The Case for Reimu Hakurei


Editor’s Note: Hello Source Gaming fans! With Mashiro Sakurai revealing the final DLC characters for Smash For Wii U and 3DS, it seems that the days of speculations for the game are now ever. That does not mean, however, that we can’t look forward to character additions in future Smash games. It is in that spirit, we come back to the case for Smash series! Today we will be looking at a guest article by TrinitroMan that develops a case for Reimu Hakurei. -Spazzy_D

Ever since Cloud from Final Fantasy was revealed as a playable character in Smash 4, the fan made rule that a third party candidates needs to have an extensive history on Nintendo consoles dissipated. Instead, it reinforced the fact that having a major role in videogame history can be just as important a deciding factor in third party character selection.

Ryu from Street Fighter is Mr. Fighting Game and Cloud is Mr. (J)RPG. These are but two of the myriad of video game genres that have existed over the years. One particularly important type of game is the Shoot ‘em Up or “SHMUP” genre. Originating with classic arcade games such as Space Invaders and Galaga, the genre is defined by a (usually) lone protagonist, often in an airship or flying craft of some sort, avoiding and firing on waves of enemies. This genre is itself split into various sub-genres, including the popular Danmaku Shooters. These games have also earned the moniker of “Bullet Hell” games due to the extreme amounts of bullets that the player must dodge. If Smash continues it’s trend of adding characters to represent different genres in the future a Danmaku Shooters representative makes a certain amount of sense… but does a Mr. Danmaku exist?

The answer to this question, actually, is yes! Except it’s not Mr. Danmaku, but Mrs. Danmaku. While the series DoDonPachi being a well known danmaku shooter on the arcade it is not particularly groundbreaking nor does it have a protagonist with an actual face. There is, however, another series with a main character that works exceedingly well. In the year 1997, one young shrine priestess decided to revolutionize the danmaku franchise like never before. Presenting to you: Reimu Hakurei from the Touhou Project.

The Shrine Maiden of Paradise as how she appear in the 15th and latest Touhou installment,Touhou Kanjuden: Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom.

 Character Background

Reimu Hakurei, a human girl from Earth, is a taoist shrine priestess that resides in a fantasy world called “Gensokyo.” She can usually be found eagerly trying to resolve some sort of crisis if she isn’t dealing with financial problems due a lack of donations. A red sky? A never-ending winter? A fake moon? Too many flowers? Extreme weather patterns? Those, and many more, are all incidents that Reimu has managed to solve.

It’s a good thing that she happens to be a priestess, as every time she attempts to solve a problem the culprit was a youkai (Japan’s answer to demons) with her own agenda. Making things even more difficult for our young heroine is that fact that the path to the head youkai is filled with different youkais eager to attack anyone who dare enter their territory. The best way to solve this problem, of course, is by shooting and dodging a plethora of bullets. That said, these youkai are very forgiving, and these former foes typically become good friends in later entries in the series.

Created by Japanese indie developer ZUN (previously known as ZUN Soft) in 1997 for the PC-98,Touhou Reiiden: The Highly Responsive to Prayers was the debut title of what would become one of the longest-running shooters in video game history, but it was not a danmaku shooter itself.

Instead, it was a mix between Arkanoid (for those unfamiliar with the game, it is a Breakout-style “flick a ball against bricks with a paddle” game) and a vertical shooter. This combination in itself is already unique in its own right, but it wouldn’t prove to be as popular as what the series would become. The only elements that would remain from the original title were shooter aspects common to the genre and the main protagonist.

Later that year, Story of Eastern Wonderland, the second Touhou game, was released. This is the game that would define the Touhou formula that has remained popular to this day. In the game, the protagonist goes on a quest to solve incidents while dodging thousands of bullets and using iconic Spell Cards™ to perform powerful screen-clearing magic attacks.**

The game brought Mima, a vengeful spirit who wants to destroy humanity, back from the first game as the main antagonist. It also introduced Marisa Kirasame, a human girl with expertise in black magic, to the series. Originally Mima’s right hand, Marisa became the Tails to Reimu’s Sonic as of the fourth Touhou game,Touhou Gensoukyou: Lotus Land Story, which was released on 1998 on the PC-98. Afterwards, Reimu would never start a journey without Marisa tagging along.

Who thought that priestesses could have purple hair? Or that those two would become a dream team later on.

After a fifth Touhou game on the PC-98, Touhou Project eventually made the jump to Windows’ modern PCs. In 2002, the sixth Touhou game,Touhou Koumakyou: the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, was released by ZUN, who now expanded to form Team Shanghai Alice. This was the beginning of Touhou’s rise to fame, a rise a thousand times faster than a speeding bullet…or than thousands of speeding bullets.

 Many fans consider this the Holy Grail of Touhou games.

From this point on, a new Touhou game was released almost every year, and occasionally, it would also sidetrack to spin-offs into different genres. Does it have fighting game spin-offs? You can bet your house on that! It even has a whooping five of them (the latest one, Urban Legend in Limbo, having been revealed in 2015).

