Villainous Thoughts: A Look at Touhou 13.5 – Hopeless Masquerade

Touhou 13.5 Title Screen blog pic

I suppose I should make good on my promise of bringing some gaming related content into this waste of bandwidth I lovingly call a blog, and I figured the recent release of the newest official Touhou game (the demo at least) at Comiket 83 would do just the trick.

As you may or may not be able to tell from the image of Okuu looking like she’s about to Gigaflare your ass into subatomic particles up top, I have something of an interest in Touhou. Prior to me starting college, Touhou’s massive amount of fandom activity: all the Doujin games/manga, the fan songs and remixes, the Palanquin Ship-load of memes and everything else, more or less flew over my head without notice. While in High School, I only knew of Touhou in the broadest sense of the word. That is, I knew that Touhou included a Miko and a Witch, and was based on a bullet hell shooter of some kind. I didn’t even know of Cirno at the time. In college however I was introduced to Touhou directly, a friend who was at the time in the same English class as me. I was introduced to Touhou in a way that is somewhat unusual in the Western fandom, being shown the game directly. Most get into it through the massive sphere of fanworks or memes that surround the series, it was certainly the way this friend was introduced to Touhou himself. I was a little surprised when he showed me the game when it wasn’t a shump. It was one of the main numbered games and not Doujin-soft, but it was one of the now 4 Touhou fighting games which I didn’t know there were any at the time. Specifically, it was Hisoutensoku with the Scarlet Weather Rhapsody characters patched-in. I was hooked by the gameplay and the all female cast, and so I decided to learn more about this wondrous game and it’s characters myself, and the rest is history afterward. At this point the main draw of Touhou for me is not really the games persay. I’ve still only played Hisou and I’m scared to play the standard Touhou Danmaku games because I am horrible at shumps and they don’t like me. My knowledge of the games proper comes from a combination of watching playthroughs and boss runs, as well as reading the Touhou Wiki and TV Tropes. I’ve always been a fan of trivia so reading wikis without much prior context is easy for me. A good majority of my love for Touhou now comes from the absolutely stunning fanart the series produces in profusion as well as the music: the original game tracks as well as some of the remixes. It’s well known that ZUN is not a great illustrator, when it comes to music I think he is a genius with the synthesizer. He can create some seriously good tracks that can range from powerful and bombastic, to whimsical  and playful and all within the same song. I also love the lore and the world the series resides in,  the lives of characters who are so powerful but who seem content to fool around more often than not (with some exceptions), and the extreme flexibility in how the world of Gensokyo is thought of and how the characters are portrayed from person to person. I am still a bit reluctant to try out the Danmaku games proper, so I was very excited to hear a new Touhou fighting game was in the works. So in this new “Villainous Thoughts” segment (a glorified First Impressions really) I will take a look at game no. 13.5 in the series, Touhou Shinkirou ~ Hopeless Masquerade.

When the first trailer of the game was introduced I was quite shocked to see it. Hopeless Masquerade had ditched the sprites and style that had been used since Immaterial and Missing Power, something I had mixed feelings to at first. I enjoyed the chibified sprites that those games used, and the taller looking Reimu sprite used was a little off putting at first. However, I noticed that the proportions of the character sprites and the pastel shading of them makes said sprites look far more like the artwork done by alphes which I have always enjoyed. In Immaterial and Missing Power, SWR and Hisou there was a noticeable disconnect between the illustrations for the games and the sprites, using what seemed to be almost 2 different art styles. Hopeless Masquerade on the other hand keeps the styles similar for both illustrations and sprites, something I do really appreciate.

