So I’ll just start this review off by saying that I don’t know anything about Touhou other than it’s apparently some kind of series of bullet hell games featuring a ton of anime girl characters.

But I do like Metroidvanias and I had heard good things about Touhou Luna Nights so I decided to try it out.

It’s got some gorgeous pixel art graphics that definitely caught my eye as well.

Should you give it a play? Read on and find out.


Bamboo forest screenshot

The Story

I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what was going with the story in this game.

You play as a maid character who’s pulled into some artificial world or something created by her employer possibly?

Anyways, this character apparently has the ability to stop time but you lose those abilities in this world but you get them back right away when another Touhou character gives you a device that lets you use them again.

You then try to progress through this sort of castle to find the one who created the world so you can defeat them and leave.

Your character doesn’t really seem to know much of what’s going on either and is mostly annoyed at being trapped in this world when she’s supposed to be working.

Along the way you encounter other Touhou characters, most of which are bosses who you fight but then seem to be totally cool with afterwards.

I don’t know, maybe all this makes more sense if you’re more familiar with the Touhou universe but ultimately the focus of this game isn’t really on the story so the confusion and vagueness here didn’t really bother me much.


Touhou Luna Nights screenshot

The World and Level Design

This is a 2D sidescrolling Metroidvania game so if you’re familiar with the genre you more or less know what to expect.

Although in this game the Metroidvania aspects seem toned down a little.

There really isn’t a huge amount of backtracking unless you want to go back and really search for every last little collectable and upgrade. I probably found about half of them along the way and didn’t really feel much of a need to return to any previous areas. I just kept pushing forward to the end.

There are warp points that you can use to backtrack which are a nice touch.

The castle you’re exploring is divided into 5 main areas and the flow of the game is usually you travelling through one of these areas to get to the end, fight a boss, get a key and then retrace your steps back through that area to unlock a door and access the next one.

The level design is actually not too bad and the areas are designed to be a challenge to get through the first time and then another kind of challenge to work back through them.


Stopping time in Touhou Luna Nights

Combat and the Time Stopping Mechanic

You have a time stopping mechanic that’s a pretty core feature of the game and actually pretty fantastic. I’ve never seen another game do something like this and this is easily the game’s biggest strength.

At any time you can press the X button to stop time. You then have a counter of about 60 seconds (You can upgrade it to longer) until time starts moving again.

While time is stopped you can dodge out of the way of enemy projectiles or line up attacks.

For combat you have a button that throws knives at the enemy. These knives deplete your MP meter which very slowly recharges when you’re not attacking.

When you stop time you can throw a bunch of knives that’ll start moving when time starts again and while time is stopped throwing these knives depletes your time gauge instead of your MP.

There’s also a mechanic called graze where if you just barely dodge an enemy or an enemy projectile you can restore some of your HP or MP.

If time is stopped you can jump super close to or around projectiles which restores your MP or if time is flowing normally dodging closely will restore your HP.

You really have to play strategically. Stopping time isn’t some super overpowered move that makes you instantly win. Instead combat is a balance of conserving MP, dodging projectiles to restore your MP faster, stopping time to get around attacks or use graze and overall it gets pretty complex.

It definitely takes a bit of getting used to. I found the whole system super frustrating at the beginning but once I died a ton of times on the first boss and got used to everything it all clicked and feels fantastic to play.

You can also collect special attacks that you use with the Y button like homing shots, shooting a thousand knives forward, throwing chainsaws and other fun things that use a large amount of MP at once. I really liked the homing attack that fired a ton of projectiles that homed in on your enemy.

There’s also a fairly decent selection of enemies you’ll encounter throughout the game as well.


Boss fight screenshot

The Bosses

The bosses in this game are hard. Very hard. But hard in a good way, almost a Dark Souls kind of way. They’re all about learning the boss’s attack patterns, dodging, attacking at the right time and figuring out how and when to stop time and use that to your advantage.

I died a lot on these bosses but slowly you figure it out, get better and by my last attempt I was usually able to defeat them almost flawlessly.

The bosses is where all the different elements of the game come together beautifully and are easily the highlight of the experience.

They’re also all Touhou characters and if you’re into Touhou then you’ll probably think it’s pretty cool seeing the different characters showing up.


Slowing time to solve puzzles

Puzzles and Platforming

The platforming is not bad You’ve got lots of jumping, double jumping, gliding, etc.

There’s also sections here and there where you have to solve little puzzles like trying to figure out how to hit a switch, stop time and then make it through a door before it closes.

There are certain obstacles like water that you can’t pass through when time is stopped so you have to think a bit.

There are also different colored platforms and enemies that interact with the time stopping differently.

Purple things for example don’t move normally but when you stop time then they move.

Yellow things will move in reverse when you stop time.

Green things will keep moving regardless of whether or not time is stopped or not.

All these elements combine together into some neat platforming sections.


Throwing knives screenshot

Sound and Music

The sound effects are great and the music is upbeat, fast and pretty fantastic as well.

Apparently a lot of the tracks you hear are remixes of Touhou songs that Touhou fans will recognize.

Even with my very limited knowledge of Touhou I still quite enjoyed the music.

There’s no voice acting in the game though which could be both a positive or a negative thing depending on how you feel about that.


Graze system demonstration

My Closing Thoughts

Overall I quite liked this game. If you’re a fan of Metroidvanias or Touhou and you like difficult games like Dark Souls then definitely check it out.

The combat and time stopping mechanic alone make this game worth playing.

My only real complaint is that save points are a little further apart than I’d like so there were lots of times where I died and had to repeat sizable parts of the game. But other than that I don’t really have any other complaints.

There’s always a save point right before each boss which is nice so when you die you’re right back in the fight almost immediately.

I finished the game in about 7 hours and a good chunk of that was spent dying to the bosses. If you’re better than I am you may be able to finish around 5 hours.

For the price it’s a great little experience that I highly recommend.

Touhou Luna Nights is available on Steam here.

Images and videos are from the Touhou Luna Nights page on Steam used under Fair Use