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Touhou Luna Nights puts a stylish Metroidvania twist on the shmup mega-series

It's very knife to meet you.

The Touhou shared universe is now pouring onto Steam. Spinoffs and fan-games aplenty have popped up recently, but Metroidvania Touhou Luna Nights seems a cut above. Licensed from original Touhou studio Team Shanghai Alice and developed by Team Ladybug (the crew behind that excellent free Shin Megami Tensei Metroidvania and others), it launched into early access today. While the cast of characters are familiar to fans of the series, after trying a bit of it over the weekend, I reckon it's polished and creative enough to be worth a look for any Metroidvania fan.

High powered murder-maid Sakuya, famed for her abilities to freeze time and throw knives (yes, she's a walking Jojo's Bizarre Adventure reference), has been dragged into a parallel dimension. This is mostly normal for anyone living in the weird magical world of Gensokyo, so it's not long before she's running, jumping and hovering her way through a giant map, picking up new key abilities and stabbing monsters with a preposterous number of blades. It's a fairly standard Metroidvania in terms of structure, but the sprite art is extremely detailed and well animated.

Watch on YouTube

Credit to Gematsu for re-hosting the launch trailer.

What defines Touhou Luna Nights is Sakuya's abilities, mostly retained from her role in the shmup series. Sakuya's basic attack is a thrown spread of knives. Charge it up, and you can slow time. Not long after you also get the ability to freeze time altogether, letting you jump around and throw a whole room full of blades, unpausing to watch all your enemies satisfyingly explode at once. You can also walk across water when it's frozen in time, although you can freeze yourself in it if careless. I'm only a little ways in, but I want to see what they do with these powers later on.

The current early access version contains the first fifth of the game. Over the next 2-3 months, Team Ladybug reckon they'll have the remaining levels hammered into shape. They also say that all the core gameplay is worked out and complete, although balance may be tweaked over the time in early access too. While I've not crashed or had any major technical issues, the game doesn't seem to like high refresh rates very much at present, and found it necessary to run it in windowed mode with VSync turned on to throttle it.

The early access version of Touhou Luna Nights is out now on Steam for £7.43/8/9.59, and is published by Playism. The final version should be ready in 2-3 months, although the price may go up.

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