Friday 12 January, 2007
This game is definitely not one of those games you can play for longer than an hour or so without getting a headache. However, I did get a whole lot better after studying the bullet patterns.
I must mention before I hold off any longer, "ZUN Software" is actually all one guy. The marvel of the "Touhou" series is not just the innovative approach each game in the series takes, but the fact that all the music, art, gameplay mechanics, and programming is done as a solo job.
Anyways, I took some time to look at some of the fine design choices done by ZUN. For one, after each picture, the boss gets progressively harder. I.E., one of the bosses shoots out large bullets in a triangle formation before you take the first picture. After taking the first picture, those bullets that shoot out split into bullets in the form of a circle. As you get closer to the number of pictures required to defeat the boss, the boss evolves its strategy. This makes the gameplay even within each stage somewhat dynamic.
Also, as a farcry from other vertical shooters in the genre, the game does not involve full blown levels, per-se, but rather single encounters with bosses that each have their own battle strategy. So in essence, the game becomes a lot less about mindless dodging and shooting, but instead about formulating strategies for counter-acting the strategies of the bosses.
The game has a built in replay saving function that records the moves performed during the session (which results in a very small file since it's just a set of instructions) and so in the Touhou community, people can share their strategies for defeating bosses very easily.
One big problem (maybe not a problem?) about many vertical shooters is the extreme feeling of disappointment after the final life has been used and the player has just invested 30 minutes of their life into getting through the game. Phantasmagoria of Flower View helps this problem by eliminating load times and having short "scenes" so that the time between start and restart is next to nothing. This allows players to remain immersed for as long as their head can handle it.
But that's exactly the problem. Since the game is so consistently stressful, it isn't easy to play the game for a long period of time without feeling completely exhausted. The only reason why I'm typing this instead of playing more is because I simply can't handle playing it for longer than 30-45 minutes at a time.
All in all, the game has excellent game design. The art is beautiful, yet simple. My one gripe is the music... while it is great music that loops well and sets the repetitive mood of retrying stages... there just isn't enough variety. There are only 6 sound tracks in the entire game and the game could likely take a player 20 hours to complete. That's a ratio of nearly 3 hours per song of listening which gets boring after a while.
In close, the game brings about a challenge and gameplay dynamic unprecedent not only in the Touhou series, but in vertical shooters overall. ZUN Software still continues to pump out games every year and it will be interesting to see some sort of multiplayer implementation of this game in the future.
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Tuesday 15 September, 2020 by zainab12345