"You're likely to hear this comparison made ad nauseum, but Scarlet Curiosity truly evokes early-era Ys in almost every way."
I'm reminded of a Carly Rae Jepsen song...
One of the most surprising announcements to come out of XSEED this year was their upcoming localization of Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, an action RPG set in the expansive Touhou universe. This little-known doujin
title trades the series' signature bullet hell mechanics for fast-paced hack-and-slash combat, complete with a level-up system and upgradeable equipment. The story's silly premise — a vampire goes out looking for trouble to assuage her immortal ennui — appears to be little more than an excuse to thrust the player into action against a suite of demonic forces.
You're likely to hear this comparison made ad nauseum
, but Scarlet Curiosity truly evokes early-era Ys in almost every way. The engine is built just like The Oath in Felghana's, from the size of characters to the sound and weight of their attacks. Taking control of either the 500-year-old Remilia Scarlet or her time-bending ninja maid Sakuya Izayoi, the player progresses through large, arcade-style levels, each with secrets to discover and a formidable boss to challenge. Customization comes in the form of equipment with randomized stats and a loadout of character-unique abilities, only a few of which can be equipped at any given time. The game is constantly tracking combo hits à la Devil May Cry, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a trophy pop up after racking up an especially long string of unbroken attacks. The game felt good in my hands; Remilia was responsive and moved as quickly as I wanted. Knowing how differently the characters play in, say, Ys Origin, I would've liked to experiment with Sakuya to see how she approaches combat.
Scarlet Curiosity has a simple visual style that prioritizes fluidity of combat above aesthetic beauty. It's no more technically impressive than a PS2 game, but it runs at a constant framerate throughout the hail of bullets that pour forth from its imposing bosses. The game makes intelligent use of a fixed camera to frame the action in a way that elevates it beyond its low-budget roots. What little artwork I saw was clean and pretty enough, however ubiquitous its style may be. I'm not especially fond of gothic lolita fashion or maid outfits, especially after seeing them inundate the RPG genre in recent years. And although the Touhou series has some questionable depictions of female characters, I didn't get the impression that Scarlet Curiosity's girls are particularly eroticized. Tacky, maybe, but that's just my take.
Though my time with Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity was brief, the taste I got was enough to pique my own
(decidedly color-bereft) curiosity. As long as the story doesn't sink too deeply into fanservice, it should be a fast and fun romp for action RPG fans of all shades when it releases for PS4 later this year.