|Also Known As: Touhou Youyoumu, PCB|
|Allegiance: ZUN & Team Shanghai Alice|
|Intelligence Agency Report by: Blitzwing01|
|It is already May in Gensokyo, and yet winter shows no signs of subsiding. Even the residents of this magical land find the situation decidedly unusual. Intent on discovering the cause, a heroine sets out to investigate. Setting off, she encounters a wandering Winter Spirit – the beginning of a challenging journey through the snow covered hills.|
|Weapons Expert Report by: Blitzwing01|
|(not an average)|
|Version Reviewed: PCForget about jets, tanks and robots for a moment. This is a shooting game featuring flying girls! Don’t get the wrong idea though; it is not an H-game! PCB is the sole effort of one man, ZUN, the creator of theTouhou series, and in his spare time nonetheless! The success of the games has fostered a huge fan phenomenon, spawning countless doujin artists, dozens of arrangement CDs and several spin-off games. Because of the creative liberty that ZUN allows and even encourages among the fans, it has become so popular in Japan that not only is there a Touhou convention devoted entirely to unofficial Touhou goods, but also a convention dedicated to just one character from the series!
PCB is the 7th game in the series, and the 2nd one for Windows. The game isn’t too heavy on development or plot, but many of the characters are fleshed out in the extra literature that is included on the CD. It follows the different adventures of 3 maidens from the previous Touhou installments, as they each seek out an explanation for the absence of spring. Unlike many of the other humans in Gensokyo, the playable characters have the special ability of “Danmaku-play.” Danmaku is a Japanese word that literally, means “bullet-curtain,” or more succinctly, “barrage.”
PCB is an excellent example of a well made danmaku style shooter. Most of the time, large portions of the screen are covered in death-dealing objects weaving intricately in all directions, even on the easiest difficulty level. The core gameplay is simple enough: shoot enemies, avoid bullets, and gather items. Characters have two attack modes: unfocused, for faster movement with less accuracy, and focused, where movement is slow and precise. The firing style also changes depending on the attack mode. Extra points can be earned by playing unfocused, filling the “cherry meter,” and by “grazing” bullets – that is, getting very close to them without colliding. The sheer difficulty of the game is alleviated somewhat by the character’s hitbox being a small dot and a limited inventory of screen clearing bombs. The beautiful bullet patterns in the game are as deadly as they are stunning, and additionally, every main boss that you encounter has several “powered-up” attacks known as spellcards, which are unique in design and style to her character (“her,” as there is not a single male to be found in the game).
About the only complaint I have about the visuals is that the character art for in-game conversations is a bit lacking. ZUN may be talented at calculating formulas for bullet patterns, but his drawing skills leave something to be desired. The same can’t be said about ZUN’s composing ability however – the music in PCB is superb. The composition fits the mood for each level, and the melodies are wonderful Eone needs only look at the vast number of fan remixes for some empirical evidence on this matter. A perfectly valid reason to make another run through the game is just to listen to the excellent soundtrack once again.
Re-listening to the music aside, replay value for PCB is high. With 4 difficulty levels to choose from, a suitable challenge exists for a player of any skill level, and there is always room for improvement. Playing through the game takes around 30 minutes, and it is designed so that you can just pick it up and play at any time. I highly recommend that you give PCB a try. It’s definitely not your average shoot-em-up.