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Video Game / Touhou Shinkirou ~ Hopeless Masquerade

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Touhou is popular, and this game is all about popularity.

Touhou Shinkirou ~ Hopeless Masquerade is a video game created by Team Shanghai Alice and Twilight Frontier for Windows computers in 2013. It's the 13.5th videogame installment in the Touhou Project franchise.

After so many strange incidents and disasters beyond their control, the residents of the Human Village have begun to feel trapped, and their society threatens to fall into disarray. Believing that their times have come to shine, Gensokyo's premier representatives of Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism begin the "religious war", putting on dramatic aerial duels to win over the villagers' hearts (and if they can expand their own wealth and influence, that's just a bonus).

Hopeless Masquerade is a Mascot Fighter that moves away from both the engine and artstyle of the venerable Touhou Suimusou ~ Immaterial and Missing Power and its sequels, shifting to fully aerial combat inspired by Astra Super Stars.

The game features the popularity mechanic. Attacking with certain moves will increase it, but getting hit will decrease it. When full, the player can use a very powerful attack called a Last Word. However, since popularity decides who wins in a time out, it's a very risk vs. reward system. More gameplay info can be found on the wiki.

The game's official website can be found here (in Japanese).

This game provides examples of:

  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Not only do the Buddhist monk characters specialize in martial arts, Buddhism itself is associated with melee attacks as a game mechanic.
  • Ascended Meme: The headgear Miko wears is often assumed to be headphones, and people often joke that she's a DJ. Her losing animation confirms that they are indeed headphones, as they break, and a spring pops out of it.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Last Words: super-powerful spellcards that can only be used at max popularity, but drop your popularity to zero when used. The problem is that timeout victories are decided by popularity, making this a major risk, and gaining that much popularity likely requires you to be fairly decisively winning in the first place, making it an unnecessary risk.
  • Battle Intro: The first of the fighting games to feature intros for the characters.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Nitori and Marisa discuss how, while their abilities were achieved through applied knowledge and experimentation, the Human Villagers have lumped them in with the priests who perform miracles.
  • Comeback Mechanic: The spellcard meter is contained by the player's health bar, meaning that it becomes shorter (and thus easier to charge) while the player is low on health.
  • Confusion Fu: Koishi is a bizarre pick for a popularity contest, given that she lacks a conscious mind and has so little presence that people can forget she exists while looking at her, and these traits translate into equally bizarre gameplay. She prances around the stage teleporting and turning invisible, sneezes at enemies, and most of her attacks aren't used directly but place a condition on the opponent which will cause Koishi to attack them if met. Amusingly, in early builds Koishi could even confuse the engine, with some of her attacks causing the game to crash.
  • Cooldown:
    • Many of Ichirin's attacks cause her to lose access to Unzan for a short time, reducing her range and power.
    • After Koishi uses one of her sneeze attacks, her next attempt to sneeze will instead have her recharge by catching her nose.
  • Critical Status Buff: Ichirin has a "rage meter" which fills up as she takes damage. When filled she literally Turns Red and her attacks become significantly more powerful.
  • Emotion Bomb: Before she's fully stabilized as a youkai, Kokoro losing her Mask of Hope causes her to leech hope from the Human Village in an attempt to become whole again.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The classical Kidoairaku ("Joy, Anger, Melancholy and Humour") are a recurring theme, each corresponding to a different religion and colour and having its own set of mechanical effects. Most characters can change their religious affinity by using items. Kokoro can also switch between the four emotions as a Stance System, and has attacks which can inflict them on her opponent.
    • Joy (Taoism): Projectiles are faster and have better penetration, but are also smaller.
    • Anger (Buddhism): Projectiles are larger and stun enemies for longer, but have reduced range. Pre-patch, only Buddhists were capable of charging their melee attacks.
    • Melancholy (Shinto): Projectiles are greater in number and have homing properties, but little penetration power.
    • Humour (Neutral): No bonuses or penalties.
  • Good Shepherd: Gensokyo's religious figures all fill this role for the game - while they certainly enjoy the extra money they're making from the crisis, it's a secondary concern to restoring the Human Village's peace of mind.
  • Hidden Track: The game's soundtrack CD has an 8-bit cover of its own "Candid Friend" arrangement. A track that went without an official name until the iTunes and YouTube Music releases (it's simply titled "Akutagawa Ryuunosuke's "Kappa" ~ Candid Friend (8bit)")
  • Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: If Marisa beats Koishi in Vs. mode, she quotes a line from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, and immediately says she didn't know what she was even talking about.
  • Mana Meter: Nitori's projectiles and special attacks draw on a non-regenerating energy meter. When the meter is empty, they either become much weaker or whiff entirely.
  • Mechanically Unusual Fighter:
    • Byakuren must input her specials twice before use, with some attacks granting a Status Buff while the charge is held.
    • Many of Koishi's attacks work like traps that activate under certain conditions.
    • Futo's standard attacks set destructible plates on the field, which are used to direct or power up her specials. When the number of plates broken reaches 20, 40, 60 or 80 they change colour, granting Futo various Status Buffs.
    • Mamizou has mechanics similar to Persona 4: Arena - she begins with a stock of three leaves which she uses to transform and summon her tanuki allies, and loses a leaf each time one of these attacks is interrupted.
    • Kokoro has a Stance System which lets her change the faith she has equipped, modifying her attacks as appropriate. She can also inflict these changes on her opponent.
  • The Namesake: Kokoro is an unstable youkai born from a set of 66 Noh masks when the mask of Hope was removed, making her a literal Hopeless Masquerade.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed:
    • The "religious war" and the events leading up to it are a reference to the "Ee ja nai ka?" events, down to that line being uttered in the prologue.
    • Hata no Kokoro can be considered the "daughter" of Hata no Kawakatsu, being born from his 66 Noh masks.
  • Obvious Beta: This game was likely rushed for the convention it was released in. It was playable, but there were random crashes (particularly around Koishi) and the final boss was only playable in Story Mode... probably because she had no special moves or Spellcards implemented. This was all eventually fixed with patches.
  • Popularity Power: Popularity determines the winner of a fight if the timer runs out, and a character must expend their entire popularity bar in order to use their Last Word. Miko also has a secondary popularity mechanic which can cause her purple cape to turn blue (weakening her) or red (making her more powerful).
  • Rule of Three: Marisa's unique mechanic, "Three-Tiered Embellishment Magic", causes her to build up one Star Charge each time she uses a special or her standard laser. When she has three charges, her next one of these attacks gains enhanced properties.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Post-patch, when a character reaches 100% popularity (unlocking their Last Word), the background music will shift to an upbeat synth remix of their Leitmotif. There's a second, generic theme played during the Last Words themselves.
  • Title Drop:
    • "Shinkirou" ends up being the title of a Noh play about the events of the game, performed by Kokoro.
    • Kokoro's Last Word is titled Dance of Empty-Hearted Masks: Noh of Darkness, the first part being a paraphrase of "Hopeless Masquerade".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite normally being eager to expand their influence, the gods of Moriya Shrine are nowhere to be seen (apart from cameos in stage backgrounds). A later chapter of Wild and Horned Hermit has Kanako explain that the people of the Human Village really just wanted to be entertained, and she knew there was no lasting faith she could extract from that situation.
  • Wrap Around: Reimu is capable of dashing through the edge of the screen to appear from the other side.

Alternative Title(s): Hopeless Masquerade