My Touhou game rankings

Don’t worry. I will be writing about both HSiFS and AoCF. Eventually. In the meantime, a stopgap. And indeed a very brief opinion on the latest of the shmups. Main games only.

1. Subterranean Animism
Still the series’ pinnacle. Not just on the whole, but in nearly every individual aspect as well. One of the best games I’ve yet played. I swear you’ll never see a Touhou game quite like this again… So play it. Drink it in.

2. Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom
Touhou should still go on for a long while yet, but Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom might end up being the truly last insane game. All its many flaws are covered up by its absolutely magical feeling, the very essence of Touhou as we know it. Sheer brilliance.

3. Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream
My thoughts on this game have changed a lot since I wrote about it so long ago. And since then I’ve come to realise just what an epic this game is. What a rush this game gives you. And the soundtrack is just brilliant. Give it a listen if you haven’t already.

4. Mountain of Faith
No Touhou game feels quite like MoF, and no Touhou game did quite so much to further the series. The new engine takes Touhou’s music, atmosphere and action to the next level. So much so you can gloss over the noticeable holes in the gameplay.

5. Perfect Cherry Blossom
A wonderful summation of Touhou’s first Windows era, PCB is one of the series’ most definitive, well-balanced games. Legendary stages, legendary characters, and gameplay unfettered by gimmicks. This is what you think of when you think Touhou.

6. Undefined Fantastic Object
Even one game-defining mechanic couldn’t take away from the magic of UFO, the series’ running at the peak of its powers. Adventure is abound in this game, a top-class challenge and some lovely characters. This is another quality game.

7. Mystic Square
The definitive conclusion to the PC-98 era, and how. An all-star roster combined with some livewire action all around made for the quintessential early Touhou experience. Even now, the game holds up well next to its vastly newer counterparts.

8. Phantasmagoria of Flower View
As my ranking of PoDD will tell you, I’m in the camp of those who like the Phantasmagoria style of play and PoFV is no exception. All action and extra strategy gives a new flavour to playing Touhou and I’d love to see a return for this style in future.

9. Lotus Land Story
The point at which Touhou shmups got real smooth, LLS is a fairly conservative Touhou game in the grand scheme of things but still has its great moments. Despite lacking in relative flashiness, it’s certainly an important flashpoint in Touhou’s history.

10. Double Dealing Character
Coming in a relative decline of the series hasn’t done DDC any favours, but within there are some seriously strong moments and very well-done gameplay. However, despite its positives, it’s lacking just a bit in the crucial X-factor that defines the series at its best.

11. Hidden Star in Four Seasons
With the recency bias gone, despite its fair share of goodness HSiFS goes down as one of the more unremarkable games in the series. It’s lacking in spectacle and the gameplay makes it the series’ easiest yet, but there’s still plenty of satisfying moments to be had.

12. Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
There’s no denying just how legendary EoSD is, and virtually all that came with it, but it has aged pretty badly. I mean, it doesn’t even work properly on my laptop anymore… Still, there’s plenty of memories to be had going through the game.

13. Story of Eastern Wonderland
The first shmup in the series, from the first day in the series, was all very important but, this being ZUN’s first time, it wasn’t particularly refined. There’s still some pretty great bits within, don’t get me wrong, but Touhou as we know it hadn’t yet been perfected.

14. Highly Responsive to Prayers
It’s obviously hard to compare Touhou 1 with anything that’s come after it, since it’s the only game of its kind, but you can see why ZUN didn’t stick with it. It’s not a bad game but there wasn’t really anywhere else to go with it and it wasn’t the smoothest of games.

15. Imperishable Night
Everybody loves a bit of IN…but in my case it is only a bit. There’s some classic moments within but looking at the little things, it all gets a little messy. It’s not the hardest of games either, so whilst many sing its praises, I usually pay more notice to its annoying niggles.

16. Ten Desires
The moment the wheels came off. Ten Desires was dominated and ruined by its gimmicks, was lacking in any real punch or good new characters, and was as easy as they come. All this off the back of three terrific games… Best forget it ever happened, eh?

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A reminder

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This is Minami’s all new limited SSR, her second. Pretty, isn’t it? As beautiful as Minami can be.

And it’s another reminder that she’s gone from looking like this…

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…to looking like that.

Never give up on your dreams, people.

Obviously, I have to get this Minami card. Except I can’t. Not really. And the reason for that, is because of this.

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This is Minami’s first lim. And it looks, if anything, even better. It’s coming late July. So not very long to wait. Or indeed save up, from now. Oh, and Syuko’s lim comes back at the same time. That’s the best looking SSR of them all, for me. Between this current Minami lim and her even better lim + Syuko’s lim, the choice is clear.

And that’s why I’m having to do dailies to try and get one of the best looking SSRs in the game. You will not be surprised to find out I have yet to obtain her. Wish me luck.

Still…could be worse. I could be somebody trying to get both cards…and a MinamiP, at the same time. Mind you, given that getting both cards would send Minami soaring into my top 5 easily, I could end up being one myself. No shame in that, because Minami is really bloody great. As beautiful as they come.

Idolmaster election review

There was a music contest recently. There was an invasion, the winner was utterly mad, as gimmicky as they come. And I imagine the voting pissed quite a few people off.

But enough about Eurovision.

The 7th Idolmaster Cinderella Girls election is now over, and the results are in. And contrary to what my previous post on the preliminary rankings hinted at, everything is fine.

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The preliminary rankings set the tone for this lot, pretty much. Everyone who was there, is here…with one big, big exception.

First of all, yes, Nana did what she was supposed to. Win the election number 7 that she is so closely attached to. Mio made it a lot closer than I expected, though. She’s earmarked for the next election win. She’ll bloody well deserve it since she’s better than all but 3 or 4 girls. For now, though, she is still second place. Now watch someone rise up and keep her there next year. The poor sod.

And our cool winner is Karen, a girl even I am coming to like more and more as time goes on. I mean, did you see her with that ponytail in Mayu’s card? And aren’t her and Kanade basically the most low-key pairing of all time and isn’t she just wonderful- Wait a minute, what’s this?

Kako was on the outside looking in come the preliminaries. Given who she had to overhaul, I thought it would be another case of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ for her. So much for that. All unvoiced P’s appear to have come together as one and launched her not only to a richly deserved voice, but all the way to fourth place. What an outstanding effort. She is our first new voice, and will also feature in the top 5 song. Thankfully, despite many’s worst fears, she won’t be the last.

Fumika is together with Karen at the top of the cool second-tier that is now rising through as the franchise ages and they come to greater prominence. The very best of the cools have, by and large, had their day. Fumika is immensely popular and a top 5 ranking for her is no surprise. She deserves this, too.

Then comes the cute wall, along with the seemingly ever-present Kaede. Starlight Stage helped them no end and the result is all the quirkiest idols get a place in the top 10 too. In the all important top 3 race though, Shiki and Mayu won out. Joy. Nana, Shiki and Mayu is the kind of hell from which I would wake up screaming. Still, at least I get to laugh uproariously at SachikoPs. Not so self-proclaimed brilliant now, is she? Anzu provides some respite by breaking into the top 10, and rightly so. She’s an example of a gimmicky idol done properly. So well done to her, too.

