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The game may be played using either a keyboard or a gamepad.
Keyboard controls are as follows:
- The Arrow Keys move the character around
- Z causes a short barrage of shots to be fired; it may be held down for rapidfire
- X releases a bomb, also known as a Spell Card (presuming that any are left)
- Shift slows the character's movement and focuses their shots into a tighter area
- Esc pauses the game and brings you to the in-game menu
- Ctrl fast-forwards through any dialogue
Embodiment of Scarlet Devil plays like a fairly typical vertically-scrolling danmaku shooting game, in which the player's character is always facing towards the top of the screen, shooting at anything that moves, avoiding and weaving between enemy bullets, and confronting difficult bosses at the end of a stage.
There are 4 levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Lunatic. Each difficulty level features differences in the number of bullets fired by each enemy, rate of fire, variations in the bullets' pattern of movement, and the number and type of enemy Spell Cards used.
The player will traverse 6 increasingly harrowing stages through the course of a regular game. The trial version ends prematurely at Stage 3, and Easy difficulty ends prematurely at Stage 5.
Once the game has been completed without continuing on Normal or higher difficulty, an Extra Stage is unlocked, available for any character that has accomplished that feat. The Extra Stage features significantly stronger and faster enemies, an extremely difficult midboss and boss battle, and no option to continue if all lives are lost.
A character's "shot" is the player's primary method of attacking enemies. While the shot's attack area and behaviour varies depending on the character type the player has chosen, the shot can be powered up by filling up the Power Level by collecting power items. The shot gradually becomes more powerful when the player reaches the Power Levels of 8, 16, 32, 48, 64, 80, 96, and 128 (MAX), respectively. When the player reaches MAX power, all bullets on the screen cancel out and become star items which are automatically collected. While the player has maximum shot power, the player may auto-collect all items on screen by moving their character close to the top of the screen. This ability is very important for achieving high scores.
A character's "bomb" is the player's limited-use method of getting out of difficult situations. A bomb's attack area, duration, and power varies depending on the character type the player has chosen, but it typically deals heavy damage to every enemy it touches, in addition to cancelling out any bullets in the bomb's way, as well as automatically collecting every item on screen. The player's character becomes invincible during and for a short time after the bomb's effect wears off. At the beginning of the game and any time your character respawns, you will start off with 3 bombs. Bomb items will increase your current stock by one. You can carry up to a maximum of 8 bombs at a time. If you receive a bomb when you already have the maximum, that bomb will be lost.
With default settings, you will start off with 3 lives. You can lose a life by getting "hit" by an enemy attack.
The hit box for your character is quite small in comparison to your on-screen sprite, approximately only 5 pixels by 5 pixels in size. It is not clearly marked on the sprite, but it is possible to approximate its location well by looking at the white part of Reimu's clothes just above her red skirt, or the center of Marisa's pink ribbon on her back. If the hit box of your character's sprite comes into contact with the hit box of an enemy bullet, laser, or the enemy itself, then you have been hit.
If you have bombs in stock and the Bomb key is pressed within a short time of the player's character being hit, then the hit can be negated and countered with a bomb. This deathbomb time interval only lasts about 0.1 seconds, after which you will lose a life as normal. The deathbomb period is shortened every successful use, but is reset back to normal when you lose a life.
The player is awarded extra lives upon reaching certain score totals or by collecting 1up items. For the regular game, extra lives are awarded at 10, 20, 40, and 60 million points. For the Extra Stage, no extra lives are awarded for points. You can carry up to a maximum of 8 extra lives at a time. If you receive an extra life when you already have the maximum, that life will be lost.
Upon losing all their lives, the player is given the choice to continue right where they left off. However, if you do continue, your current score will be reset back to 0 + the number of times you have continued, you will not be able to save a replay of your game, and you will reach the "Bad Ending" if you finish the game. You may continue up to 3 times.
There exists a rank system in this game. As rank increases, enemy bullets will generally become faster and more plentiful. This effect that rank has in this game is most prominent with boss attacks, where the bullet count difference between minimum and maximum rank can differ by a factor of 4 or more, and bullet movement speeds can double. Note that the game does not display the numerical value of rank at any point - under most circumstances, it can be estimated only by observing bullet pattern behaviour.