Hopeless Masquerade Marisa sprite blog pic

Alphes Hopeless Masquerade Marisa blog pic

I did also quite enjoy the new Marisa sprite, with her riding her broom in battle. The new arrival (to the fighting games at least) of Ichirin also looks quite nice, who also seems to be receiving a re-design like Yukari got in IaMP. I for one really like Ichirin’s new outfit, as in her UFO appearance she looked more like a Nun than a Buddhist monk. Now her outfit more resembles that of a Zen monk (if a bit more colorful) and it’s a change I appreciate  quite a bit. The new sprites do allow for a higher natural resolution, so Hopeless Masquerade will have far crisper visuals as it is made for widescreen. Even Reimu began to grow on me, looking more like the cool beauty type compared to her younger looking sprite in the previous fighting games. Though what pretty much sold me on the new sprites was that there will finally be intro and winner animations, something I always get a joy out of in fighting games. There are only 2 stages so far, that being the Hakurei Shine and the Palanquin Ship. Both however look  very good as well, and I enjoy the addition of spectators in the crowd to make it more like a fighting game. The visuals are definitely a winning look for me in Hopeless Masquerade.

Next up would be the Music, which to me is one of the best points of Touhou as a whole. Unfortunately however, since the game is only in it’s demo stage the game only contains 4 tracks, 2 of which we don’t know the proper name of. The 2 we don’t know the name of are the intro theme and the theme that plays at the title screen. The intro is a very nice tune, and gets the blood properly pumping while at the same time having a very traditional sounding grace to it. It’s a good song but it’s just rather short. It is just an intro song however. Really though, I think the theme of the title screen is the best so far. It has the combination of the Trumpets and Violin as seen in the previous fighting game titles that just works so well together and creates a wonderful harmony. The song itself also has a wonderful energy to it, sounding like a folk dance or a country celebration and conjuring up images of rolling green hills in my head. Despite that however, the song does sound slightly tumultuous at the same time, like the feeling not all is well. It’s an excellent collision of contrasts that makes this song, and Touhou songs in general, great.

Said Main Theme

The other 2 are the character themes for Reimu and Ichirin. There isn’t one for Marisa yet (damn you tasofro…) as the themes are tied to the stages and only Reimu and Ichirin’s stages are playable. Ichirin’s theme is a remix of her UFO boss theme, The Traditional Old Man and The Stylish Girl. The instrumentation of this newer version sounds fairly similar to the original, a little bit more so than the remixes tasofro has done to the other Touhou characters. This is probably because of the fact that a lot of the characters in the previous fighting games were from older Touhou games, so the difference in instrumentation is probably because of a simple leap in technology and the quality of the synth-instruments. In Hisou, one could really see this with Reimu and Marisa, as well as most of the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil/Perfect Cherry Blossom characters (especially in Hisou with Marisa and Alice, considering that both Love-Colored Magic and The Grimoire of Alice are pre-Windows themes). However, even though the instrumentation is fairly similar sounding, the feeling and emotion from the UFO version to the Hopeless Masquerade version is different. In UFO Ichirin is a boss, so the feeling of her theme is more intense and foreboding. The UFO version also seems to give the feeling of the sky bearing down on you, which is fitting seeing what Unzan is. The Hopeless Masquerade version of it however is far more flighty and free sounding, and far more playful. Instead of the clouds bearing down upon you, in this version it feels like you are frolicking and flying amongst them. This makes sense as well, as Ichirin and Unzan are no longer a boss that you must face, but one of many player characters (well not so many at the moment, but we all know the cast is not going to stay this small). Tasofro most definitely did well with this remix, capturing a new feeling that matches so well with Ichirin’s new and much less sombre look, creating a winning theme in the process.