And now we turn to the top 5s. Except we don’t. Because the cute top 5 is all there for you to see. And if you’re wondering who the 5th cool is, it’s no surprise; it was Ranko. Hell, she even came 11th overall, albeit some 120,000 behind Anzu. I would be sore as a KanadeP, but given that Rankofes happened literally in the middle of the election, there was nothing she could have done. That’s how you vault from 9th in the prelims to 5th. As you’ll see a little later, I’m still proud of my girl.

That leaves the left-out passions. The vote totals are miles off their pink and blue colleagues, but the all important 2nd and 3rd places behind Mio give us the two saviours of the election.

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And I call them saviours because it’s what the former would want to be. She, Hikaru Nanjo, is the second of three new voices. And joining her will be Hinako Kita, who made a run from 5th to 3rd to grab the third and final new voice. As you’ll see, their actual rankings are not pretty compared to those around them, but that doesn’t matter; we have three new voices. The fears of unvoiceds being shafted have proven unfounded.

I explained Hikaru a little previously, as the only girl initially in position to get a voice; she’s a superheroine fan and wants to be one herself. She has some pretty cool outfits on hand, most especially anything she has with goggles. She hasn’t had one of those in a while, instead choosing to relay important messages to the world.

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Make no mistake, though. Once she inevitably gets a Starlight Stage SSR, it MUST have goggles. Without fail. This is non-negotiable, Bamco.

Hinako is a bit harder to talk about, mostly because I didn’t expect her to have a voice at all. But she turns out to be alright. Far from perfect, you understand; she is effectively a living out-of-body experience and is the most literal airhead of them all. If Hikaru is the hero, Hinako is the Cinderella. Literally. But to be honest, she’s fine. She’s mostly harmless and, depending on how I see some of her quotes, straight up funny at times. Actually, some of her quotes remind me of a better version of Mayu. And that’s fine by me.

So, that’s the important stuff covered. But how about the rest of the top 50? Let’s have a look and talk about each and every one of them, just a bit.

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I’m sorry the quality isn’t much good. I haven’t found anything better than this. But that’s OK, because I’m putting it in writing anyway.

11. Ranko – Yup. Amazing what finally getting your SSR3 can do for you. By putting Ranko in actual idol hell, the idol who looks most likely to pass as a Touhou character got a shot at the top 10. Alas, she missed out.

12. Hotaru – And so did this one. The power of the cute wall was simply too strong for Hotaru to overcome, and alas, she will be kept waiting. Unless Bamco give her a voice out of pity before next year/a voice election.

13. Kanade – 13th! I couldn’t have imagined Kanade would get quite this high. Especially since I only counted for 83 of at least – let’s ballpark it – something around 700,000 votes for her. Sometimes, I feel my love for Kanade is plowing a lonely burrow, especially where I am out west. Of course, I should have known better. On home turf Kanade has some amazing producers who bring out the absolute best of this simply astonishing girl. Shoutouts to the likes of Mairo, Hagane Soushi, Oimo, Romi, and all my fellow KanadePs. Let’s get her in that election song next time, eh? At least the nine-idol bonanza…maybe the top 5 song? Far too early to get designs on that. All I know is, she’s my Cinderella Girl. ❤

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14. Chieri – Holding a spot in the top 10 come the prelims, that was never likely to hold once the unvoicedPs made their move and pushed for one of their own to get a voice. Kako cleared her easily, and Hotaru did too, but not far enough. Mind you, the fact Kanade beat her out in the end is telling… Hmm. Top 10 would have been amazing. But asking a lot.

15. Uzuki – The cute wall even extended this far down, but realistically Uzuki was never going to be a big part of the structure. She had her surprise day in the sun two elections ago. She’s still gonna roll in votes as one of the faces of the franchise, but she, like plenty of others coming up, doesn’t really need election results to confirm her popularity.

16. Nao – I’m surprised Nao didn’t hang more closely with Karen. She’s in that tier as well and I reckon she could be a good bet for a top 10 spot next time round with Kanade. What might happen inside a year, though, is anybody’s guess.

17. Hikaru – Yes, the 17th place girl is the second placed passion. Says it all about the strength of the type, really. Of course, the important point, as I’ve already noted, is that is good enough to get her a voice.

18. Yukimi – Another unvoiced girl who tried to surge late on. But getting votes when most had already set eyes on Kako was always going to be a tall order.

19. Hinako – We live in a world where 19th in an election gets you a voice. But that’s the important thing – it is a voice and that, to a whole bucketload of players, is what matters in this election.

20. Aiko – Look at how close Aiko came to breaking everyone’s hearts. She might be nice, but her P’s bloody ain’t if they were gonna pull that off.

21. Anastasia – I have to say, I’m impressed with her Ps here. The event she got will have helped a bunch, but she’s done a bloody good job here. And if I had her way she’d be even higher than this. It’s hard to state just how effortlessly cool an idol Anya really is. She is among the best of them all.

22. Shin – You know, I was half expecting Shin to be a lock for a top 10 spot, judging by the utterly rapturous reaction to her mere existence any time she is even brought up in the Discord, and also the fact she literally finished top 5 in the more accurate 6th anniversary survey. And yet she’s hanging all the way down here…what happened? Clearly not as sweetie as everyone thought.

23. Mika – Here’s a drop-off I didn’t see coming. Mika is undoubtedly a popular idol – on historical merit, she’s top 10, maybe even top 5. But here, from a place in the top 3 in the prelims, she sunk out of the passion top 5 entirely – some achievement when, as we know, they weren’t ranking at all well in the first place. I was giving a few votes to her here and there, but clearly, her real producers blew their load too soon. And wouldn’t they just, given who they’re voting for?

Wait, don’t answer that.

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24. Kozue – Yet another shot at getting an unvoiced girl voiced, but for Kozue it’s evidently still a little too soon. If the cute idols keep this up, she’s got a doubly hard effort ahead of her. If she’s getting a voice, it’s by an act of surprise.

25. Rin – In a full on popularity contest she would be contending with Kaede every single time. Of course, we all know she’s been Cinderella Girl once and we don’t need a reminder that she is a really bloody good cover girl for the series. Mind you, KaedePs clearly don’t feel the same about their idol.

26. Frederica – You know which Cute idol I didn’t see ranking? Frederica, that’s who. She’s the best of an often wacky bunch but has ranked exactly once, in the 3rd election, at number 40. Finally though, it appears the masses have done her some justice. I’d go even higher with her, to be honest. She’s a terrific idol and teaches the cute idols above her how to be a real cute idol. Or at least Idolmaster’s idea of one.

27. Miku – Was always going to feature somewhere. But she’s really had her time. Her best shot at an election win was taken away by Syuko and she’s devolved into the series’ Marmite. Love her, or hate her.

