The rise of Touhou gave birth to an event dedicated entirely to it, Reitaisai. Here, doujin circles presented their own Touhou fan content for all to see. But it wasn’t all about that the first time around, as ZUN presented us with not one, but two, new games. One was the shoot-em-up you’d expect, but the other one – the one we’re looking at – wasn’t. It actually came out second of the two, at Comiket 67, but chronologically it is set after Perfect Cherry Blossom, so we’re going with it next – it being Immaterial and Missing Power.
IaMP went way off the Touhou trail, and not back to something like the PC-98 era. What IaMP was, was a 2D fighting game with a heavy bias towards projectiles, the projectiles in this case being the characters’ spell cards, this being the way to keep them relevant in a game such as this. It’s your standard ‘HP’ affair as a fighting game, but in Story Mode once an opponent is down to a certain HP, they will unleash a spell card involving trickier attack patterns, and this is what you must beat to progress past them.
But there was no need to worry – this wasn’t going to be a full game for the series, as it was clear that the shoot-em-up was set in stone as Touhou’s permanent genre at heart. Therefore, it was declared to be what was known as ‘Touhou 7.5’ – which has been the title for all games since that are off the beaten path of games that are more clearly main stories in the Touhou series.
ZUN hadn’t gone this one alone, either. To make the fighting bit of it all, Twilight Frontier had been called in. But ZUN was still very much in control of what the game itself fundamentally was.
And as would fit a fighting game, many significant characters returned to be a part of the roster. Coming with Reimu and Marisa were Sakuya, Alice, Patchouli, Youmu, Remilia, Yuyuko and Yukari. But don’t worry, there was room for one new character from this game as well – Suika Ibuki was the final boss in the game’s Story Mode, and you too could play as her after beating her. She’s a very silly, drunken, powerful oni, and she’s quite likeable, although I’ve never liked her myself. For reasons outside of this game, you understand.
I really enjoy how the title music morphs well if you play the entirety of the intro into this menu. And it sounds half decent as well.
Now I’ll come straight out and say that, even though I’ve been into Touhou for a long time now, I had pretty much never even played IaMP before. That means I can talk to you about it as a fresh experience, but to be honest, there is a very good reason why I hadn’t played it before this. That reason is quite some way up the line, however.
In any case, the fighting is plenty good fun. Certainly, the art, which was not done by ZUN, but rather by Alphes, gives a much better look at what the characters look like, as does the animation. And there’s a whole load of dialogue adding more character to them as well. And you get to see all their attacking styles and powers right up front. It’s all pretty cool.
However, I didn’t play much in the story mode. Mostly because it’s not entirely what fighting games are about and I have the option to play in other places anyway. Arcade mode is plenty of fun, though. It’s just a lot of fights all at once. That’s fun.
What I mostly spent my time doing was mixing it up with all of the characters to see how good I was with them. I’m not a good player with the Touhou shoot-em-ups, and I’m not that great at this fighting game either. But, as is the way with fighting games, I found characters to suit my ways and who I was effectively best with. I suspect that I was best of all with Sakuya, but I found myself a dab hand at using Patchouli, Youmu and Suika too. How fitting it would be that the three characters I don’t really like are all ones I’m good with… Then again, everyone else wasn’t to my liking for various reasons.
Obviously, the character cast is very much an all-star one. But then it was always going to be thus, wasn’t it? Still, the fighting feels pretty fun to be involved in, and it’s always good to have a quick blast on it.
The music is worth noting – as it wasn’t all done by ZUN either. It consists generally of arrangements of previous Touhou songs, by two composers from Twilight Frontier, but they also made some original soundtracks, which were composed by ZUN. He noted that his songs felt out of place next to the arrangements, but I’m not sold on any of the songs at all myself. I quite like Night Falls ~ Evening Star and Broken Moon in this game, but while the arrangements aren’t bad, I’m not really sold on any of them either. This is not a strong point for IaMP.
IaMP would get several patches throughout, and the most significant of all was its last, v1.11, which introduced Hong Meiling as a playable character. She received no story mode, however.
IaMP was one interesting twist on a Touhou game, and one that also introduced fan favourites into the fold for the growing fanbase to play as in some way. But then, the game that had come out just prior to it had done much the same. Still, this wasn’t the last we’d ever see of such fighting games…it’d be a while yet, but eventually we’d have games which would well and truly consign IaMP to the history books.