Ichirin’s theme

The last song that is actually present to us is Reimu’s theme, a remix of her Phantasmagoria of Flower View theme, Colorful Path. This is my least favorite theme of the bunch. It don’t hate it or even really dislike it, I just feel that it is the weakest of the 4. A part of this is because I don’t like the original PoFV version of Colorful Path. With Ichirin’s theme, I like the the original UFO version of the song that it is based on, making it much easier to like the new version. It’s already an uphill battle with Colorful Path (and in general I feel like the tracks for PoFV are a mixed bag: I love Oriental Dark Flight, Phantom Ensemble, Wind God Girl and Fate of Sixty Years, while I highly prefer the SWR remixes of Flowering Night and Riverside View, and everything else I find so-s0). Added on to the fact that I am not much of a fan of the original, I feel that the new Colorful Path doesn’t fit Reimu that much because of the heavy Rock influences. Rock in general is rare in Touhou games, the only time I really recall it being used off hand is for the SWR version of Marisa’s theme: Casket of Star. In that instance the Rock influence worked, mainly because of who it was done for. Marisa herself is more of a brash character, being a known thief, caring even less about Youkai-related incidents than Reimu (who just sees resolving them as a job and nothing more) and using masculine speech in the Japanese dialogue. For someone like her, a Rock-influenced song is perfect for her character. For the more duty-bound and honest (to the point of being insensitive) Reimu a Rock-influenced track makes less sense. The electronic organ parts of the song are nice, but in general I don’t really feel that this song fits the character it is supposed to represent. I still do not hate Colorful Path however, and so far I feel like the tracks in this game are strong so far. But to be honest, when does a Touhou game not have good music?

Next up would be the meat of Hopeless Masquerade: the gameplay, which is receiving a lot of changes compared to previous Touhou fighter titles. Perhaps the most obvious is that the fights are always in the air, with the characters being in a continuous state of flight. In the previous games, all the characters had a great deal of air movement available to them, but it was only for a limited time. And while in IaMP, SWR and Hisou the mechanic was called Flight, in reality it acted more like a long distance 8-Way Air Dash, like the Capcom VS games on steroids. Only a few characters in those games (Yuyuko, Patchouli, Iku, and sorta-kinda Suwako) had true Flight capabilities like with some of the VS-games characters, or Eddie in Guilty Gear. In more ways than one, the constant flight makes the game resemble one of the many Dragonball Z games, but even in those games you could touch down on the ground at times.

I am wondering however how well you will be able to lockdown opponents when you don’t have ground to stand upon, due to said constant flight. From gameplay videos I have seen, it does seem possible, but it is nowhere near the blockstrings that Hisou had, which is not necessarily a bad thing. With the movement abilities that all the characters were privy to, locking down opponents was difficult in Hisou, but due to the fact that you could graze through most projectiles, it was not impossible. It was indeed more difficult than a majority of fighting games out there, even ones with airdashes like the Vs series (where a large degree of impassible beams and projectiles make it fairly easy to pin opponents down in one place) and Arc Systems Works games (where the amount of projectiles is fewer, but zoning is still effective and projectiles are still impassible except for Persona 4 Arena, but the burst mechanic kept things from becoming too crazy). Even in Arcana Hearts it’s easier to lock down people (where the homing dash can quickly close in on people with the slightest opening, and every character had moves that could reflect projectiles back, as well as having a burst mechanic). For fighters without airdashing, KOF still kept projectile lockdown to a minimum with the roll mechanic (the lockdown in that game comes from constant overheads with low hops). And as for the perennial classic Street Fighter, projectiles are more powerful here than in possibly any fighting game before or since (unless we are talking about SF3) because of the sheer lack of movement options you have. In games with projectiles I love the roll mechanic, and in games with long combos the burst is a godsend (in my opinion it is one of the most important innovations for combo heavy fighting games and it should be more widely adopted than it is. It kills me that UMvC3 does not have any combo-breaker or burst mechanic, especially when TvC had the Megacrash). As for Hisou, it did not have a burst mechanic but it never really needed it as combos in that game are far shorter than in other “Anime Fighters” (the fact that you couldn’t otg is one of the biggest reasons for this, as well as the limit system which will be addressed later). Besides it’s the projectiles that would be the real concern, as most of the cast can fill the screen with danmaku with just a few normals. This potential issue was addressed with the grazing mechanic. The grazing mechanic is a wonderful invention that made any ground/air dash or “flight” able to pass through (almost) any projectiles for as long as it’s frames were active. The game achieved a good balance where melee attacks were generally limited in options (at least for most characters especially when compared to a more standard fighting game) but could not be grazed through, while the projectile options were numerous and varied but could be easily gotten past by your opponent if you were careless. The grazing mechanic is an awesome one that gave Hisou it’s amazingly active high-flying gameplay.