This fighting game makes Touhou look a bit like Dragon Ball Z!

The one thing that made Touhou Project so famous in the first place is its danmaku gameplay. These games are known for heavily rewarding risky gameplay; players get bonus points for grazing as many bullets as possible without being too close to a bullet. They are also known for being able to switch between multiple bullet types in the heat of battle, upgrading your character through a system very similar to an RPG’s experience points, and the Spell Cards(TM), that aren’t just powerful screen-cleaners, but are almost like small cinematic attacks as well. The bosses also use Spell Cards(TM), and their magic can be even wilder. 

The game series as a whole is a big success in Japan, but it has many fans across the globe. There are also many Touhou fans in America and Europe, leading to a litany of fan translations for every game in the series, a fan loyalty few series get. In the end, the fan support in the West ended up being so powerful that the fourteenth game in the main Touhou series, Double Dealing Character, received an official release in the West – two years later – thanks to Playism ENAnd not only that, but Touhou also receives official console support from Sony.

Reasons for inclusion

If Smash Bros. is looking to become a comprehensive list of iconic characters, then a character from Touhou would feel right at home. It is one of the most recognizable franchises in the current century to originate from 90’s PCs, and unlike DonPachi/DoDonPachi, which were simply introductions to danmaku, it would revolutionize and set the standard for the danmaku genre. This is very similar to how Final Fantasy revolutionized Japanese RPGs or Street Fighter revolutionized fighting games.

Quite hypnotizing, right?

If someone from Touhou should be chosen, she could represent a genre that has otherwise been almost entirely absent from Smashn. So yeah, if Ryu is Mr. Fighting Game and Cloud is Mr. RPG, then Reimu is definitely Mrs. Danmaku.

As mentioned previously, Touhou Project has existed since the PC-98 days, so it definitely has the longevity needed for inclusion in Smash as well. Lastly, she has many appearances to take inspirations from for her moveset (including fighting game appearances), she can also be the first playable character in a Smash game to be a projectile-heavy air fighter (all characters in Smash so far are either projectile heavy or air fighters, but not both).

So there you go, experienced, unique, and revolutionary: That’s all true for Reimu.

Reasons for exclusion

Now of course Reimu also problems as well,  including two MAJOR problems. A third, smaller issue is her complete lack of presence on Nintendo platforms, but that problem has become somewhat more amenable with Cloud Strife.

The first major issue is the rights to Touhou. Originally, it was clear that it belonged to ZUN/ZUN Soft/Team Shanghai Alice.

However, ZUN has been publicly thinking about selling his IP and retiring. It’s nothing definitive yet, but Touhou Project can quite easily end up in legal limbo if ZUN really were to retire.

The second problem is even bigger and older: Nintendo’s pesky anti-religion policy. Yeah, I’m going with that one, since it’s still relevant. There have been many examples of Japanese game on Nintendo consoles that had to be censored for the West because the company has historically been more than skittish about religious imagery, like the NES game Devil World never being localized in America (but it was localized in Europe) or the Islamic crescent moon in Ocarina of Time having been replaced. It would be difficult to remove the religious part of Reimu while still keeping essence of the character. Can one even design a shrine priestess with no religion what-so-ever? Luckily, this seems like a very minor issue since the reveal of the character Bayonetta, herself an angel hunting witch.


What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if Reimu makes it in.

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  1. Nintendo has had it’s own shrine maiden character so I doubt that would be the deciding factor against their inclusion especially when they are willing to go through the amount of trouble to put her in the game. Also I think those rules have become less important in the last several game consoles.

  2. Would it really be that difficult to represent her as a shrine priestess, though? I mean, even before DLC, we had a literal goddess as a playable character. Maybe I’m showing my limited familiarity with the Touhou series right now, but I think there oughta be a way to represent her character properly, even with such a rule in place.

    Considering that Reimu has appeared in fighting games already (Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, etc), imagining a moveset and unique mechanics for her would be a breeze. I could completely see her working in the format of Smash, even if the thought still just sounds weird to me for some reason.

  3. I don’t know if the religious part is the problem in today’s Nintendo though, even since we already have angels and goddess and a witch who hunts them down for fun in Smash. The only problem Nintendo have is mostly the highly exposures of female characters appearance as far as I know. But however, this is just my typical view and opinion, but I wouldn’t think bringing a character with an ability to shoot those “ultimately-impossible-to-dodge-all-of-those-crazy-bullets” attacks. It may be unique, but it could be too cheap and unfair for those players who have terrible reflexes and timings, like me (seriously, I suck at scrolling shooting games, even dodging and capturing any flying objects). But I may say this since I’m not interested in Touhou for personal reasons, so I may be wrong about it which I wouldn’t mind.

    By the way, question to Source Gaming Team. Even if the Smash speculations are currently over, is it still okay to make any of those “the case for Smash” articles if I could make one?

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