What is the Touhou Project?
on Nov 27 by

What is the Touhou Project?

If you’re new to the doujin scene, and have only done a little light investigation into it, then this will be one of the first questions you’re likely to be faced with. It’s one of the widely talked about doujin series, with one of the most passionate fanbases of any series of games ever made! As a result it’s one of the most intimidating questions to ever have to answer!


Touhou is huge. So utterly colossally huge it would take a lifetime to answer fully. It has its own convention, a legion of fans and more characters, games and doujin manga, than there are stars in the known universe. In effect, Touhou is the ‘biggest’ of all the doujin games – and has become something of a phenomenon in its own right.


But that answer doesn’t help you really does it? So we may as well start from the beginning. After that – you’re on your own! ; )


So let’s break this down into a nice and easy, ‘10 THINGS YOU HAVE TO KNOW’, style format. Think of it as a beginner’s crash course!



His name is Zun. Or, if you prefer, Team Shanghai Alice. That’s the name of the developer – which consists of just ONE employee (see pictured). So yes, this guy is responsible for everything – programming, artwork, some AMAZING music, game design – the lot. That’s pretty impressive when you consider he also has a day job!



Touhou’s core series consists of shmups which boast firework displays of bullets so intense, that they’d put the Olympic opening ceremony to shame. Touhou games are best described as ‘challenging’ – but unusually for a series of shooters, they also boast a pretty involved story. There are 12 Games in the core Touhou series – although, realistically, you’ll only be able to play seven of them.



Okay, so not half EXACTLY. The five original Touhou games were made by a company called Amusement Makers who made them for a Japanese system called NEC PC-9801. You can only play them now either on the system (hard to find) or via emulation. After the original five games, Zun left Amusement Makers to set up Team Shanghai Alice where he carried on the series alone.



In summary? The game is set in a fictional place called Gensokyo a kind of hidden world in a mountainous region of Japan – that’s been sealed off from the outside world by magic. No one can enter and no one can leave, and so this little pocket of civilisation has developed in isolation. The world inside is populated by fairies, spirits, beasts and witches – all manner of magical beings loosely based around Japanese mythology.



Reimu Hakurei (pictured) has appeared in pretty much all of the Touhou games and spin offs. She’s a shrine maiden from the Hakurei Shrine (kind of like a gatehouse to Gensokyo) and it’s usually her that has to check out any strange goings on in the world. She also has a friend called Marisa Kirisame, a grumpy little witch who’s also appeared in most of the games. On top of that you have, oh, well over 100 supporting characters and enemies. Which is frankly insane. Oh yeah, and almost all the characters in this series are little girls.



No – some games do change up the formula. Phantasmagoria of Flower View for example, while still a shooter at heart introduces a VS mechanic with split screen play and the ability to rain destruction on your opponent, not unlike in VS puzzle games. There are also a few 2D fighters made in collaboration with Twilight Frontier – Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Touhou His?tensoku. A fourth 2D fighter is also in the works – called Hopeless Masquerade.



Well, for many, game number 6 – ‘The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil’ – is the first game in the Touhou series as we know it today, and the best place to start if you don’t fancy trying to get the older games up and running via emulation. It’s also significantly more attractive than the earlier games and ultimately, more enjoyable to play.



You are correct. You can find all kinds of stuff to buy from Manga to Pillowcases and cosplay costumes. Want an example? Here, have some nice boxer shorts. Sorry you asked now, right?


Yes lots. But we’re not posting any here – that’s what google is for.
But don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Well, you could try Eurotaku here if you’re Europe based.

Toylet also have a good selection and can be found here.


Now I know Touhou has a CRAZY-BIG fan-base that burns, NO – spontaneously COMBUSTS – with passion, so I couldn’t hope, in a million years to really do the epicness of this series justice. With that in mind, anyone who can contribute further is encouraged to do so in the comments section below!

  • Demon0no

    Too bad ZUN only sells the games trough the comiket.
    If he would sell download-versions I would own every game… .__.

    • http://raydere2.tumblr.com/ Raydere

      And then there’s the sellers who sell them at jacked-up prices. See for example, the Overpriced Touhou Booth(TM) at Fanime.

      I’d love to own legit copies of these games. I totally would. But I’m not going through ripoff merchants that like to charge 120% of the product’s value for shipping.

      • Geert_Hermans

        Keep browsing for second-hand on sites like Rakuten and Mandarake that offer international shipping. If you’re careful to keep the total value of the goods (without shipping) below the threshold at which customs are due, you could start building up a collection at a reasonable price. Also, second-hand goods on Rakuten are pretty much always in superb condition. A cracked CD case from shipping is easy to replace. Mandarake indicates the state of the goods with a rating, but is usually of top quality as well.