The grazing mechanic is, fortunately, staying put but it is not unchanged. In SWR and Hisou, any direction of “flight” would graze through projectiles, but in Hopeless Masquerade only a forward or backdash will actually graze projectiles. I can understand this change, as now the whole vertical and horizontal space is accessible to you at all times, without fear of losing your spirit gauge like in Hisou or SWR. It is a good idea to limit the directions you can graze in so that you actually can catch your opponent once in a while. I fear that constant flight + omnidirectional graze would mean that the game would pull a SFxT and have a lot of matches end in time out. Another mechanic that is similar yet different is the limit system, back in Hopeless Masquerade as Stun. The Limit system in SWR and Hisou was the idea of hitstun scaling carried out to it’s farthest logical extreme. All moves, from normals to spellcards, added on a percentage to the Limit, up to 100%. Once 100% was hit, the opponent would instantly fall out of whatever move or combo they were in, becoming completely invulnerable until they hit the ground which was represented by a blue magic circle surrounding them. They would then stand right back up in place, unable to directionally tech. Instead of hitstun scaling just making it harder to land the next hit (something which could be gotten over with enough practice) the Limit system made absolutely sure that combos were kept short, forcing players to focus on resets and okizeme instead of memorizing touch-of-death combos. Its a very interesting idea that, along with the inability to graze melee attacks placing a great emphasis on blockstrings, gave the game some surprising depth. The new Stun system is almost the same, but with a few differences. The Stun percentage accumulates the same way, but now there is white Stun and red Stun. White Stun happens first, happens the same way Limit does, but white Stun is not invulnerable to Spellcards. If you are hit with a Spellcard during white Stun, you take the Spellcard’s damage and enter red Stun, which now has the same effects as Limit: in that you are totally invulnerable but also unable to do anything until you recover. I feel that this change was made to accommodate the new way Spellcards are used.

Spellcards now function more like they did back in IaMP: in Hopeless Masquerade a Spellcard must be “declared” before it can be used. In essence it works something like going into Insta-Kill mode before using an Insta-Kill in GG, except that declaring in Hopeless Masquerade does actually freeze the screen. Unlike IaMP however, you can have different Spellcards on you per match, as with SWR and Hisou. The differences between Stun and the Limit systems sound odd until you take into consideration that all Spellcards have to be “preped” for their usage later. In this context, having a Stun where you are still vulnerable to Spellcards makes sense. However the changes to the Spellcards also tie in to how health is governed in this game. You start the round with a full bar of white life, which can turn blue. The different color is not an indicator of recoverable life like in most fighting games that use different colors in life bars, but a gauge showing when you can declare a Spellcard. Attacking and being attacked turns your white life blue, and blocking does nothing to it (taking damage actually gives you more blue life than dealing it, which makes it something like Ultra meter in SF4). When all of your life is blue, your healthbar will glow green and you can declare a Spellcard. After actually using it, all of your health will then turn white again. This, needles to say, also means the elimination of the deck system of SWR and Hisou. This is a change that, quite frankly, I am not happy about. It’s not so much the removal of the deck system (which I did like), but it’s replacement. I don’t really see the point of nixing a normal meter gain system with one that is needlessly complicated. When really taken apart it’s pretty much the same as a normal super meter, just overlaying your health bar. It’s because of that, however, that I am not crazy about it. It seems like you could pretty easily lose track of it in the heat of battle considering that one gauge covers 2 resources. The idea of declaring Spellcards coming back makes sense because of how the way the meter is set up. Since the health and Spellcard bars share a space, it means that it’s easier to get Spellcards the lower your health is. The need to “set up” your Spellcards before hand  is a good way of preventing them from just being used in the clutch, or to use the popular term, a comeback mechanic. From gameplay I’ve seen so far however, it hasn’t been used that way much. People do seem to be setting up the Spellcards, or use them as end of round finishers. Either way, there is one last, entirely new mechanic, that does bear mentioning.

