Touhou 6: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil - 東方紅魔郷 (Tōhō Kōmakyō)

(Warning: This contains some spoilers. Not that the plot is all that detailed, but just to be safe.)

The sixth game in the Touhou Project series of vertically-scrolling shooter games. Embodiment of Scarlet Devil is notable for being the first Touhou game released for Windows and for marking the takeoff of Touhou's popularity, both in Japan and abroad.

Released in 2002, EoSD has a very different look and feel from its predecessor, 1998's Mystic Square. The first five Touhou games had been developed for the PC-98, a popular line of PCs released by Japanese hardware manufacturer NEC. Because the games were made for a Japanese OS alone, they received little to no notice outside of the country. After four years of inactivity, ZUN, under the developer name Team Shanghai Alice, created the sixth game in the Touhou series, this time for contemporary Windows operating systems. EoSD's great leaps in graphics, sound effects and music over the PC-98 games and its compatibility with PCs outside of Japan made the popularity of the game soar over that of its predecessors and marked the creation of a western Touhou fanbase.


EoSD consists of six stages, with a hidden seventh stage, unlocked once the first six are completed without continues on a difficulty of Normal or higher. All the principles of the Touhou danmaku games apply here. You play through a stage, fight a minor boss in the middle and a stronger boss at the end (sometimes the same character as the mid-boss, only coming back for a second round of battle.)

When you defeat an enemy, it will sometimes drop a small blue or red box that continues to fall to the bottom of the screen. These are your powerup items. The blue boxes increase your score, by a greater value the higher up on the screen you manage to catch them. The red boxes increase the range of your shot until it achieves maximum range, at which point a red box won't do anything for you. Hitting max power also means you can automatically collect every item available if you're flying within the top quarter of the screen. This ability is necessary to really rack up points. If you lose a life, however, your shot will lose some of its range until you collect enough red boxes to hit the maximum again. You also have the ability to "focus" your wide shot into a narrower, stronger beam. While focusing, your character's movement is slower, which is useful for making precision dodges when the screen is full of bullets.

Aside from that, the only principles of EoSD are (1) hit your enemies before they hit you, and (2) dodge everything. Since the enemies fly in a fixed pattern in every stage, it's possible to memorize where they'll appear and defeat them before they have a chance to fire their bullets. This strategy is almost a necessity for surviving the later, more difficult levels.

Story and Characters

The land of Gensokyo has been shrouded in a red mist. Signs point to a mysterious figure, known as the Scarlet Devil, as the cause of the haze. Your goal is to fight your way to the Scarlet Devil and force her to return Gensokyo to normal.

Playable characters

Reimu Hakurei - shrine maiden of Hakurei Shrine. She sets off to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, the home of the one responsible for the red mist, in order to set things right again.

Marisa Kirisame - a girl with magical powers. Her goal is the same as Reimu's, but she's also out to steal some books from the mansion's vast library and generally cause trouble.

Enemy characters

Rumia - Stage 1 boss: A youkai with control over darkness. She attacks you on your way to the Scarlet Devil Mansion and tries to blind you. Rumia isn't especially powerful, however, so she's easily defeated.

Cirno - Stage 2 boss: An ice fairy. Cirno lives on the lake surrounding the Scarlet Devil Mansion. The game's dialogue portrays her as impatient and somewhat dull-witted. Cirno has since become a joke character; in fan works, she's often mocked by other characters for her stupidity, which she never fails to show. According to her profile in EoSD, her favorite hobby is freezing frogs and watching them slowly thaw, but most of the time she ends up shattering them. Sounds a like good time, doesn't it?

Hong Meiling - Stage 3 boss: A youkai with control over qi. Meiling is the gatekeeper of the Scarlet Devil Mansion and is determined to keep you from getting inside. She's also the first real challenge in the game. Her attacks and spell cards are multicolored and move in spiral patterns.

Meiling is something of a joke character as well, depicted as slightly dull-minded by fans. Japanese fans of Touhou also find it difficult to remember her Chinese name, so they've given her the nickname "Chuugoku" (China). That said, Meiling did win a popularity contest out of all the characters from Touhou 6 through 8, so maybe they felt bad for her1.

Patchouli Knowledge - Stage 4 boss: A girl who spends almost all of her time in the library of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. As her name suggests, she has a vast amount of knowledge and uses her magic spells in an attempt to stop your progress. She doesn't really like fighting, though, and just wants to be left alone in quiet study.

Patchouli is yet another popular character in the Touhou canon and shows up in the epilogues of some of the later games, as well as in doujinshi. Her only weakness is physical - because she's constantly reading in the mansion's dark library, her sight is poor, and her asthma prevents her from articulating some of her more powerful spells.

Sakuya Izayoi - Stage 5 boss: Chief maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Sakuya is no ordinary maid, however. She has the ability to freeze time, and she's a great knife-thrower. These facts make fighting Sakuya extremely difficult, but she's the last obstacle between you and the Scarlet Devil, so keep at it.

Sakuya reappears as a playable character, along with Reimu and Marisa, in Perfect Cherry Blossom, the successor to EoSD.

Remilia Scarlet - Final Stage boss: Here she is - the Scarlet Devil. She's a vampire, and the names of some of her attacks make reference to Vlad the Impaler, so you know you she's no trifle. She has more health than almost any other enemy in the game, and her spell cards are really hard to dodge. But once you've defeated Remilia, the game is over, right?

Flandre Scarlet - Extra Stage boss: Wrong. If you defeat Remilia without continues, the extra stage is unlocked, and you'll have the pleasure (or displeasure) of meeting Remilia's little sister, Flandre. Flandre is mentally unbalanced and has destructive powers far beyond even those of her sister. This combination forces Remilia to keep her confined to her room in the basement, where she's been holed up for 495 years. Flandre loves her sister, and so doesn't try to escape, but when Reimu or Marisa come around, she gets curious and leaves her room in search of the human.

Flandre has twice the health of Remilia and at least four times that of any other boss in EoSD, and it's nearly impossible to survive some of her attacks. Bombs also have no effect against her, and if you run out of lives, Flandre takes your continues and kicks you out of the stage. If you can defeat her, you've gained some bragging rights.

The great simplicity of EoSD's concept and the level of its challenge give the game almost infinite replayability. If you enjoy shooters with classic gameplay that offer a serious challenge, you should definitely look into this game, together with a few of the others in the Touhou series.


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