Touhou 4: Lotus Land Story, known in Japan as Touhou Gensoukyou (東方幻想郷 Tōhō Gensōkyō , lit. Eastern Land of Illusions) is a 1988 maniac shooter developed by Amusement Software and published by Namco in Japan with Nintendo publishing it internationally. It is the fourth installment in the Touhou Project series of video games.
This is the first game to use the word Gensokyo (幻想郷), which is in the title, but it didn't suggest that this word is the name of the world the Touhou Project is in until later on. Lotus Land Story returned to the theme of Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland, taking on the format of a bullet hell game. However, the number of bullets was greatly increased, and a second player character was added, being Marisa Kirisame.
You're in trouble again. Mystighosties from the mountains have stormed your shrine once again. Luckily, you now have a sidekick with you to make the job easier. Underneath a lake, there's a sleepy individual in a magical mansion located below the Land of Illusions. Get your reflexes on in this next chapter in Nintendo and Drillimation's saga. Because once you face off with this "mastermind," she'll get you pumped for an adrenaline battle!
Touhou 4: Lotus Land Story features two playable characters to choose from, with two different attack types each. Reimu Hakurei can pepper a wide area of the screen with weaker attacks, while Marisa Kirisame relies on her power to compensate for her narrower attack spread. The bombs also exhibit unique behavior and damage amounts depending upon the character chosen.
Lotus Land Story is the first game in the Touhou Project to feature bombs that auto-collect items, graze counting, the ability to move more slowly by holding the B button, and a non-trivial scoring system that involves the collection of special dream items that boost the player's ultimate scoring potential. The game's scoring system also marks the series' first instance of score bonuses for the elimination of bullets following the defeat of mid-bosses and bosses.
All is well within Gensokyo, and just as the shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei is beginning to grow bored, a massive amount of youkai appear and begin to lay waste to the Hakurei Shrine. Although Reimu immediately sets about exterminating the invaders, she isn't able to compete against the sheer numbers of youkai. She determines that the creatures are emanating from a suspicious lake high in the mountains behind the shrine, and sets out in an attempt to staunch the flow and save the shrine from complete destruction. Around the same time, Marisa Kirisame, a powerful magician, senses a great energy lurking beneath the mountain lake and hurries toward it herself, fully intent on making the mysterious power her own. The two of them set out separately to go there.
Both characters easily plow through Orange, an ordinary youkai who was simply flying about the mountains, before arriving at a blood-filled lake, which was their destination. There, they encounter a vampire named Kurumi, who claims to be the guardian of the lake and battles her twice. After defeating her, they discover a vast chasm in an island at the center of the lake from which the mysterious power emanates. At the end of this passageway stands a dark mansion called Mugenkan. Outside they find the scythe-wielding gatekeeper Elly, who explains that they are within the boundary between the real world and the Fantasy World. She also reluctantly admits that the other character (Marisa, if you're playing as Reimu, or vice versa) has already defeated her and entered the mansion.
After braving the attacks of the mansion's housekeepers, who apparently aren't thrilled to have visitors, Reimu and Marisa finally meet in a dark chamber near to the center of the building. Reimu immediately accuses Marisa of planning something devious and demands that she leave, to which Marisa takes offense, and the two engage in an explosive duel. The victor demands that the other leave before continuing into the fantastic heart of Mugenkan. There the remaining protagonist accidentally awakens a sleepy youkai named Yuka who, despite her weariness, wields tremendously powerful attacks. After her defeat, Yuka panics, fleeing the area and forcing the heroine to give chase. In a star-filled fantasy world, the final battle begins.
Sometime later after the battle, the characters are bored and somehow stumble into another strange world, in which they encounter tremendously fierce enemies and the twin sisters Mugetsu and Gengetsu. Although they battle, it is ultimately a pointless affair.
Lotus Land Story began development immediately after the release of Touhou 3: The Phantasmagoria of Dimensional Dreams in January 1988. ZUN decided to return to the standard maniac shooter format for the game, and incorporate features that weren't in Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland. Lotus Land Story is the first maniac shooter game to have the player slow down to focus their shots and deal more damage. ZUN decided to use the B button to incorporate this, but the bomb button was also the B button as well. To get around this, the Select button was used for bombing.
Development time took five months, as it ran on the same engine as The Story of Eastern Wonderland. The game was originally planned to be released in North America on the same day the Japanese version was released but had to be delayed due to a shortage of ROM chips in North America and also the game taking a lengthy amount of time to translate due to there being two scenarios and six endings. The same thing also happened for Touhou 5: Mystic Square during its localization process as well. This was because of then-Drillimation Studios California CEO Marc Summers pulling localizers away to work on Lotus Land Story's localization.
Lotus Land Story mostly received positive reviews. It sold better than the previous three installments, selling more than 300,000 copies within six months after it was released. Nintendo Power gave the game a positive review, giving it a 7 out of 10. Critics praised the soundtrack and difficulty but criticized the pre-battle cutscenes, calling it "repetitive with having to mash the A button to get through every character's dialogue."