainly not the Fun Police. Does someone having fun with it keep it from being shallow? Not really, no. You can paint up the paper and trashcan in lots of pretty colors and put the best music you can find on the CD player, but that still doesn't make it any better.

A game doesn't need to be complex to be good, no. The sheer amount of free-time-gorging flash games is a huge testament to that. But does that also apply to Touhou? I don't think so. There's still no substance, because all it does is put ribbons and frills on the bare essentials, rather than actually develop or enhance them. The patterns look pretty. They're still just typical bullet hell patterns. The UI and backgrounds are gorgeous. It's still just aesthetics. Sure, a good artistic direction enhances a game wonderfully, but I think that's not nor should be all there is to the game.
comment #9453 TerminusEst13 25th Aug 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
It's just a matter of biased opinions. You don't enjoy the game, but we do. There are plenty of "substances" in the game, whatever you meant by that. Sure we have Excuse Plot, but have you ever tried reading the dialogue? They're pretty entertaining despite the nonsensical nature. Touhou didn't thrive in thrills and ribbons, just look at ZUN's pathetic art. The series truly shines in its musics that really capture the Crowning Moment Of Awesome atmosphere of the setting. The dialogues, abilities and beautiful spellcards are all redeeming qualities help with the basic characterizations of each individual character whereupon fanworks are based.

I played other Shm'up and never had the patient to sit through them for long. Their bgm's are forgettable or non-existent, the graphic is usually mediocre and dull (maybe just because I hate mecha and tanks), the patterns are often unrefined and messy, and just don't have the same atmosphere as Touhou. They never cracked me up or make me feel badass (kudos to the BGM's and characterizations, again). It's all about personal tastes, intricate gameplay may mean everything to you, but to us general gaming population, we don't care. The fact that geniuses like you didn't enjoy the Touhou games doesn't mean that we, the lowly general gamers, can't enjoy it.

One last point, this is a doujin game, it was never meant to be a commercial product. It's a one-man project, a hobby, and you expect the gameplay to be complex compared to those from TEAMS of developers? That is just asking for too much. Though in my opinion, he did a pretty darn good job competing with the commercial shooters. Let's see you do better and perhaps try to gather a sizable fanbase with your inflexible approach to Shm'up?
comment #9947 HazukiScarlet 15th Sep 11
The popularity can be explained by the insane female characters (Lots of fictional works in Japan are character-driven rather than plot-driven) and the music.
comment #9948 eveil 16th Sep 11
Did you...seriously try to say "Let's see you do better"?

Ahah, no thank you.
comment #10035 TerminusEst13 17th Sep 11
Maybe you got it backwards. The main selling point of the series is not the gameplay; it's the characters, music and what the hell have you.

The game is just a vehicle the creator uses to tell his stories. He could have written a manga or something, but he decided to make a video game instead.

That's what it looks like to me, anyway. I've never actually played any of the games. I just heard a thing or two about the series.
comment #10038 Scarface675 17th Sep 11
There's still no substance, because all it does is put ribbons and frills on the bare essentials, rather than actually develop or enhance them.

Evidently, most Touhou players do consider "the bare essentials" enough substance to make it good. There's no need to lay it on thick.
comment #10203 ShinyMoogle 23rd Sep 11 (edited by: ShinyMoogle)
Just because the fans like it doesn't make it objectively and undeniably good. Popularity doesn't instantly determine quality—I'm sure there's something you dislike that's insanely popular.

We've certainly had no small amount of people in this very comment section say they're more interested in, say, the music than the actual games.
comment #10204 TerminusEst13 23rd Sep 11
^So... just because you don't like it means that it's bad?
comment #10207 eveil 24th Sep 11
If you want to interpret what I said that way, go on ahead, I guess.
comment #10223 TerminusEst13 24th Sep 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
Art is never objectively and undeniably good.
comment #10224 eveil 24th Sep 11
I'm not sure I'd say "never", but in this case that's correct.
comment #10225 TerminusEst13 24th Sep 11
^

"Never" is right. You smell of unwarranted self importance, douchebag.
comment #10227 Scarface675 24th Sep 11
Oooh, I was wondering when we'd get to the personal attacks.
comment #10228 TerminusEst13 24th Sep 11
Whether or not something is good art is subjective. Even if every person in the world thinks it's good, it still wouldn't be objectively and undeniably good.
comment #10230 eveil 24th Sep 11
eveil, while you're at it, why don't you head to the Ho Yay repair shop thing and explain to those people what "subjective" means?

They really need that knowledge.

@Terminus Est 13

And I was wondering if you were going to come up with a creative rebuttal or just stick to ol' boring passive agressive thing.