28. Minami – Minami remains as consistent as ever in the top 30. And still too low. Alas, she’s too popular to have anything to prove but not as popular as the most popular. Of course, the reality is, she’s one of the most sightly idols to behold of them all. Truly stunning, at times. I await her July re-run with some trepidation…because it’s at the same time as the re-run I really want, Syuko3.

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29. Arisu – Another almost popular Cute idol indeed. And yet she doesn’t appear to have caught the same boat as the likes of Karen, Fumika, Kanade and Nao. She’s either in the tier just below, or people are still annoyed about the last voice election. Yeah, remember that one? If we get one of those, god forbid they make it the same as the one Arisu won.

30. Koume – And I suppose Koume is in the same sort of boat as Arisu. That, or she is just too gimmicky for a Cool type – the thing with CoolPs is they largely favour normal human beings, being normal. Hence the top 4. (Ranko is the obvious exception, albeit for even more obvious reasons on this occasion.) If Koume was a Cute idol she’d be in the top 10 like a shot. I bet you.

31. Miho – One of the most unsung idols of them all, Miho’s problem is not that of her election position, but her position in the franchise. If she were a truly main character I maintain that she would be a roaring success. As it is, they have never truly cashed in on her truly awesome potential. Still, in the circumstances, 31st is alright. But she’s been even higher in the past…

32. Nono – Also in the same third tier as Arisu and Koume. Which seems odd to me. Nono seems like one of the coolest characters you like, on a par with Shiki at times, and yet she hasn’t caught on. Mind you, she, like many Cool characters, had her moment in the sunshine two elections ago. Now she’s just settled down to be a meme-cum-miserable-git.

33. Asuka – And here’s another one in this young Cool group. Asuka seems like the sort who ought to break out amongst this lot though, given that she can look genuinely brilliant sometimes. The problem is, Ranko does her job more noticeably.

34. Risa – Another unvoiced ranking in amongst the usual suspects, Risa is another popular one for all manner of reasons. They’re all far too many and varied for me to list. Not all of them are good, if I’m honest. She’s another Marmite type, it seems. Although some will tell you that position is misguided.

35. Kyoko – Also probably boosted by a mid-election event. There were a lot of Ps chasing her down then, probably so much so she didn’t rank much higher here. But then the cute wall is very, very tall indeed.

36. Kirari – I’m cool with Kirari, but the truth is there are a fair few people who aren’t. Perhaps that doesn’t explain why her clear and evident popularity hasn’t been rewarded with much higher election rankings.

37. Kana – More unvoicedness. Kana was in the reckoning even in the prelims though, unlike Risa. She promptly stayed there for a solid 37th.

38. Syoko – Screaming does you real good. Syoko was always gonna be around here. Far too notable not to rank.

39. Riina – God knows what tier Riina’s actually in. She’s clearly been pushed as a popular character by the series, but the fans…have never really answered. It doesn’t help that she’s sharing duties with Natsuki. Who should be better, but in actual fact does not rank.

40. Yoshino – Still popular. She too was in the event song with Kyoko and Anya, albeit without getting an actual event card.

41. Natalia – The sort of unvoiced character I think deserves a voice. They’ve done plenty of foreignness so far and I think Natalia ought to be amongst the next. The problem is, she’s got so many people ahead of her in the queue. Unfortunate, that.

42. Makino – But I don’t want her as much as this one. Makino might be able to lay a claim as my favourite unvoiced character, bearing as much similarity as she does with another top-class idol, up to an including their names. I still don’t know for sure since I still have no unvoiced rankings and life’s too short, but if a voice election were to come, Makino would be my pick.*

*Although it could just as easily be Seira, because her SSR looks unbelievably sexy. Or Ai, because she’s a cut-price Kanade, as her all new SSR has reminded me.

43. Yumi – Lovely Yumi makes the top 50 again for passions. Amazingly, she is the last of the passions you’ll be seeing here. They made up 12 of the top 50. Cool had 9 more. That, I think, says it all.

44. Momoka – Too far down the cute rankings to make much of a difference, but still, good on her to rank all the same. Managed better than her lookalike Yui, at least. And she has a Cinfes.

45. Nanami – The west was plumping for Nanami to get voiced like no tomorrow. This is a brutal reminder of how little we are compared to the franchise’s home turf, and indeed the rest of the Far East. There is a long way to go for her yet.

46. Shinobu – Here’s the last unvoiced girl you’ll be seeing, and one I kinda sorta would like to see getting voiced too. Partly because she’s part of Frilled Square, which looks half decent. Partly because she seems like a decent sort. And partly because god knows how they will voice this SSR.

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47. Syuko – You know who I really wasn’t bloody expecting to rank? This absolute stud, that’s who. Syuko is the ultimate oxymoron, a Cinderella Girl that isn’t popular. She’s one of the series’ best characters, but since that win she hasn’t ranked, and I didn’t see her doing so again. How naive I am. Well done SyukoPs because you are loving a fantastic character. I’d love to see her up at the top again. I’d absolute love it.

48. Miyu – A CM doesn’t seem to have helped her case that much. And people think these still matter? They’re still nice, but they’ve released all too many now. They’ve run their course.

49. Kanako – Wholly unrepresentative of her actual popularity, this. Still, could be worse. She could be Rika or Miria…who are nowhere to be seen here.

50. Hajime – And finishing up is a girl who got voiced last time. She is the only one of those girls to rank this time round. And in the last possible place. That, I think, says a lot about the motivation of voicing girls in recent times. And perhaps even justifies Bamco’s attitude towards them. They voiced those five for the sake of it, not because they were actually, properly popular. At least this new bunch of three look like they’ve most certainly earned it.

So, there you go. Officially, the most popular idol in the most popular sector of the most popular idol series in the world, is a woman who thinks she’s 17, a bunny and from Planet Usamin. What a time to be alive.

Of course, before I finish up, I suppose I had better show off my kind of election. As in, what I’d rank the girls as. As in, my sorter. A sorter with three new voiced girls to factor in…

…Sorry, unvoiced Ps. You’ve had your work cut out this election, and you’re not getting my views on them either. Alas, there are still 107 of them left in Cinderella Girls. I’ve done Touhou sorters recently but it’s getting quite late and, to be honest, life’s too short to sort them all at any given moment, much less right now. And as for a sorter of all 184 at once… Well yes, it would be nice (looking at you here, Discord), but seriously. Don’t get me started on how much time I’d need for that.

Anyway.

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…Ah. Hang on a minute. My chosen sorter hasn’t added in the three new girls yet. Ah, whatever. They’d all do pretty decently, to be honest.

I’d also like to apologise for making that one sorter post I did featuring mu’s as well largely pointless. That’s well out of date at this point. In fact, it had been a while since I’d done this sorter…and yet the top 9 and bottom 11 are pretty much the same. So, yeah, that’s my completely irrelevant sorter right there. Bet you looked at your favourite idol and then skipped right ahead.

Anyway. See you next election!

Actual Idolmaster election guide (at the prelim reveal)

The first sign of rankings are out in the 7th Cinderella Girl Election. And everybody is fucking pissed.