Rank ranges from zero to thirty-two, and is reset to sixteen at the beginning of each stage. It increases gradually with survival time, and jumps up noticeably on defeating spell cards, until it reaches the cap of thirty-two, corresponding to the highest variable difficulty. The rank value is decreased by sixteen whenever the player is hit. This means that, for the most part, the only way to reduce the variable difficulty is to die. Since the rank drop occurs on a hit, not a death, it is theoretically possible, through counter-bombing (see Lives, above), to reduce the value by sixteen without the loss of a life. Since the game's allowed counter-bomb interval is so short, though, it is difficult in practice to do so deliberately.
Bombing affects rank in a few select spell cards, e.g. Water Elf.
The main challenge and the main attraction. Each boss has multiple lives, which are represented by multiple health bars. Bosses normally alternate between attacking normally and attacking with Spell Cards, switching once with each life bar.
Normal attacks are incrementally stronger versions of the boss character's basic attack. Spell Card attacks bedazzle the player with combinations of complex patterns that often involve the use of projectiles and obstacles crafted especially for use with that Spell Card. If the player manages to defeat a Spell Card attack without getting hit or using any bombs, a substantial score bonus is rewarded for the feat.
Each attack is accompanied by a timer. When time runs out, the boss will switch to their next attack pattern even if their health bar isn't empty. Waiting for a boss character's attack pattern to self-destruct may be enough to beat them, but mere survival won't earn the player any score bonuses.
There are two characters to choose from, each of which have two styles of attack. The player decides which character to play and which attack type to use at the start of the game.
博麗神社の巫女さん (Miss Shrine Maiden of Hakurei Shrine)
- Basic Performance
- Moving Speed: ★★★
- Attack Range: ★★★★
- Attack Power: ★★★
- Reimu Type A
- 霊の御札 (Spirit Spell Card)
- Shot: 「ホーミングアミュレット」 ("Homing Amulet")
- Bomb: 「夢想封印」 ("Fantasy Seal")
- Summary: Excellent against swarms of weak enemies, but less effective against bosses.
- Reimu Type B
- 夢の御札 (Dream Spell Card)
- Shot: 「パスウェイジョンニードル」 ("Persuasion Needle")
- Bomb: 「封魔陣」 ("Evil-Sealing Circle")
- Summary: A good balance in damage and area covered, but the bomb is fairly weak.
東洋の西洋魔術師 (An Oriental Western Magician)
- Basic Performance
- Moving Speed: ★★★★
- Attack Range: ★
- Attack Power: ★★★★
- Marisa Type A
- 魔の御札 (Magic Spell Card)
- Shot: 「マジックミサイル」 ("Magic Missile")
- Bomb: 「スターダストレヴァリエ」 ("Stardust Reverie")
- Summary: Excellent against bosses, but only covers a small area of the screen.
- Marisa Type B
- 恋の御札 (Love Spell Card)
- Shot: 「イリュージョンレーザー」 ("Illusion Laser")
- Bomb: 「マスタースパーク」 ("Master Spark")
- Summary: A little lacking in both damage and coverage, but the bomb is very strong.
- Your character
- Player Score
- 最高得点 (High Score): displays your highest score for the current character, type, and difficulty
- 得点 (Score): Your current score
- The number of remaining Players and Bombs / The approximate location of the Point of collection
- Player Status
- Power: displays your shot power level, maxing out at 128
- Graze: displays how many times enemy shots have grazed your hitbox during this stage
- 点 (Point): displays how many Point Items you collected during this stage
- Enemy Status
- Left number: displays how many health bars the enemy has in reserve
- Right number: displays how much time is left before the enemy's attack spell self-destructs
- Middle bar: displays how much health the enemy has left in their current attack spell
Scoring works similar to many other Touhou games in many aspects. Listed below are the details for how points are given in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil.
Any damage you deal to any enemy, whether it be caused by your shots or your bombs, will cause your score to increase very slightly. Actually destroying enemies will award you slightly more points, but the points earned from this are around the range of hundreds to thousands of points per enemy. This is not a significant amount at all. However, enemies shoot bullets for you to "graze" and release items for you to collect, and those are very important for scoring as covered below.
