Touhou Shizenyu Review
A review of the Touhou RPG maker game "Touhou Shizenyu"
Hello, readers! Today I would like to introduce Touhou Shizenyu, a fangame that’s been Big in Japan for years since its release.
What is Touhou Shizenyu?
Touhou Shizenyu is a fangame in the “Touhou Shizenyu Project”* series, developed by ASATO with the assistance of For-Ring. The name “Shizenyu” translates to “Healing Nature” in English, which is how some English-speaking fans refer to the game. Also, ASATO has not posted online for over 7 years. However, the last update of his diary is displayed as 2020/05/22; it’s unknown whether this is a typo or intentional.
*A series of fangames developed jointly by ASATO and For-Ring, including Touhou Shizenyu, Keine-sensei RPG, and Otoshidama (Youmu VX). Keine-sensei RPG and Otoshidama are no longer available for download, however, and re-uploading them is strictly prohibited.
The majority of the development for the Touhou Shizenyu Project games was done by ASATO, with For-Ring overseeing system programming and character graphics. The games also make use of royalty-free graphics and music. Boasting over 200,000 downloads as of December 10th, 2013 (two years after its full release), Touhou Shizenyu also ranked first place among games and novels in a 2012 user poll on its hosting website, Vector Inc., beating popular games such as Ib and Yume Nikki.
*As of 2012, For-Ring has left the Shizenyu development team.
The second promotional video for Shizenyu
The main character of the game is Ha Seoi, a young youkai only a week old who takes the form of a girl. She sets out to resolve an incident in which the plants of Gensokyo have all begun to wither and die.
The story begins at a cliff in the mountains west of Gensokyo with a meeting between a young youkai girl and another youkai. Over the course of a week, the other youkai teaches her about Gensokyo.
When the young girl returns to her hometown, she notices that the plants there have begun to wither; thinking that their state seems unnatural, she resolves to find a solution. Offering to assist her on her quest to save the plants, the flower youkai tells her about the Hakurei shrine maiden, and gives her the name “Ha Seoi”. Thus begins the long journey of Ha Seoi, the flower-scented youkai, to the Hakurei Shrine.
Touhou Shizenyu’s Gameplay
Now that the story has been established, let’s talk about Touhou Shizenyu’s gameplay.
As described above, the game follows Ha Seoi and existing Touhou characters as they work to resolve the incident causing Gensokyo’s plants to wither.
Combat in this game uses a system similar to the Active Time Battle (ATB) system from the Final Fantasy games called the Border system. This system involves a gauge of 15 gems that gains one gem each time a party member or enemy uses a spell card. When the gauge is filled, the character that filled the gauge changes color and activates unique effects. This system adds an extra level of depth and tension to battles.
The game also features unique “plant spell cards” that are distinct from the spell cards featured in the original Touhou games. After unlocking plant spell cards at a certain point in the story, they can be activated to gain powerful buffing effects that last even through enemy attacks and after the end of your turn. However, they have a cooldown that prevents them from being used for a short time after their last use.
Filling the Border gauge in battle allows you to activate various effects that vary between characters
Clearing the game for the first time will typically take 15 to 20 hours. However, in order to unlock the EX story, certain conditions must be fulfilled while playing the game. If you clear the game without unlocking the EX story, you will be able to play again using your original save data, so try playing the game again carefully.
The Shizenyu Community
Aside from the game itself, part of what makes Touhou Shizenyu so unique is the fan culture that surrounds it that surrounds it.
The Shizenyu fandom, largely made up of Japanese fans with a few Chinese and Korean members, has hardly shown signs of slowing since the game’s release nearly ten years ago.
Ever since 2011, fans have come together to post fanworks on August 8th (8/8, a date derived from Ha’s name), and 2020 was no exception. July 1st, 2021 was also a significant date for the game—the tenth anniversary of its full release.
As a member of Shizenyu’s fan community myself, I’d like to showcase some fanworks that exemplify the passion and creativity of the community.
— うちはセツナP (@F_setsunaP) June 11, 2021
A tweet from Setsuna, the owner of “Illusionary Tree Leaves”, perhaps the only circle that primarily deals in Touhou Shizenyu fanworks. This tweet celebrates their successful completion of two years of drawing Seoi Ha every day with the goal of doing so for 1000 days.
A popular MMDer* known as Hyouren drew further attention to Shizenyu by announcing that Ha, who they refer to as Seoi, would become a regular character in their “Touhou San-gesu-sei” video series.
*MMDer refers to anyone who makes videos using the freeware 3D animation program Miku Miku Dance (MMD).
— ニク (@nikuukinyo) January 7, 2021
Niku, another MMDer who makes videos featuring Ha
— 夜刀 (@yatomikage) January 1, 2020
Royalty-free portraits of Ha drawn by Yato, also known as “the person who loves Ha Seoi too much”
— 04葉 (@04leafy) June 28, 2021
Fanart of Ha drawn by 04leafy
— ドリーム (@Dream_Saga_00) October 6, 2019
A cosplay of Ha worn by the cosplayer Dream at Reitaisai 2019
In the past few years, the game has continued to attract new players, adding more energy to the community. ASATO’s absence in particular has motivated some fans to make their own spiritual successors to the game. For example, fangame creator MonMari is developing a remake of the original game called “Touhou Yoyoyuden”.
現在制作中の #東方葉々癒伝 のゲームパッケージ画像を作りました。
— モン魔理 (@_Monmari0118_) August 3, 2021
The cover for Touhou Touhou Yoyoyuden
Much like ZUN’s fan content guidelines for Touhou, ASATO has also written a simple list of rules regarding the creation and sharing of Touhou Shizenyu fan content. If you’re interested in making Touhou Shizenyu fan works, please be sure to follow them. Below is a translation of the guidelines; you can find the original at ASATO’s website here.
Important note: Please follow Team Shanghai Alice’s fan content guidelines as well.
Guidelines for making Touhou Shizenyu fanworks:
If you follow these guidelines, you don’t need to get permission from me (ASATO) to make and distribute fan content.
- Don’t use data or graphics from the original “Touhou Shizenyu” game
- Make it clear that your creation is fan content
- Don’t deliberately spread false information
- Selling fanworks without direct permission from me (ASATO) is allowed
- If you encounter any problems, please resolve them yourself
Guidelines for writing about Touhou Shizenyu on other websites:
- Posting screenshots is allowed
- Quoting text from the game is also allowed
- When using screenshots, you can resize them if you want, but please don’t edit them to the point that they don’t look like screenshots
- You don’t need to ask me (ASATO) for permission to write about the game
Guidelines for making Touhou Shizenyu gameplay videos:
- You don’t need to ask me (ASATO) for permission to make or post videos
- The main game, ending, EX, and EX ending are all OK to share
Speaking personally, since I first played this game over ten years ago, I find it difficult to feel the same passion I felt when I first played it. The reason I have decided to review it anyway is because I want others to experience its unique charm that continues to draw me in even now. I recommend this game to anyone who wants an experience you can’t get from any other game.
The opinions of players on Touhou Shizenyu tend to split dramatically. The game’s visual novel-like story segments and the highly polished RPG gameplay create an experience that leaves a strong impact on players, whether it’s positive or negative. This experience, which sets Shizenyu apart from other games in its genre, is what I hope others can experience for themselves.
Staff: ASATO, For-Ring
The Developer’s Official Blog