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Of course, there are two objectives at play with these elections:

  1. Determine the most popular characters.
  2. Get characters voiced.

Of course, the issue here is, most unvoiced characters aren’t amongst the most popular. This wasn’t a big deal before. Only those who went to Mobamas were able to vote and they were usually hardcore enough to get whoever they wanted a voice. Not this time.

Adding Deresute into the equation has, predictably, swung the pendulum back the other way. The thing is, there are ordinary casuals able to vote and for the most part they just do not care about a girl if they can’t speak back to them properly. Hence the preliminary results giving us the unedifying spectacle of 10 voiced girls in the top 10.

Still, at the end of the day, you can’t fault the idea of people voting for their favourite girl in a competition designed, at face, to find out everyone’s favourite girl. So let’s sum up just what we’ve got here.

1. Nana Abe

No surprise here. The 7 meme is in full swing and nobody is going to stop it. Of course, this is fine. There are an awful lot of people here for the memes and Nana is a popular character in her own right courtesy of being the gimmick champion of the world.

2. Mio Honda

One small step for Usamin, one giant leap for Usaminkind. If that sums up Nana’s win, then Mio is CG’s Buzz Aldrin – second best. Not just here, but last time, and indeed the election before that. Still, most reckon she’ll finally get over the hump next year. Unless something else comes along in the meantime. Which, knowing her, it probably will.

3. Karen Hojo

With the top tier of cools pretty much sorted now they’ve all been the Cinderella Girl, it was about time someone from its very crowded second tier stepped up to the plate. And Karen is a worthy candidate courtesy of being secretly both quite a nice meme and having some truly savage roasts on her record. Just go and look at her performance in Mika’s story in Deresute. It’s amazing. And then there’s Nao…

4. Fumika Sagisawa

I’d say I’m surprised at this, especially as nothing indicated this on Twitter, but…I’m not. Because deep down, Fumika might even transcend the second tier cools. She is, after all, the poster girl all for the deepest introverts out there…of which there are many. I won’t ask some of them just why they like Fumika, mind.

5. Sachiko Koshimizu

Smugness still sells, and so it proves with Sachiko “under the” Koshimuzu still ranking as highly as ever. Of course, the real reason for her highness is by being another quality meme provider. That’s the way it goes round here. I just wish some of the danker memes were danker as actual human beings, sometimes.

6. Mayu Sakuma

Case in point. But again the character selling point here is obvious. When the tsundere is just all too common, bring in the yandere. One who, to be honest, has a half decent singing voice. But my God, could she not be further away from my type or what.

7. Kaede Takagaki

No one’s presence has caused more uproar than the Cinderella Messiah herself. She was, of course, last year’s winner and the attack on her numerous and deeply loyal fans has been very vocal indeed. She’s unquestionably a very good character indeed, clearly the series’ standout. But at this moment it seems it’s only possible to either love her to bits or hate her so deeply you want to tear her face off, beauty marks and all. (Unless you’re like me and you don’t really give a shit either way.)

8. Shiki Ichinose

I’m not covering old ground here again so I will just go through the reasons why Shiki clearly deserves this place. Firstly, her CinFes was the funniest thing I’ve woken up to in a long time.

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Among several memes Shiki has created – including that legendary :shikiLUL: – that was the best of them all. And the awkward fact that I can’t realistically blacklist her, thanks to the rest of LiPPS being in my top 5, has led me to realise a lot of artists know how to make her look pretty good. So there is clearly immense appeal to Sheikh Sheeky, which is why literally everyone loves her. Apart from me. The problem is, I tend to judge characters on how they appear as actual people, not the quality of their memes or art. And I suspect that, in real life, I’d rather be closer to a genital infection than someone like Shiki.

Still, I know better than to argue her popularity. It’s undeniable. But I don’t like her. Let’s move on.

9. Anzu Futaba

Finally, a cute I like! CutePs have often been chided for going all too early in voting and not backing it up with their idols. Usually, this has been to the benefit of CoolPs and their idols (Uzuki’s victory notwithstanding) but now all the best of them have won, and with Deresute bringing them in even greater numbers, the type has locked out over half the top 10. So well done them. Anzu is my favourite of this bunch and I’ve sung her praises plenty of times already. Rap god, hidden genius, etc. etc.

10. Chieri Ogata

And rounding out the top 10 is the wholly decent, wholly popular, CinPro-present Chieri. As it turns out, shyness is a winner amongst the iM@s masses. Hence her and Fumika’s presence.

Of course, we’re not done there.

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In the battle for top 3 honours in each type and a place in the 9-idol election song, things look better for the unvoiced crowd…sort of.

Obviously since the cutes are dominating the leaderboard there’s not much room for unvoiced girls to get a look in there. After Uzuki* comes Hotaru, the highest unvoiced girl at 8th. But she’ll do well to catch any of the big six for a place in the top 10, I suspect, never mind get a top 3 spot. The ever-popular Kozue, along with Kana and Shinobu, also figure in that reckoning. Elsewhere, Miku, who you’d think would be among the top drawer, is well down on the best. Her time is long gone. Actually, her best time was spoilt by the fanbase coming together as one and taking pity on Syuko – still the best Cinderella Girl, to me – in the 4th Election. Frederica and Miho are deservedly up there, two of my favourite cute idols. And Kyoko’s up there as well, a sign that it’s not all about the crazy gang with this lot.

*Whose birthday it is as I write. Happy birthday, and hopefully someone gifts you an actually functioning brain for it.

It gets much more interesting off the cute wall. Kako, who would surely be netting a voice here were it not for those meddling DeresutePs, is sitting in 4th, looking good in theory, but the fact is that to get a voice at this point (provided Bamco simply don’t have mercy on her), she’d have to pass one of the three ahead. Karen and Fumika are surely too far ahead and no way is she getting past Kaede. Not while her fans will defend her to the actual death. So once again, our lucky idol looks like she’s about to get…unlucky.

The only other unvoiced idol in the cute conversation is Yukimi, a much-promoted choice by many – although not as much, it seems to me, as Nanami, at least in my corner of the Western fanbase. So of course she is nowhere to be seen here. Must try harder, guys.

That leaves us with an almighty collection of cool idols to scrap it out. And it’s nice to see that my 43 votes have been well worth it. Kanade was never gonna rank amongst the best but she’s been steadily climbing of late and, while there’s absolutely no telling in this maelstrom, I suspect she’s in and around the top 15. Which is a damn sight better than I thought she might do. I’ve seen plenty of other KanadePs out in force and I might be in greater company than I was led to believe. Albeit largely on the Eastern front. Kanade is still rather popular on the whole out here but she’s the sort everyone finds ‘pretty good’; they don’t all love her as much as I do. But on home turf she seems to have more traction. And with Deresute in the mix there is, of course, the all-important LiPPS factor to consider, since casuals typically love Tulip (maybe Hotel Moonside, too?). Doubtless, that has helped Shiki’s case some, Mika’s case a bit more, Frederica’s case a good deal and Syuko’s case in no way whatsoever because everyone’s too busy watching the other four. Poor Syuko.

