Scarlet Weather Rhapsody had proven to be pretty good as a fighter, having taken its original concept to a solid level. Now it was time for another crack at improving it, with ZUN bringing out his next fighter instalment at the same time as UFO. But this wasn’t a new game as such…whilst it can be treated as one, this new release very much acted as an expansion pack to SWR, with new stories to be found but all the old characters present when you linked the two up. This, therefore, was the complete package of all the fighting games up to this point – Hisoutensoku.
To very much prove the point about ‘Soku’ being an expansion pack, all of SWR’s spell cards, spirit orbs and weather was present here – but new spell cards and weathers were introduced as well. Several of the older ones had been altered, and each playable character now had a system card associated her, that could be used by them once unlocked.
And of course, there were new characters to be had – five, to be precise, but one of them was actually returning from IaMP. Three of those five made up the game’s stories – first Sanae, this being the other game that saw her popularity skyrocket. Putting her into two new games at once was proof Sanae really was now part of the Touhou fabric, and would remain so in the future. Her story introduced two other new playable characters – Suwako and Utsuho. The last truly new character came seemingly out of nowhere, in the form of Cirno – a fan favourite for a long while, but hardly featured since her PoFV appearance. As it happened, her showing here would be a sign of things to come. The last story came from Hong Meiling, who had mysteriously been AWOL in SWR but happily returned to action in this expansion.
The intro isn’t quite as cool as games past, but the music is vastly different to anything that’s come before. Indeed, the fighting game tune that’s been present in the games before is about the only real similarity from musics past. Still, it’s a nice change. Also, the music in other menus is now different, such as the character select music, which is definitely more recognisable – and definitely very cool.
With 20 characters now to play with, playing as them all is a long task – but a very fun one. It’s fair to say this is even more fun than the two games before it, even though it’s not that much different to SWR. Variety is always a great thing.
In SWR, I found plenty of characters to like, most of all Aya, Yukari and Patchouli. Having played as all the characters in Soku, my favourites are Iku, Yukari, Sakuya, Patchouli, Reisen and Utsuho. Patchouli is still my best character, for pretty much the same reasons as SWR. Yukari is similarly just as fun as she was there, and Iku was another character I rather liked in SWR. She feels even better her, since she has attacks that work from several ranges, and you can counter your opponent accordingly. Yukari has much the same thing going for her, actually.
Sakuya was someone I liked in IaMP, but she’s better here now, mostly due to her great long-range power. You just sit back and watch the opponent fall over, a lot of the time. Reisen and Utsuho are two characters I like for similar reasons – both seem to have great methods of attack wherever they are. You can pick and choose how you want to fight with them.
Many of the positives SWR had still apply here. There’s more dialogue to enjoy now as well, the action is still just as great, and all the music is retained from SWR too. And there’s some new music as well, to go with all the new stages and characters. Again, the only songs ZUN made were the new final boss themes, but the pick of the new remixes is Beloved Tomboyish Girl’s one.
The long and short of all this is, if you want to play a Touhou fighting game, get this and link it up to SWR. 20 characters is plenty if you just want a lot of characters to fight with, even in Touhou’s context, a world where the number of characters was by now simply massive. On that note, the eventual roster in this case was just about spot on. All of these characters are some of the most popular of all, and there’s hardly any realistic options left out. Simply, Hisoutensoku is just awesome. This third implementation of the fighting games would ultimately be the last of the lot, but the great success of the games in question meant ZUN wasn’t done with the genre yet. Not by a long way…