'Touhou Reiiden: The Highly Responsive to Prayers' (Japanese: 東方霊異伝; Hepburn: 'Tōhō Reiiden') (pronounced toh-hoh ray-den) is a 1986 action-shooting game developed by Amusement Software and published by Drillimation Studios in Japan, with Nintendo publishing it internationally. The game was released in Japan in November 1987 and in North America and Europe in August 1987 aside Touhou 2: Story of Eastern Wonderland. It is the first game in the Touhou Project game series by Jun'ya "ZUN" Ohta.


A brutal war is ongoing in feudal Japan, and two races, humans and the ghostly youkai are fighting to the death. Your side, the human race, is struggling to keep their stake high and sharp. In this Oriental Wonderous Tale, you take on the role of Reimu Hakurei, a young shrine maiden, to stop the war once and for all. Your place in history is around 300 years in the past, and during the war, Reimu's shrine was destroyed by a group of youkai, and you must descend into the Netherworld or the Aetherworld and to either defeat Konngara, the astral knight of the Netherworld, or Sariel, the death angel of the Aetherworld. Your journey won't be easy, as fierce youkai enemies and undestroyable turrets lie ahead. Your only weapons of choice are a yin-yang orb to get around the obstacles, the everlasting gohei to attack, and your ofuda scrolls to destroy enemy projectiles.


The game is played similar to Taito's Arkanoid, players take on the role of the shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei, who must persuade a bouncing Yin-Yang Orb to hit various on-screen targets, "cards" and "bosses" alike. Reimu can knock and maneuver the Yin-Yang orb around by whacking it with her gohei, slide-tackling it, and firing shots at it. Enemies try to hinder the player's progress by firing at Reimu, but Reimu can cancel out their shots with her own, or even deflect them by swinging the gohei. Only the Yin-Yang orb can damage the enemies, however, so simply firing her shots at enemies will have no effect. As a last resort, Reimu can use a "bomb", once per life, to hit all cards on the screen, or if able, Reimu can collect a power star to temporarily become invincible for a small period of time. There is no guarantee that any given card will be hit, and will often fail to damage a boss.

The game consists of several stages of increasing difficulty, with a boss fight occurring every five stages. To complete a stage, the player should clear all cards or defeat the boss. Reimu will lose a life whenever the health bar is depleted. She will take damage when she is hit by an enemy projectile or the yin-yang orb. There are two selectable paths in the game: the Netherworld and the Aetherworld. Each route features unique stages, bosses, and endings.


Development of Highly Responsive to Prayers began after ZUN graduated from high school and joined Amusement Software at Tokyo Denki University. ZUN wanted to create a smash-hit franchise for Nintendo's upcoming add-on for the Famicom, the Famicom Disk System. Unaware he needed the FDS development kits, he spent more than 2 million yen (approximately $20,000) for the kits, and development began there.

As ZUN wasn't powerful in Assembly Language, he was unable to make a danmaku shooter. He decided to make an action-puzzler instead. As ZUN learned the functions of the language, he included danmaku elements.

Because of the high costs of obtaining a Nintendo developer license, Amusement Software decided to find a publisher as a cheaper alternative. Amusement Software staff first contacted Taito to publish the game, but rejected the offer because Taito staff thought the game would be a rip-off of Arkanoid and KiKi KaiKai (known as Pocky and Rocky outside of Japan). They instead pitched it to Namco where they agreed to publish it. However, their subsidiary Drillimation Systems offered to publish it, and the game would end up becoming one of Drillimation's most popular titles.

During localization, Namco initially decided not to publish it in North America, presumably because of the game's very Japanese theme, which didn't yet reach mainstream popularity. Nintendo won a jump ball with Drillimation, with Nintendo getting the distribution rights for the series to publish it internationally. Nintendo was also the first company to release the Touhou series in arcades under Nintendo's VS. System.

References in Later Games

  • Touhou 2: Story of Eastern Wonderland: An unused song, Sealed Demon's Finale, is a remix of Iris, the game's ending theme.
  • Lucky Star: Melodies from Angel's Legend are reused in Heart of Fire.
  • Lucky Star Bloodlines: Melodies from The Legend of Kage are reused for the second stage theme The Sinking Old Sanctuary.
  • Driller Engine Grand Prix 2x2: The Yin-Yang Orb's mechanics are reused as a character item in-game, exclusive to Yutaka and Minami. Players can throw the orb forwards or backwards, ricocheting off of the ground and walls. Any victims who are hit by the orb flip out like a normal shell, but lose all the items they were carrying.

Behind the Scenes

  • Due to Nintendo's strict policies on religious referencing, all references to Christianity are removed in the North American and PAL versions of the game and replaced with imagery from The Legend of Zelda. However, Nintendo legally allowed Drillimation to keep the references to Shintoism in the international versions of the game, due to there not being very many Shintoists residing in North America, Europe, and Australia. Another thing to note is the rules of Shinto are less strict than other religions.
    • It is also removed and replaced in the Sallyish release due to strong religious feuds in the country, mainly around the border of Villia and in Francophone areas. The game was renamed to simply Touhou Reiiden.
  • The Highly Responsive to Prayers was the second Japanese-themed game released for the Famicom Disk System, and the first of this genre to reach the west.
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