Whatever, I’m proud of my Cinderella Girl (which surely, at the end of the day, is what matters most of all). Behind her is a charge of beloved idols. Nao is next up and I suspect she’ll be one to look out for next year, if Karen’s rise this year is anything to go by. Then comes two idols who’ve had their day in the sun; Rin and Ranko are top tier, but unlike Kaede, it’s evident most people reckon they should bask in the magnificence they’ve already confirmed themselves to have. And behind Ranko come her unit mates, Anya and Minami, who it seems are together even in moments like this. The ship just really is that strong. Of course, in my heart of hearts both of them are much better than this, but Anya had her real moment of glory a long time ago and for some reason Minami has never caught fire in elections. Some characters just don’t need a reminder of their greatness, it seems.

And lastly are a bunch of idols in the third tier of coolness, and slightly more fun and quirky ones at that. Koume, Arisu, Nono and Asuka seems like they should all be together in that regard. Well, maybe Nono seems like she should be higher. But that’s just what I’ve observed from my side of the fanbase, where she’s meme incarnate. I swear the only way to get more sex than a ShikiP is to be a NonoP. Naturally, they are my bottom two. Which tells you something…although what, I don’t quite know.

And now to the passion side of things, where of course the only idol in the top 10 is the plucky, hard-charging (and second-placed) Mio. That leaves the door open for the rest and, in a sea of shit for the unvoiced idols to go through, one star is managing to shine. That’s Hikaru Nanjo and if the election ended like this she would be the only one to get voiced under Bamco’s rules. She might not be higher than Kako, for all we know. Heck, the way the cutes are going even Hotaru might have her beat. But for the 9-idol song it’s only the in-attribute rankings that matter, she’s best placed to get a voice…and I suspect she should well get it. I mean, she’s above bloody Mika. That’s not something you do by accident. Sure, Mika has never really kicked on in elections – again, she doesn’t need reminding of her brilliance, and as well she shouldn’t – but she’s no joke in these things either. If Hikaru’s ahead of her, she’s got her voice, plain and simple. So I suppose we had better get ourselves used to a character who wants to be a superheroine. I’m afraid you’re not in the right series for that sort of thing, sunshine. You win in this series not by stopping all evil before you but by being a majestic character of the finest quality. Still, some of the goggles she rocks look super-cool. I’d like to see what some of them look like on someone else.

Anyway. Yes, Mika is in 3rd in Passion, not surprisingly, and I should note that I’m dishing out some votes to her as well, because to leave her voteless would be simply criminal. In almost any series other than Idolmaster, she’d be the best character in the cast. She is a simply remarkable idol and it’s not her fault that I have to give out most of my votes instead to an even better girl. Alas, in a contest meant at heart to fathom out everyone’s favourite, I cannot, by and large, vote for anyone by my favourite. Mika can have some of my votes, though. Far too good not to. Mind you, I’m surprised she isn’t a little higher, all things considered. I’d have reckoned Deresute voting would have opened it right up for her, in conjunction with the aforementioned LiPPS thing. Historically, Mika is one of the strongest characters in CG, although perhaps more for what she’s done out of the fanbase than within it. (I can’t imagine why. Not at all.) Which is probably the whole point. She’s more inviting to a casual audience than a hardcore one. Or shallower minds, rather than deeper ones. I mean, look at me… Still, at the end of the day she’s gonna get another song out of this. Although as you’ve probably noticed by the rankings, passion on the whole is so weak there’s no telling how high/low she’ll actually be. Surely back in the top 20, though. She slipped out last time, for the first time, but that was just a blip. She’ll be back in action here. And perhaps the lowest ranked election singer we’ve ever seen.

As for the rest of the rankings, below the all-important top 3 is another trio of unvoiced idols, albeit ones who probably don’t have a hope in hell. Mio is finishing 2nd, Hikaru got the jump on everyone else and I can’t seriously see anyone beating Mika. She’s got far too much going for her here. But yes, we have here Hinako, who I thought might be making a decent push judging by the tweets going round for her, but who isn’t quite up to the task, it seems. There’s also Risa, a bit of a love-hate character to some and Natalia, another foreign idol looking to join the ranks, and one I’d quite gladly take personally.

And lastly comes a bonanza of idols in the rather confusing tiers that vaguely form the passion monarchy. Aiko is up there, as expected, but one that you’d think would be even higher is Shin. Everyone loves her to bits from what I can see and she even came fourth in that recent survey, but here she’s just middling in the passion crowd. What’s happened to her, I wonder? After her comes the likes of Kirari, Syoko and Yumi, more popular suspects in the passion bunch, And rounding it out is Yoshino, Yuko, Yui, and Miria, another clutch of sorta popular idols in the middle there. Whether any of that lot will even be top 50 material remains to be seen… But in a category where only Mio and Mika stand out as top tier, spare a thought for Rika, who doesn’t seem to know how to rank any more. She’s popular enough to stand out, clearly, and yet she is nowhere to be seen here. Just where have the RikaPs gone? Hmm…maybe best not to dwell too long on that.

So from this, what can we conclude? Well, the conclusion that pretty well everyone else has reached; an unvoiced election is needed. Giving the many Deresute players a vote was always going to shake things up and so it has proved. While you could call it closer to the popularity contest this is technically supposed to be, the element of the unvoiced selections has been largely lost. Still, there are people looking at it the other way; after all, look at what’s happened to the five voiced last election. Hiromi and Tomoe got CMs, but we haven’t heard much of anything from them. In fact, even now, some of them still haven’t had their commus voiced in Deresute. And none of those five have had any real significance to me, even though they got their voices shortly after I joined the Idolmaster fray. Tomoe is alright to me but the other four are forgettable. If it remains as it stands and Hikaru bags a voice, sure, she’ll stand out, as the idol that could. Kako will probably get a voice out of sheer pity at this rate, results be damned. But the simple fact is, there are an awful lot of people pissed off and they are calling for justice for their unvoiced girls.

Of course, last time they tried this they only gave out a voice to the winner of the election. Syuko was ahead at the prelims; Arisu had passed her by the end. What happened next? Everybody wanted to give Syuko a voice so bad she ended up as Cinderella Girl. And though she is a superb character in her own right, she isn’t what you’d call a character actually worthy of being the collective favourite. Which is why pretty much no one has talked about her since then. The last time anyone really noticed was her was when she was in LiPPS. So what do they do to stop Syuko happening all over again? Well, since Deresute is all about fives, give voices to the top 5. That would make for some real competition. And it would leave more people happy. Of course, whether it would make the powers that be enough money is another matter entirely…

…That’s another thing, actually. People have also said this might just be a contest to see whose P’s can spend the most money. In Deresute, you can buy 500 votes, and boy have people done that. Needless to say, I am not one of them – my love for Kanade is not worth £1000 plus ten-rolls that will mean bugger all to me until July. But people have bought them alright. And there’s plenty on offer in Mobamas too and it’s meant that, at the end of the day, the cute wall has risen higher than ever. So it’s still not even a proper popularity contest in the true sense of the word. I mean, Kaede’s doing a decent enough job, but you wouldn’t rank any of the other six ahead of her on historical merit… Except of course, this wasn’t about that from the start. Thanks to the power of memes, Nana was always going to win this one. And Mio is merely proving she’s gonna be in place to win the next election. So while that inevitable outcome has remained ultimately unchanged, it’s still not serving its purpose. That would be fine if it were serving its other, more subliminal purpose, but due to the new and unique way of doing the election, it isn’t even doing that any more. And so the people are rising against.

