Touhou 14½ ½: Urban Legend in Limbo…for the PS4?!

NOTE: Since I wrote my ULiL piece, v1.40 has come out (of course it did, less than a week after I reviewed it). The update is nothing more than a whole lot of balancing, though. So there’s no need to touch on it too closely, I think.

The PS4 version of ULiL was first confirmed in February 2016, some time after its initial release. But it’d be a while before it’d be released. After plenty of build-up, it finally arrived in December 2016, making it the most recent release of a Touhou game to date. But it’s worth looking at, due to a couple of small little extra features the PS4 version has, and because…well, it’s on a PS4. That’s a massive change from the norm in itself. Also, I have a PS4 now. And I have a copy of the game to play with.

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Obviously, everything in the PC version of ULiL is as it was in the PS4 version. So I won’t touch on the whole game again; you can, and indeed should, read my ULiL piece for that. Certainly, it’ll help you know some of what I’m on about here.

But, as I mentioned earlier, this PS4 version is not a direct port of the PC. And that’s because there’s a lot of new stuff in here too. So let’s see what it is.

The most significant addition to the PS4 version was one all new character, one coming hot off the heels of her reappearance in the series. Reisen was back once again, and with her she brought a new stage in Eientei, new music in the form of the ever-brilliant Invisible Full Moon, and most notably, a new mode. Although the ‘Extra’ mode wasn’t really any such thing. It was just an excuse to give Reisen a story. Specifically, one that takes place after Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, putting a reason on why she’s in the game now. It’s also a prologue to the next game, which I’ll write about whenever it comes out.

The PS4 version upped the resolution of the game to 1080p, a first for any Touhou game. It also marked the glorious return of Arcade mode, always a fun mode in the fighting games, as well as the introduction of a tutorial. And whilst Reisen’s introduction called for new music, hers wasn’t the only new music in the game: as well as some new story battle themes, two new remixes came up for two tracks, specifically Unknown X ~ Unknown Adventure, a previous fighting game classic, and Retribution for the Eternal Night, a great song from the past.

Of course, none of this would be for much if the game didn’t translate to the PS4 well. Luckily, ULiL was a strong starting point to begin with, so moving it onto completely unknown territory by Touhou’s standards should make for another strong addition to the Touhou series.

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And I’m delighted to report that for the most part it’s all still very good, and very fun, action. But not action that’s as easy as its PC counterpart. Certainly, it seemed as if the PC version was the easiest fighting game that Touhou has had, but the PS4 version seems to bring it back into line with SWR and Soku’s challenge. This isn’t a criticism of the PS4’s controls or anything, by the way. They’re still fine, it’s just harder to make stuff happen with them. And that’s fine. Sometimes I’m up for a challenge. Sometimes I just want to blow stuff up. If I wanted the former, I’d play on the PS4. If I wanted the latter, I’d be on my PC.

And this extra difficulty also seems to do a good job in fishing out which characters are the very best. Ichirin still seems fine, but nowhere near what she seemed on PC. Futo certainly doesn’t feels as good in my hands. But Miko still seems very capable on PS4. Nitori still seems good, Koishi is still a lot of fun to use, but Sukuna seems nowhere near as fun as her awesome style on the PC, and Kasen didn’t feel all that either. As for the new character, Reisen, she was merely alright. She had some powerful stuff to take advantage of but always seemed more comfortable from range. That’d be fine in SWR and Soku where you can stand back and fire away – that’s why I relished Patchouli so much in those games. But in ULiL characters can just fly right next to you and you really can’t stay away for long. The rest I’ll reserve judgement on for now, although Mamizou seemed pretty good and I’d like to play some more with Kokoro and Mokou. Especially Mokou.

Arcade mode is as good as it ever was, and the tutorial is a useful thing to have, as you’d expect. And the new music is fine, too. The Invisible Full Moon remix isn’t the greatest ever, but it’s such a good song to remix that even this one comes out nicely. The Unknown X remix is the pick of the new songs, seeing as it’s more of a heavy reworking of the original, which was already very good.

Other than that, it’s the same good old ULiL action. It was already pretty great when it first came on the PC and now it had given Touhou a strong start off its natural habitat and onto a home console. It’s the latest version of any Touhou game to come out, and it continues its strong return to form. Of course, it shouldn’t be the latest Touhou release for too long. The next fighting game – perhaps the last of this type – has been announced, Antimony of Common Flowers. Whether that arrives on PS4 too remains to be seen. Either way, once it’s out, you can be sure I’ll be writing about it. The only question is when that will be.

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