A Little Look At… Fantastic Danmaku Festival

To a lot of people Touhou is doujin gaming, and Japanese doujin developers, artists and musicians have been keen on producing Reimu & co. games (the Koumajou Densetsu series being a personal favourite), keychains, manga, figures, albums and just about anything else for many years now.

So I’ve always thought it was a little odd that for all the general popularity Touhou has, there’s never been any serious attempts to bring those characters to life outside Japan – until now.

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Fantastic Danmaku Festival, to use the game’s English title, is a Touhou-themed shmup straight out of China, which suits me down to the ground. The game released only last month but the developer has already had a couple of patches to iron out a few bugs.

Some Touhou games choose to use the setting and characters, dispensing with the shmup part of ZUN’s original work entirely, but Fantastic Danmaku Festival goes in entirely the opposite direction and is so close to the style of the main Touhou series it could easily pass as the latest entry – the only real difference is that  Starx have someone on their team who can draw (sorry ZUN).

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Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes with a Touhou shmup will feel right at home here, with four selectable difficulty levels ranging from the easiest “Enemies might take a quick pot-shot at you” option right through to the appropriately named “Lunatic” setting that’s exactly the sort of deadly light show danmaku fans like to test their reflexes on. Practice mode allows players to push themselves a little further or to try a new technique on a tricky boss without having to go through the entire game first, and limited continues in the main game give players some flexibility to either relax and just enjoy the ride or to see what happens past that all-important first credit. Score-loving gamers will be pleased to know that using a continue adds a single point to the score counter, making it easy to distinguish between 1CC and credit-feeding scores without forcing players down a particular path before they’ve even started the game.

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All in all this is an excellent shmup whether you enjoy Touhou or not, and at the grand old price of free there’s no reason to not pop on over to the official website and try it out for yourself. The only snag is that you’ll need to either use AppLocale or change your PCs regional language settings to simplified Chinese, as attempting to start it under any other settings will cause the game to crash.

Oh and if you do play it let me know – I’d love to know what you think!