Still, what do I care. My favourite girl’s doing fine by me. And you know what I say? Make sure your favourite’s doing fine, too.

Idolmaster election time

The 7th Cinderella Girl election has begun. Cue mass shilling for votes, intense speculation as to just where everyone is in the rankings and a supposedly accurate gauge of everyone’s popularity, apart from all the unvoiced idols up there and the actual previous winners being nowhere because they’ve had their day in the sun. The catch with this one, is Deresute is now part of the voting process. If the fans are to be believed, this will lead to the utter devastation of every unvoiced character, as casual players get the chance to vote for the characters they’ve actually heard of and like, i.e. the most prominent voiced characters. Also you can pay over £1000 to vote for your favourite another 500 times. There are people willing to do this. And none of their payments will change the fact that the only certainty is a Nana win.

It’s all to do with memes and the number 7, you see. So they’re letting her have this one. And that’s fine if you’re here for the memes. But if, like me, you’re here for the characters in question, you’ll be wanting your favourite to rank as highly as reasonably possible. And there’s 184 that you can vote for at any time you want. So go for it. However, if you’re stuck on just who to vote for, I’m here to provide a list of just which idols might float your boat and, consequently, might just be worthy of your important backing.

Kanade Hayami

Touhou music: Perfect Cherry Blossom

The instruments might have been much changed for Perfect Cherry Blossom, but the music was just as good.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Top class. Arguably the defining Touhou theme. Though that might just be because it’s the first I heard.

Paradise ~ Deep Mountain: Aah, such a lovely, soothing opener. Incredibly fitting of the icy stage it takes place in. It has its epic moments, but on the whole this is about what I reckon a Stage 1 theme should sound like.

Crystallized Silver: I’ve actually heard remixes even better than this original, but they had to start somewhere. This is a strong theme for Letty and I like the composition of it a lot. One of the best example of ZUNpets I know, actually.

The Fantastic Legend of Tohno: Another theme that sets and fits its atmosphere really well, but while it has its interesting moments as a song, it doesn’t really stand up on its own; it’s fairly lukewarm on the whole and I’m not 100% sure about the instrumentation on the most dramatic bit. Still, there are positives to be had when put into the game itself.

Diao Ye Zong(withered leaf): In much the same boat as its accompanying stage song, actually. Really rather fitting of Chen’s battle, but not much cop to listen to all by itself. I suppose Stage 2’s theme aren’t quite pronounced enough on the whole. They’re a little too soft for my taste.

The Doll Maker of Bucuresti: Here’s a song that ramps up the tempo, no doubt. I’m particularly enamoured of the opening section and its instrumentation, the dramatic pianos. The ZUNpets in the next section aren’t too bad either. The second half isn’t quite as notable, though.

The Girl who Played with People’s Shapes: The song is well-composed, but in places some of the instruments do it no justice whatsoever. It starts off well enough, but after the opening there’s this terrible sound that I can’t get behind in any way. I don’t really remember it from any other songs and it’s probably just as well. It’d be perfectly fine if it wasn’t for that. Luckily, we have remixes aplenty to do this song justice. Many thanks to IOSYS, Hachimitsu Kuma-san, Touhoumon, etc.

The Capital City of Flowers in the Sky: One of Touhou’s longest epics, utterly befitting of one of its longest stages of all, Stage 4. The drama is racked up to the max here, wonderfully composed with several notable phases throughout to catch everyone’s attention. This might be my personal favourite in PCB on the whole, but it’s a pretty close run thing. There are some other really good tunes up ahead.

Phantom Ensemble: A nice and upbeat tune for the Prismriver Sisters, a tune which certainly strikes a much better tone than the re-done PoFV edition despite being largely identical. Such is the difference with a change of note. While it’s not the outright best as a song, it’s a pretty well-balanced tune on the whole, again with a little something for everyone throughout.

Mystic Oriental Dream ~ Ancient Temple: Once again the atmosphere shines through courtesy of this song. A slow but sure build-up leads into a terrific first section, and the instrumentation throughout the entire song is almost faultless. Even that noticeable instrument before each drop, while quite overpowering, doesn’t take away from the rest of it. Another superb addition to this game’s collection.

Hiroari Shoots a Strange Bird ~ Till When?: Youmu’s theme really is quite an intense one, certainly so coming off the rather calmer Stage 5 theme. Instrumentation again comes to the fore as a super-dramatic organ defines the main section of music here. This is another strong theme and, considering how well its SWR remix turned out, clearly quite well composed as well.

Ultimate Truth: Among my favourite short Stage 6 tunes, especially given the pomp and circumstance surrounding the stage itself. The instrumentation of the opening is perhaps an acquired taste but once the piano hits it turns into something really very beautiful indeed. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Bloom Nobly, Cherry Blossoms of Sumizome ~ Border of Life: A final boss theme supremely high on drama, right from the start. A truly epic opening leads to a highly enjoyable first section with a superb tone to it. Then the song changes right up to its more light-hearted main section, which is a lot of fun, but quickly reverts to type. And then another drop before the last section leads to another, final crescendo. There might be better sounding songs, but this is one of the most well-done of them all. Simply terrific.

Border of Life: This final spell theme is at its best in the moment. It makes it a truly astonishing thing to go through yourself. The ever-rising ZUNpets are a great signal of the spell itself, and its immense intensity. However, the final bit of it is also really rather interesting, with its unusual guitar sound within. Problem is, Yuyuko’s usually beaten before you get the chance to hear it.

Charming Domination: An interesting enough extra theme, with some particularly interesting instruments within, particularly around the start with that interesting keyboard sound. But the second half is largely unremarkable. And, as you’ll soon see, this is a song overshadowed by its other version.

A Maiden’s Illusionary Funeral ~ Necro-Fantasy: Ran’s theme is an interesting enough tune on the whole, and most notably has some rather unique instrumentation in the second half in the form of that rattling sound. The penultimate section of is probably the best, the bit before the ZUNpets reach their absolute peak. But again, there’s a version of this that does it better…and ends up making Ran’s theme look rather ordinary in comparison.

Charming Domination ~ Who done it!: More dramatic instruments at the start make this better than the Extra version. And the tone it strikes afterwards is just that much more interesting. Even that second half is made much more interesting by the atmosphere the song, and indeed the stage, invokes. Oh, and there’s even a couple of dramatic pauses in there to make you wonder what the hell is going on.