This new mechanic is Popularity, and adds something of a reason for the spectators in each stage so far. Its an interesting system that works like an odd combination of ArcSystemWorks games’ Negative Penalty and KOF 11’s Judgement system. Throughout the rounds your Popularity percentage will either rise or fall depending on the actions you take. Offensive actions will raise it and defensive ones will lower it, like with Negative Penalty. If you gain enough Popularity, your attacks will be able to chain in ways that they normally would not, your blocks are more spirit efficient, and makes your spirit regenerate faster (I neglected to mention spirit before because it’s the same system as SWR and Hisou: your normal bullets and specials cost some spirit to do, it restores quickly overtime by itself, and blocking them costs varying amounts of spirit depending on if you blocked the right way or not). If you loose enough Popularity, the opposite happens: your blocks cost you more spirit and said spirit regenerates slower. These states of heightened and lowered Popularity and the buffs the give are represented by a blue and red aura respectively. There is also a gauge on the HUD for Popularity, which can be maxed out to +100% during a match. If this happens, your character gains a gold aura and the timer freezes. The gold aura acts like a blue one, with one addition: your character now has access to their Last Word. The Last Word is a super move, like your Spellcards, except they do not have to be declared, do not cost blue life and can be used like any of your specials. It also does even more damage then your regular Spellcards, so in essence it is your ultimate attack. Your Popularity is, however, reset after using this. Popularity also can decide matches in a much more direct manner then nuking your opponent with danmaku however. Just like any other fighting game (or really any “game” for that matter) if you K.O the opponent you win. In most fighting games, if you have a higher amount of health than the opponent when the clock runs out, you win as well. This is not the case in Hopeless Masquerade. Like in KOF 11, having the health lead will not mean an instant victory. KOF 11 had the judgement system, which literally judged you on your actions in the event of a time-out, deciding the winner that way. In Hopeless Masquerade, Popularity is the judge in the event of a time out. If such a thing happens, the person with the highest Popularity percentage wins. It is only in the case of both sides having the same Popularity will the health lead decide who wins in a time out. I for one think that this Popularity system is a very interesting idea. Like Negative Penalty, it will reward more offensive play i.e, rewarding the person making more of an effort to win. The benefits of the blue aura (and the negatives of the red one) are an interesting and creative way of doing such a system, as a change from the simple increase in damage taken like in BlazBlue (or the plain cruel loss of Tension in GuiltyGear). What makes this idea of “Negative Penalty” interesting is that it’s not just negative reinforcement: it’s not just a penalty for playing passively but also a reward for actively playing and playing to win. The reward can be quite massive as well, giving you access to what is essentially a super powerful Spellcard that does not have to be declared and can be used regardless of how much blue life you have. The idea of time out wins being decided with Popularity also piques my interest, but for more story and mythos based reasons. The Popularity system, for me anyway, draws parallels with the very nature of Spellcard duels in Gensokyo. The Spellcard duels by their very definition, are not real fights. They are ritualized battles put into place for the sake of maintaining the status quo, where Youkai cause incidents and terrorize humans, then Miko like Reimu or Sanae are put to the task of solving them, without the danger of killing Reimu and having the border between the real world and Gensokyo dissolve (not to mention as a safety measure so that characters like Yuyuko, Keine, Yukari, Remilia or Flandre don’t use their real powers in an actual fight, godforbid). Spellcard duels instead use danmaku, and are intended to look flashy. As much as they are intended to beat down those opposing you, Spellcards duels should be beautiful as well. It is a ritualized fight, so of course beating the opponent is not the only consideration. The Popularity system gets the point across that this is a duel, and that like the aristocratic Sword duels of the 19th century, you have to win in a certain fashion in order to truly “win.” There are other elements to the gameplay, but these are the things I feel are most important.