  • Onii-sama

    HAHAHA them pants, are a must get

  • http://twitter.com/Japan_Game_Love I ? Japanese Games

    Is it possible to have these on the store? I’d love to be able to get them all as downloads – they’re a bit expensive otherwise and my Import habit is bad enough as it is!

    • arahman21

      Well, you need to try to convince ZUN to sell them outside Japan first.

    • http://twitter.com/MrRandom28 Isaac Todd

      You’ll have to kidnap Zun and make him do it, since at the moment he doesn’t that those outside Japan should be allowed to play them :/

    • Geert_Hermans

      If you don’t mind second hand, you could probably do some good deals on Rakuten, Mandarake and similar sites. But be wary of import taxes, though.

  • arahman21

    Just a small note: TH01, Higly Responsive To Prayers, is more like Arkanoid than a shooter.

  • Pingback: Rice Digital Aims To Bring Japanese Indies To The Fore()

  • Cerzel

    Unfortunately, ZUN’s official stance on Touhou and the west is that “Touhou isn’t for foreigners”. He’s pretty stubborn about it not becoming commercial in any way, and the distribution methods, so it’s unlikely there’ll ever be official localisations of the games.

    • Mitar

      It’s funny that Touhou literally means “East”, which might be the reason he doesn’t want to sell it outside of Japan.

      Also not allowing digital sale of Touhou games would explain why there are no Touhou games on phones or consoles, which is a real shame (you can’t even use his characters in another type of game).

      • Geert_Hermans

        Not 100% correct. He doesn’t wanna see big companies using his characters or making derivative works. But ZUN is incredibly lenient when it comes to using his material in doujin works.

        There’s a huge amount of doujin games, free and commercial, that use Touhou characters, music arrangements etc. These are often for sale at Comiket and Reitaisai. Most are for PC, but doujin developers publishing on phones or consoles (for example via XBox Live) would probably be allowed to make derivative works just as well.

        What he doesn’t want is the intellectual property to fall into the hands of a big publisher. However, when it comes to using his IP, you’ll find few people as understanding as him. There’s a couple of rules he likes to see reinforced, such as not doing direct remakes of his games (EoSD 3D was cancelled because of this).

        It can be a bit frustrating that the games are locked into Japan, but I can understand his stance on the matter. My feeling is that he’s not wielding the rabid protection of copyright like most companies do, but cares enough about his creation to wish to maintain a decent level of control over his intellectual property, while still allowing the fan base to expand on it. If he wished to sell out, it could be done in the blink of an eye.

        • Mitar

          I was looking into making a game using Touhou characters on Xbox 360 indie (XNA) or Android. But as far as I know he stated that he doesn’t allow any derivative works on consoles and phones. I also saw only one game using Touhou characters on Google Play and that was before his derivative guidelines from 2011.

          I for one am glad that he is so successful Its really amazing that a one man team could make such a popular gaming franchise. I totally understand that he wants to protect his works, its really amazing that he allowed other works to use his characters to such an extent. But I definitely think that it would be a great way to further promote Touhou if not by allowing the console derivatives then at least to the mobile market.

          • Geert_Hermans

            I did not know he had guidelines specifically for console and mobile. That is indeed a pity… I wonder what the exact motivation for that decision is.

  • http://raydere2.tumblr.com/ Raydere

    Personally I would more recommend TH13 (Ten Desires). Of the Windows games, I find it to be the easiest.

  • Geert_Hermans

    A very neat and concise introduction to this great series. Just one little remark… It says that there are 12 games in the core series. But surely there are 13? Ten desires is the 13th entry. Phantasmagoria of Flower View may be a versus shooter, but it’s part of the main series as number 9. The “decimal” games are the three fighters, the two “photo” games and Fairy Wars.

    • Felipe Andrade

      there’s 20 games. the latest one is 14.3 Impossible Spell Card

  • phangtom

    What’s the title of the fighting game called (specifically the one above)? I want to get it.

    • Geert_Hermans

      The fighting games in the series are, in order of release, Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, and Hisoutensoku (which is an expansion on the former). The one from the screenshot in the post is called “Hopeless Masquerade” and is currently in development. You can find a demo on the main developer’s site: http://www.tasofro.net/

  • Guest

    Anyone know where to get those pants/boxers? XP

  • rhwigwofj

    where can i get those boxer shorts? HELP