Necrofantasia: An iconic theme, incredibly fitting of the all-powerful Yukari, the only ever Phantasm boss. Yes, this is similar to Ran’s theme. But the instruments are better almost entirely across the board, and the second half is just so much more interesting. In particular, the lower tone struck in the final section is fantastic. Additionally, the first half has a much better tune to it. This is a truly magical theme. And actually, maybe it is my favourite in PCB after all. Just because it’s so memorable to me. Truly symbolic of one of the series’ most magnificent battles.

Touhou music: Story of Eastern Wonderland

The first proper shootup, the first properly toned music, the first properly good hits.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

I’d say it is. Certainly, the opening is pretty epic.

Hakurei ~ Eastern wind: Ooh, blimey, what a dramatic opener. I do like that slow opening section, and it builds up to something rather epic too. It does go a bit mad in the final bit, though.

She’s in a temper!!: A hectic tune for a first boss who comes at us in a bloody tank. Decent tune on the whole, especially the start, although the bit after doesn’t quite live up to it. Also a short tune, as expected from the Stage 1 boss.

End of Daylight: You’ll notice throughout that ZUN really went out of his way to try and emphasise atmosphere in this game and this is the start of it. From wacky sounds and a nice, intense build-up at the start comes a superb tune. When it drops, that’s the best part of the whole song. But the second half isn’t bad either. My favourite song in this game.

Power of Darkness: Another dramatic build-up at the start, which leads into a typically PC-98ishly repetitive section, but one which is actually really very good. I like the constantly ongoing composition of the song. And the instruments aren’t too bad either, even that one in the background. That’s a little funky and unique. I certainly can’t think of any other Touhou song in which it showed up.

World of Empty Dreams: There’s that atmosphere again. A slow, one-track build-up once again explodes into a song, but alas this one isn’t quite as notable as the ones preceding it. Some of the instruments are a little too high here for some comfort, unfortunately.

Bet on Death: This one goes straight in, and sounds more typically PC-98ish, unlike some of the quite experimental stuff around here. This one seemed to stick better than most, from the repetitiveness to the nature of the instruments to the tempo.

Himorogi, Burn in Violet: This one has the dramatic, instant intro that came to define a couple of future PC-98 songs, but here, it seems to be trying too hard. It settles down into a decent enough tune, though…and then the tempo changes and it kicks right off again. It’s rather short, but sweet enough.

Love-coloured Magic: The original version of the song we all love. It’s got that PC-98 kick of drums to it which is lovely, and of course the composition is lovely. Of course it is; that’s why it got brought back, eventually. The rest of the instrumentation could be better, though. Also, it’s probably a good job they expanded on this later – it is quite short here.

Record of the Sealing of an Oriental Demon ~ A Phantom’s Boisterous Dance: This is quite an off-beat song by Touhou standards, actually. I mean, the tempo and tone it sets are there, alright, but there’s elements here hardly seen since. That predominant instrument after the opening section is perhaps the most notable example. There’s even some considerable tempo changes to behold here, but the instrumentation on the whole really could be better.

Complete Darkness: A hectic final boss theme, and a pretty good one on the whole. A nice, and intense build-up to the song’s main section makes this a good listen from the start, but again the tempo goes a bit mad in places. The final section of the song is perhaps the highlight of it all, though.

Extra Love: The opening notes of this song are pretty interesting. Alas, there isn’t much more to note here. This is a very short song, a sign of the extra stage formula still being worked out, and despite an intense second section it’s not that remarkable.

The Tank Girl’s Dream: Interesting intro…and it builds up nicely enough. Again, some relatively unique instruments to be found here. Then the second half kicks off and it ends up being all typically PC-98ishly repetitive. This wasn’t the only extra stage theme of the era that’d prove guilty of this, if I’m honest. But those ended up sounding quite a bit better than this. But at least it has the nice drum kick towards the end.

And lastly, the one that got away…

Hakurei Shrine Grounds: ZUN wanted this as the Stage 1 theme at first. Given the eventual theme ended up being quite good, it was probably worth it, but then I reckon a theme this good could have been very useful elsewhere. It’s standard affair for this game, a nice intense build-up leading into a magnificent song. Some of the instruments get a bit high but stay just the right side of grinding. There’s also a more low-key ending section here, though. This theme really could’ve done a job somewhere else…the Extra stage comes to mind. It would’ve been more than long enough for such a stage.

Touhou music: Double Dealing Character

Double Dealing Character: pretty good game, much better music.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Erm…I’m afraid not. It’s just too boring.

Mist Lake: A calm affair, but not too calm. The most balanced Stage 1 theme on the whole, which is to say, the one that balances their more low-key nature with their still noticeable action. And the atmosphere is set very well here, too.

Mermaid from the Uncharted Land: The first real feature of DDC’s favourite thing; those new guitars. They’re very prominent indeed in this song and serve to spice up the action to this fight, which has a half decent switch between its two parts and two tones. Decent start.

Humans and Youkai Coming and Going at the Canal: Blimey, this isn’t half epic for a Stage 2 theme. If I didn’t know where this was coming from I’d tell you it was a Stage 4 theme, at least. It’s also pretty classic Touhou, with all sorts of familiar instruments coming at us in very familiar ways. It’s a reassuringly good listen, this one.

Dullahan Under the Willows: And now we go straight back to nu-Touhou and in very dramatic fashion indeed. All sorts of fancy instrumentation is going on here, including the ramping up of those guitars, again. And it’s all done in very good fashion in a song that once again seems far more fitting of a stage further in. That’s not a criticism…if anything it speaks volumes of just what great songs Stage 2 has. They just don’t seem like the norm for Stage 2 itself.

Bamboo Forest of the Full Moon: The new style is still on show here, but this time it clashes with the old one. And the result is pretty terrific. That super-intense transitional section between the first and second sections is my favourite bit of the song. The instruments in that bit really do give me the chills.

Lonesome Werewolf: And all of a sudden, the music goes all a bit…shit. There’s plenty of experimenting going on with a new style in this game, I understand, but this one doesn’t work. The instrumentation actually grinds my gears here and the transition to the ZUNpets isn’t the most seamless. Also not sure about composition here either. Or even the upward change in note.

Magical Storm: But then the game gets right back on form with its best song. The dramatic start makes this one great right from the off. Put in time with Stage 4, it becomes even more amazing. The newer style trumpets, which are rather lesser spotted in this game, make a glorious feature in this song.

Illusionary Joururi: But the Tsukumo’s actual theme is a rather less remarkable affair. It’s not quite up-tempo enough, and there’s an unusual effect in there somewhere that doesn’t quite sit comfortably with me. Now I think about it, perhaps they would have been better off swapping this with Stage 2’s themes.

The Shining Needle Castle Sinking in the Air: Stage 5’s theme again gets the songs back on track, but while the composition lends itself very well indeed to, for instance, remixes, I’m not quite sure about the original instrumentation here. At least, not in the opening section (or indeed the extra additions that come when it loops back around). Once that’s over with, we get the debut of the glorious instrument that LoLK would eventually bring the very best out of. But the ZUNpets proceed to overwhelm them in the final section of the tune. Still, there is a very good song in there, somewhere.