An early combo video

A guy using Marisa to make Lunatic CPUs look like Easy Modo

Last but certainly not least is The Story of Hopeless Masquerade. The past Touhou fighters have shown that yes, a Fighting Game can have a story that is worth putting time and effort into clearing (SWR and IaMP more than Hisou, as Hisou’s story was confined to only 3 characters and was rather short by comparison). Though really, anyone not named Capcom can seemingly make a Fighting Game today and have a story that is at least worth looking into (just take a look at Capcom’s modern fighters to see how much they give a damn on the subject. Though honestly, Namco didn’t do much better with Soul Calibur 5).  Regardless of my griping however, because of the fact that the full game is not out, all we have to go on is the premise shown to us in the game’s intro sequence. Because of all the recent happenings in Gensokyo (which themselves are chronicled in the games prior to this one, of course) the human population has grown pessimistic and cynical, believing they have no control over their lives. The now 3 major religious powers of Gensokyo: Shinto, Daoism and Buddhism, see this as an opportunity to gain new adherents to their respective faiths, in order to both restore normalcy to the human population and to expand their influence in Gensokyo against the the members of the cloth that are not their own. It’s an interesting idea, though the set up does make me ask one particular question: why didn’t this situation in the Human Village happen sooner? No seriously, why haven’t the human inhabitants of Gensokyo fall into hopelessness already given that things like a never ending night, a springtime that never came, wild and bi-polar weather formations, and a scarlet fog that blocked out the sun have already happened to it’s inhabitants? From the perspective of the average mortal human bystander, these events came unannounced, could not be gotten rid of by any tactics the humans could do, messed up the normal situation enough that even Youkai and superhumans like Reimu and Marisa couldn’t live normally until it was dealt with, and then solve themselves will equally as little warning to the average human bystander, all the while being none the wiser to the events going on behind the scenes. With all the various incidents that have happened, and with the humans getting only the barest (if any at all) information on why these things are happening and how they were solved, I am honestly surprised that feelings of disenfranchisement have only now started to take root. Regardless, because the humans feel like they have no control over their environment, the Religious leaders of this apparently all female land feel the need to put the fear of god into them, and that by giving them a nice emotional crutch they can easily get some new followers. Well it probably would be easy except that everyone has the same idea. I do really like this concept for a few reasons, one of them being that it seems very plausible. Each faction would have it’s own reasons for getting involved and evidence to support this.

 For instance: it’s been well documented on how keen the Moriya shrine (specifically Kanako) is on getting new followers, being either directly or indirectly related with many of the game’s plots from Mountain of Faith onward, all with the greater goal in mind to get more adherents to it’s mountain top shrine. To think that Kanako would not use this situation to her advantage is unthinkable, and I am almost certain she will have a hand in the game’s plot when it is fully revealed. The newest arrivals of Miko and the Daoists are also likely to manipulate the situation so as to gain more devotees. The Daoists are, as stated, the most recent comers to Gensokyo, being introduced only one game ago. They have the most ground to gain, and so will probably be the most motivated in getting new believers so as to establish themselves as legitimate in the eyes of Gensokyo’s residents. Not to mention that they have the lack of moral scruples in order to manipulate the situation of hopelessness. Toyosatomimi no Miko’s backstory already involves the Manipulation of an entire country’s populace: encouraging the practice of Buddhism in order to pacify the people while she studied the Dao in order to learn the secret of immortality. Her followers are not much better than her, especially Seiga Kaku. Given her history and her situation, I would also say that Miko is likely to play a part in this game’s plot. The last major power in this triangle is the Buddhists, represented by Byakuren and the Myouren Temple. This is so far the only faction to have a playable character representing them so far, that being Ichirin. While of course the Buddhists are going to play a part in the story, I feel that their exact role is going to be different. Specifically, I feel that Byakuren will be involved not to gain more followers per say, but to simply give guidance to the people she feels are giving into hopelessness. In essence, I feel that she will be the only truly benevolent one of the bunch. Because of her own backstory of wanting Youkai and Humans to come together despite their differences, it has been shown that she has some of the best intentions of any Touhou character. Not for nothing she is called Youkai Jesus. Because of her desire for harmony which she still continues to strive for despite being persecuted for it, I think it makes sense that her concern for the Humans will be the most genuine. Some of her followers may not have the same level of compassion, but they are nothing if not loyal to her. Also because of Byakuren’s kindness and her probable genuine concern for the Humans, her conflict with Kanako and Miko will most likely have an added dimension. Beyond them all aiming for the same people to to recruit from, Byakuren will also likely come into conflict with the others on the basis that she believes (rightly so) that they are just using the Humans for their personal agendas. However, even Byakuren does not have a completely squeaky clean record, becoming a Youkai so that she could maintain her youth. This is Gensokyo at the end of the day, and while no one is really evil, no one her is truly virtuous either. These are just my predictions on the reasons why they would exploit the situation, not the facts of the matter which we don’t know yet. There are one or 2 other predictions I do have however.

