The Touhou series is an incredibly large base of bullet hell games developed by ZUN, and has spawned many an offshoot, some RPGs, some platforms, a few fighting games, some rhythm games, and I’m pretty sure they’re running out of genres to cover, whether through official releases or fan games. Here we have “Touhou Mechanical Scrollery”, an interesting take on a 3D bullet hell style.
I’ve been playing the Touhou series for quite some time now, both the bullet hells as well as a lot of offshoots, such as: Labyrinth of Touhou, Touhoumon, Luna Nights, etc., but I do believe this is the first 3D bullet hell type I’ve played. Mechanical Scrollery tells a story of Reimu Hakurei, a shrine maiden of Gensokyo, and Marisa Kirisame, and ordinary magician, resolving an incident involving a bunch of mechanical monstrosities. Some backstory if that made no sense to you: basically Gensokyo is like an alternate plane of existence, where the demons and devils of Japanese lore go when they no longer have a place in the “real world”. As such, a large chunk (read most) of the population are yokai (Japanese demons).
Mechanical Scrollery centres around Suzunaan, a bookstore run by a human living in Gensokyo. One day Reimu and Marisa go to check out the latest release of a new “totally not Agatha Christie” novel, when they discover robotic creatures infesting the area around the human village. Turns out the local yokai population can’t actually perceive the robots, only humans, and moon rabbits, can. Reimu and Marisa discover the robots are coming from a demon book that has wormed its way into the roster of books in Suzunaan, so it’s up to Reimu and Marisa to find the cause of these robots and stop it.
Mechanical Scrollery is what I would, maybe generously, describe as a combination of bullet hell and monster hunter? Sort of? You move around with full 3-Dimensional control and you attack the robotic creatures, knocking off parts and hitting them until they die, collecting parts, and use those to craft weapons. You’re given some pretty standard tools to accomplish your task of vanquishing the offending steel menace. You have a long range shot, a melee attack, a super move, a dodge, and a dash that handles like a bike three sizes too small with a flat tire.
The general idea is that you have a shot gauge, which fills up either by smacking enemies with your melee, or by narrowly dodging an attack while using they dodge function. Hitting enemies with the shot will increase the special gauge, and once that is full you can unleash your special. You can also enter a sort of sniper mode where you can focus fire at parts of a creature. Enemies will attack back, either by trying to slap you, or by shooting the most colourful death you’ll ever have at you.
While the concept behind Mechanical Scrollery is something I can really get behind, the implementation leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth. Honestly, it has a lot of sketchy points to it. Most of the time for a mission, you get dropped in a roughly circular arena and follow the radar to find the enemies you need to kill. Occasionally the radar won’t actually show all the enemy locations, so you then have to procedurally go through all the enemies till you find the ones you need. A little frustrating if you need to beat two or more bosses within your time limit, but have no idea where the last one is.
Additionally, after you beat an enemy, their parts are left for you to pick up. If they die while in mid air, they make a very harsh drop to the ground, occasionally going right through it. I actually lost the “last boss’ ” parts like this. A little frustrating is that there aren’t any invincibility frames on taking a hit, meaning you could be full health, and then just get pelted by a stream of bullets to find out you died. Hey;th is also a weird sort of stat in Mechanical Scrollery, as I found it was either almost full, or a few pixels left. You can use healing items through the pause menu, which is helpful if you get blindsided by an enemy.
Yes, you will get blindsided. Most of the creatures are content to leave you be, but as soon as one gets poked a little, then they come at you full force. It’s too bad some of the special moves are rather…wide area. I can’t count the number of times I tried using a special on a boss type enemy, only for another nearby boss to get nicked for 1 damage, and all of a sudden it’s a 2v1 not in my favour. On the plus side, you get a full heal from leveling, and destroying parts nets you experience, so you’ll probably be able to pull through between that and your healing items. On the subject of special moves, they are tied to your weapon, or upgrade tree of your weapon. My issue with the specials is two-fold, really. First, since the special is tied to weapon, if you want a specific weapon, but not special, you have to decide which one you are going to deal with. Depending on the special, say Marisa’s Asteroid Belt which shoots a bunch of bullets, it may get VERY difficult to differentiate your own special bullets from enemy bullets, as they look exactly the same.
Apart from that, the soundtrack is rather good, although there aren’t many tracks, and the character animations are…acceptable? The art is pretty good, and there’s surprisingly little clipping, especially around the hair, and I’m always pleased to see hair not clipping through a characters body. That being said, the 3D animations feel a little stiff, and the 2D animations have really weird mouth movements, and for whatever reason the parts of a character that “extend” beyond the screen borders get “stuck” there.