Reverse Ideology: Seija’s theme has no such problems with instrumentation and is instead simply a very damn good song indeed. It’s not the most intense Stage 5 boss theme we’ve ever had, but it doesn’t need to be here. It’s just a nice, good dueling theme on the whole.

The Exaggerated Castle Keep: A short preview here, a standard build-up to the final boss as per protocol for Stage 6 songs, except this one also seems to preview the instrument that ultimately ends up in Shinmyoumaru’s song and no one else’s. Otherwise, not that notable.

Kobito of the Shining Needle ~ Little Princess: The low guitars are trying to make things interesting here, but there’s not enough going on here throughout. It doesn’t feel like a battle theme from the off. If anything, it feels more at home as a stage theme. They should have gone a bit more all-out with the battle’s song itself because it never really gets going to me. Not even after the change in tone for the final section.

Thunderclouds of Magical Power: This is quite a short extra stage theme, but it at least seems like it’s trying to be interesting. Even though it ultimately doesn’t end up being anything too special. If anything, it probably ends up being too gentle for an extra stage.

Primordial Beat ~ Pristine Beat: This is definitely a fitting theme for the extra stage boss, though. Raiko’s fight might not be all that, sans time-out spell, but at least it sounds damn good. This is another lovely mix of old and new styles and the instrumentation of the song is, on the whole, absolutely superb. This is a most enjoyable theme to finish up a game which has its peaks and troughs musically, but which ultimately ends up on the right side of good.

Touhou music: Imperishable Night

Touhou’s first big epic got some epic music. Like the game itself though, it’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Not to start with. But it picks up a little as it goes on.

Illusionary Night ~ Ghostly Eyes: This is a far more intense starter theme than the two games preceding it, perhaps a prologue to the tone the next era of Touhou would set with its Stage 1 themes. I suppose they had to with this, really. It’s far too dramatic a game not to warrant it. Mind you, the tune itself isn’t all that great. Also, the stage is over before you get to hear all of it.

Stirring an Autumn Moon ~ Mooned Insect: This one is a little fun for a simple Stage 1 boss. ZUNpets are in full chat throughout. Decent enough song, but as usual, probably a bit too short to fully enjoy.

Song of the Night Sparrow ~ Night Bird: Suddenly, Stage 2 kicks it right up with a fast-paced, and really rather good theme. Some interesting and pretty unique instrumentation is on show here, and it’s quite riveting to listen to, most especially in the long opening sequence, and the largely identical section following the piano. The section where it drops down isn’t too bad either. This is a hidden gem of a song, largely forgotten amongst most others in this game.

Deaf to All but the Song: Ooh, what drama awaits you here in Mystia’s song. This is a great sounding track on the whole, supremely well-composed, but some bit of it feel a little bit empty. Then again, that might just be me comparing it to the re-done, and extended, version which comes in PoFV. The original is still a strong song, though.

Nostalgic Blood of the East ~ Old World: I like the tone this one strikes, surprisingly intense for a mere Stage 3. It’s at its best though when it really kicks off, with the pianos after the first section. Then the second time round it introduces some extra instrumentation to boot. Another rather underrated song, I think.

Plain Asia: Now back to more standard Touhou affair for Keine’s battle. Dramatic pianos and ZUNpets are everywhere here. This is a lovely and action-packed song for a rather hectic battle.

Retribution for the Eternal Night ~ Imperishable Night: And suddenly the drama is ramped up to 11 for one of the most frantic stages in Touhou’s history. Everything is going on here, and as it happens the tune itself is pretty much the series’ menu theme gone wild. A fitting way of putting it, considering the nature of the bosses that lie ahead. Even if I don’t think they’re the greatest idea in context.

Maiden’s Capriccio ~ Dream Battle: Whoowee. They really do treat Reimu like the most powerful being around with this one. A lovely tune for a lovely girl, and yet also really quite fitting of the fact she hates your guts and wants to pichuun you right the hell outta here. The tempo is relentless from the start, the changes are constant, and it’s all really quite exciting.

Love-Colored Master Spark: Oh look, it’s the one absolutely everyone loves. I can sort of see why, here. The overriding ‘chorus’ of this song really is very well composed indeed. There are remixes around that do it plenty of justice, but here in the original the ZUNpets do fine. Still, if I said some of the aforementioned tunes are underrated, this one is overrated to me. It’s good, but it’s not all that.

Cinderella Cage ~ Kagome-Kagome: Here is a tune that really is all that. Because it’s quite an astonishing turn of drama with composition that could almost have been designed with the ZUNpets in mind. This might just be the greatest use of the series’ most universal instrument in the entire series. It fits the older style of it so perfectly. This is a simply glorious triumph of both song-writing and instrumentation. Absolutely superb.

Lunatic Eyes ~ Invisible Full Moon: And you know the amazing thing? This is even better. Reisen’s theme is, in fact, even more well-composed. I have heard more remixes of this song than any other and not a single one of them has let me down. Not one of them. That says a lot about this wonderful tune. And that guitar-led transition into the song’s ‘chorus’ is just epic. I reckon this might be the best song of Touhou’s original era. It’s one of the best listens in the entire series.

Voyage 1969: Hmm. Not sure about this one, though. A short song, as would be expected of Stage 6, and still pretty atmospheric for a final stage, but the opening isn’t quite intense enough. The mid-section with the rapid pianos is great, but then the final bit isn’t anything special. Maybe a fitting metaphor for the Stage 6s themselves, given how they kind of bottled the concept in this game.

Gensokyo Millenium ~ History of the Moon: Just on the right side of ‘very good’. It’s all pretty good classic Touhou stuff in all aspects, but it doesn’t exactly feel like a song worthy of a final boss. Probably just as well Eirin isn’t one, then…apart from the fact they kinda sorta treated her like one. Again, I say, if she’d been Stage 5…now this would’ve been alright there.

Flight of the Bamboo Cutter ~ Lunatic Princess: Mercifully, the actual final boss has a song far more worthy of her position. Kaguya’s song has a terrific build-up, lovely instrumentation throughout, and a pretty strong main ‘chorus’ in the middle, although I’m less sure about the instruments in bits of that part. The second half isn’t quite as remarkable, until the last section of it when it goes round to loop again, which is the most dramatic section of it all. Very good on the whole, this one.

Voyage 1970: Hmm…should I really include this one? Oh wait, I seem to have answered my own question. Shit. This is the final spell theme but it’s just a much jacked-up version of 1969. Alas, this isn’t much better, if I’m honest.

Extend Ash ~ Hourai Victim: A surprisingly well-balanced Extra theme, with a little bit of everything to it. It doesn’t kick off to quite the extent of some other songs in this game, but then it doesn’t have to. It’s just a very good tune to listen to. It has something for everyone to like. Very easy on the ears, I’d say.

Reach for the Moon ~ Immortal Smoke: Mokou’s theme is a nice finisher to this game, and a fitting piece for her really rather intense fight. A bit like the theme before it, it never fully kicks off – maybe with some of the changes in tune, but they’re not exactly huge ones. This is a fine song, and one which is unmistakably at its best in the battle it was meant for.