Out of the 3 religious factions, only Shinto has 2 separate “strongholds,” the Hakurei and Moriya Shrines. Only one of which, the Hakurei Shrine, is represented so far in the game. Despite the fact that Reimu is (for now) the sole representative of Shinto, I do not feel that she will be playing the role of “Shinto Representative” when the game’s plot is revealed in full. Instead she will be in her typical role of “Problem Solver” along with Marisa. My reasoning for this is that while Reimu has never been shy in asking for donations, she doesn’t actually do much in the way of prosthelytizing the Human populace. For that, the Moriya Shrine most definitely takes the cake, especially concerning the plans Kanako comes up with for getting new adherents. Not to mention, Reimu is a bit too lazy and unmotivated for the purposes of recruiting new followers to the cloth. She never really puts in the effort to do so, which is probably why the Hakurei Shrine is described as being shabby and worn down. Kanako will be the true “Shinto Representative” of this story  (as past behavior suggests) of trying to get more followers, and Reimu will play her general role of the “Fixer,” most likely only bothering to move once the battles between Miko, Kanako and Byakuren grow too obtrusive to ignore. Marisa will end up falling into the same role due to her normally stated reason: out of boredom. However this only means that Kanako will only be the mastermind for the Shinto side of things, and I honestly don’t know if she will be a playable character (though I would like her to be). Sanae seems slightly more likely, as she generally is the one who acts in Kanako or Suwako’s steed, sometimes as a glorified errand girl. Kanako is the planner, while Sanae is the one who goes out and enacts them (sometimes without her direct knowledge). It has also been revealed that she does the majority of the on foot, door to door “missionary work” as it were. Because of their respective roles, Kanako seems likely to hold a central role in the game’s plot, while Sanae seems more likely to be playable. Another theory of mine is that the Celestials (i.e. Tenshi) could be involved. This is because they share connections to both Buddhism and Daoism. The Celestials are beings who have reached enlightenment (or in the case of Tenshi and her family, were rewarded because of their service to the gods) and the name of Bhava-Agra itself is Sanskrit, which ties it all back to Buddhism. However, they do also share a lot of aspects with the Daoists as well. Daoism as a religion is like Shinto in some ways, a base set of ideals combined with the native myths and gods of China, and Chinese myths do speak of Celestial beings several times. Due to a combination of Meiling and Tenshi’s winquotes in Hisou, we know that Tenshi is has knowledge of the classical Chinese works and philosophers such as Confucius, so it wouldn’t be such a stretch to think she knew of Laozi and the Dao. And concerning the rules of Gensokyo specifically, the Immortality of a Celestial and a Shikaisen (like Miko or Futo) work in the same way in that its only a pseudo-immortality. They are always youthful, but their everlasting life and youth only comes from defeating the Shinigami who periodically come to claim their lives to try and make them pass on. In essence, a sort of “borrowed time” immortality that only comes from their power and ability to literally beat death back. It is these connections which lead me to believe that Tenshi could play a role in these games. But really that is all the speculation I have on the story.

Well that turned out longer than I expected. I’m sorry that I haven’t posted in quite a while but it does feel good to finally get a new post out. If you have seen videos of Hopeless Masquerade or have played the demo yourself, what are your thoughts? How does it compare to the other Touhou fighters or Fighting games in general? What are your speculations on what will be in the story? Please feel free to say in the comments below.

From Mahora With Love:
-VillainousHanacha

*The Music, Images and Video all used in this blog is not of my creation and I claim no ownership of the original game, nor of the gameplay shown.*

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