You choose the latter, I see.
comment #10232 Scarface675 24th Sep 11 (edited by: Scarface675)
I'm no artsy guy, so talk of what would be objectively/subjectively good/bad art is kind of beyond me. Sorry, I won't be able to provide good conversation on that. All I do is just look at whether it's fun/entertaining to me and why/why not.

I'll just (slightly) revise my previous statement: Just because a lot of fans like it doesn't make it good. Popularity doesn't instantly determine quality.
comment #10235 TerminusEst13 24th Sep 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
The fact that a lot of fans like it means that it is good TO THEM. Popularity means that many people consider it to be of high quality.
comment #10236 eveil 24th Sep 11
Well, yes.

I've said before, and please let me repeat: I'm not the fun police. I'm not trying to lay down any official decree. I'm just a punk on the internet writing a punk's thoughts. If you like Touhou and like playing it, please, by all means disregard what I say and continue to have fun with it!

Just because I don't like it doesn't suddenly mean that liking it is disallowed. And I need to remain respectful/polite and don't insult anyone for liking it, of course.
comment #10237 TerminusEst13 24th Sep 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
Honestly, the reason your review spawned a simmering 60-comment-long quasi-argument isn't because of the review itself — as far as bad reviews of popular things go, this is actually pretty good; you actually state the specific reasons why you don't like it (i.e. overly-simplistic gameplay * , freaky-ass scoring) and explain why it didn't work for you, instead of just blarting "THIS GAME SUCKS BECAUSE IT ISN'T [buzzword I don't understand but the cool reviewers use it so I will too]!".

The problem is with the title. Popularity is, literally, how many people like something, correct? And by saying that said popularity is inexplicable, you are saying that they have no reason to like it, with the obvious implication that they should not like it, and are wrong for doing so. Needless to say, this comes off as a personal attack. I seriously doubt that was your intention (you probably just wanted an engaging title), but that's the impression I'm getting.
comment #10449 superfroggy 2nd Oct 11
Well, let's see...

Terminus Est 13 said that the gameplay of Touhou is just bare bones, but that's not the way I see it: it simply forfeits more complex gameplay concepts to focus on the bullet patterns. It makes the controls as simple as possible to allow the player to develop dodging skills without having to worry about other issues other than the bullets themselves, and I don't see anything wrong with that. In fact, I think it's extremely rewarding to see your replay of a perfect run of a Stage 5 on Lunatic, for example, or a very difficult Spell Card. Some patterns require a good deal of strategy and skill, but I guess that's something more apparent in the higher difficulties.
comment #10455 Teraus 2nd Oct 11 (edited by: Teraus)
Superfroggy you are awesome, I haven't seem too many people who think like that in the internet, that's exactly why I think the word "overrated" does not make any sense.
comment #11091 JadeStarwing 27th Oct 11
I did just want an engaging title, aye.

I don't think it's an attack, though. Inexplicable doesn't mean that they have no reason to like it, inexplicable means (if I remember correctly) something I that can't reasonably explain or comprehend. And I still can't, really—but, oh well! At some point it's probably best if I stop puzzling over it and just move on.

(EDIT: Good Lord, I just noticed this review is a year old. And still getting comments! Thank you all for looking over my silly and contrary little ramble)
comment #11101 TerminusEst13 28th Oct 11 (edited by: TerminusEst13)
People can take offense, or feel attacked, by just about anything. Fanboys, for example, will take criticism of something they like as a personal attack.
comment #11103 eveil 28th Oct 11
That is very right, but criticism can also be criticized.
comment #11303 JadeStarwing 10th Nov 11
I guess its just that the popularity of this series makes no sense to the reviewer because the more popular things (like the Persona series) tend to have a lot of depth to them. I do agree that Touhou has little depth, in both story and characters. I think the popularity existed and remains because of two reasons:

1. Zun doesn't mind anything about what fanon people make, and doesnt try to censor any of it himself. He's no uptight prick about it that rants at or sues people for making fanwork he doesn't even like.

2. People keep making high-quality fanworks, which draws other fans to the series, which I suppose many in turn buy the actual games as a "thank you" to ZUN or sheer curiosity of what started the whole craze. (It makes perfect sense; otherwise, the games wouldn't still be selling for over $20 worth considering how long the game normally lasts, which is maybe a half-hour?)

I think that if there was a survey in which most japanese fans took part in, I think the results would show that the fans vastly prefer the fanwork to the original games, no offense to ZUN. If either of the above reasons get voided(?) (as in, ZUN becomes an uptight prick or fanwork creation slows to a halt), then the popularity will gradually shrink, the games' prices will reach a price floor, and the series would fade into memories.

That's just me, though...I hope nobody minds me commenting on a year-old review :P
comment #12958 TEspeon 23rd Feb 12 (edited by: TEspeon)
I haven't even played Touhou and I understand that it's popular due to the setting and characters, and then the fanbase's works within those setting and characters, several of those fanworks not actually being bullet hell games.

So.... yeah....

research much?
comment #18083 Leetroper 6th Feb 13
look at your other reviews you seem to be extrembly biased and often dismiss what good about a series just to justify your negative view on the series.

saying bullet pattern is just a buch of bullet like saying saying platform game just jumping from one to another platform no matter how well the level design is, or every special move, combo in fighting game or hack and slash just a buch of kick and punch or swaying sword around, no matter how well crafted and creative they are or saying note button rhythm game just press button at right time no matter what the music back them up is.

Mario , Sreet fighter, tekken, Guitar Heroes popularity must be inexplicable too if you are right, after all platform game is all about press left and right with a jump button and somthing a shoot button too, fighting game is also move left and right and press the punch or kick button.

bullet pattern is the main feature of this game, each of them is unique with different type of bullet with diffent way of how they move, how they are followed up by other, how they make a shape with is symbolism of its name, all make them like a masterful level in a platform game, a beatiful combo in fighting game, or a great song in rhythm game, all take skill to play, and that what make them popular.

and all to say is, all gameplay, if under an extremely bias view, can be played down to barebone, lacking and simple.
comment #20993 Kimidori 4th Sep 13
"look at your other reviews you seem to be extrembly biased and often dismiss what good about a series just to justify your negative view on the series." Uh, I'm sorry I don't like what you like?
comment #21028 TerminusEst13 9th Sep 13
because it not matter of like or not, to review is not about saying you like this or dislike that, but about saying something good or not good as objectively as possible, now can I just go review GTAIV and God of War as bad just because I dislike violence and Greek mythology? or Halo is bad because it it just another FPS? may as well say why they even made FPS anymore because they pretty much the same with different gun, even hack and slash as well cause it just swaying some kind of weapon at enemy, who care about each of them as an unique way of how they work anyway? right?

no, because each of them have something good that made them legendary, something unique about them that made them fun to play. FPS gun have different rule of how its weapon work, how strong the player is compare to enemy, how the enemy fight and what they are provided with against the player, you don't see a gun that pull object from the map and launch them at enemy (Half-life) in Halo, or will you need to take cover as many times in Max Payne as Rainbow Six Vegas, Devil May Cry and God of War also differ from other at how their weapon work, how to execute combo and how fun they are.

spell card is something just belong to touhou, the pattern is so creative that it no longer just stay in bottom of the screen and dodge as hard as possible, it may as well be what get you killed easier, they are so creative that I have hard time think out a good spell card for my touhou fangame, do they even just LOOK like just bullet? no, they have their shape and form, they have a name, they are based on mythology, they have a rule at which the bullet move, get destroyed or created which you must learn to beat them. all that make a challenging, visually impressive, and satisfactory experience, of overcoming them that made touhou so popular as it is right now. not to mention different playable character in the game also have different shot type and bomb which change the style of how we play them, you can't play reimu homing bullet the same as marisa illusionary laser, or hope to bomb through spell card with marsia master spark as easy as reimu fantasy seal.

hell, even in the reply to my post, you chose to attack the weakest point, dismiss my entire long post and your counter-argument not even that valid, if it about what you like or dislike, can you even call it a review? it fit more as a blog post.
comment #21122 Kimidori 13th Sep 13
I must say this, ZUN himself did say that his objective in creating Touhou was to showcase his skills in composing music. For him, it's not about his artwork (which sucks considering lolis are pretty much the only thing he can draw, and we all know where that led to), nor the gameplay in general (granted, he did make the whole danmaku a feast to the eyes, and a bane to one's sanity, and the rarely-made observation that most events in the game syncs with the bgm that's playing on the boss fight).

All I can say is, and a lot more will attest to this: ZUN is a genius. Well, maybe not only a genius. Some already consider him god for making the series. All because he left Touhou practically a blank slate for everyone to write on. He never put any in-depth traits into any of the characters, and the art is so bad, anyone could do better. As for the music, well music will always be music, inspiring others to do something different. This is a testament to the number of doujins this series alone has produced every year. And that practically increases interest on his product, the games. Putting it bluntly, the whole series is a feast for creative minds and gamers alike, and that's prolly the biggest secret as to why Touhou is so famous.
comment #21123 Schwarzburg 13th Sep 13
"if it about what you like or dislike, can you even call it a review? it fit more as a blog post."

That is exactly what a review is. What I think works, what I think doesn't work, if I would recommend it, and why/why not.
comment #21147 TerminusEst13 15th Sep 13
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