"Grazing a bullet" means to have a bullet or laser come dangerously close to your hitbox. Each graze will add 500 to your score, and will increase your "Graze number" by 1, which is used to calculate the Clear bonus. You can only graze a bullet once, so you won't gain any additional points or graze by following a bullet. Lasers can be continually grazed throughout their duration, but once again, moving around will not gain you any additional points or graze.
As the name implies, point items are the major source of points in the game. The higher up on the screen you collect them, the more points they are worth, up to a defined maximum. You can easily tell when you are collecting point items for their maximum value, since they show the value in yellow text. The auto-item-collect line is the same height as the height where point items reach their maximum value, so take advantage of this fact wherever you can for massive points. The maximum value for point items are based on difficulty:
Easy: 100,000 Normal: 100,000 Hard: 150,000 Lunatic: 200,000 Extra: 300,000
An important thing to keep in mind is that point items collected even a pixel below the maximum value threshold are worth less than 66% of their maximum value. This is a non-trivial difference, so do your best to collect items without prematurely retreating down to the lower parts of the screen. Also, point items collected at the bottom of the screen are worth around 10% of their maximum value. The number of point items collected per stage is used to calculate the Clear bonus, to be discussed later.
While your shot is not fully powered up, power items are worth only 10 points. However, once maximum shot power has been reached, each additional power item collected will be worth more than the previous one collected, up to a maximum of 51,200 points per power item. Unlike point items, power items will award you the same number of points anywhere on the screen. However, if you lose a life and your power level to less than maximum, power items will be worth only 10 points just like the beginning, and you will have to start this process over again. The progression is as follows: 10, 20, 30... 100, 200, 300... 1000, 2000, 3000... 12000, 51200. In other words, it takes 32 power items to get from a value of 10 to 51200. The opportunity cost of dying and having to rebuild the value of the power items is 1,554,350 points.
Large power items act the same as normal power items, except that when you are at maximum shot power, they increase the current value of power items as if you had collected 8 normal point items.
These items appear any time an enemy bullet is cancelled out. This can happen when you defeat an attack pattern of a boss (by depleting their current healthbar), at the moment you gain maximum shot power, when you destroy a certain enemy, or when you erase enemy bullets with a bomb. Each star item is worth 500 points + 10 points for every 3 grazes you have that stage. So for example, if you currently have 304 graze and you collect a star item, it will be worth 500 + (10 * (304 / 3)) = 1510 points. The only exception is when star items are created by a bomb, in which case each star item generated is worth exactly 100 points. However, bullets cancelled near the end of a bomb's duration will be worth the same value as a regular star item.
Enemy Bullet Bonus
When you finish off one of the boss's lives (caused by completely depleting the visible healthbar) or defeat a Spell Card of a boss, all enemy bullets on screen are tallied up to calculate the Enemy Bullet Bonus. The more enemy bullets there are on screen, the higher this bonus becomes. This bonus is independent of any star items collected from finishing off a boss's attack pattern. Finding the correct time in a boss's attack to finish them off can mean the difference between an Enemy Bullet bonus of 100,000 and one of 3,000,000.
Spell Card Bonus
Occasionally, a boss will attack using a Spell Card. You will know this is happening when the background changes and the Spell Card's name appears in the upper right corner of the screen. If the boss's healthbar is depleted within the time limit and without getting hit or using a bomb, the Spell Card bonus will be added to your score. The starting value of the bonus depends on the Spell Card used. As the time remaining decreases, the bonus decreases in value as well, which is rounded to the nearest five-thousand. Typically, the starting value for Spell Cards range from 750,000 to 5,000,000.
At the end of each stage, the player is awarded a point bonus based on their performance throughout the stage. The bonus is calculated as follows:
Stage x 1000 (stage number, Extra = 7) Power x 100 (power level) Graze x 10 (graze count)
This combined total is then multiplied by the number of point items collected in that stage.
In addition, if you are not playing on Easy and the stage happened to be the last stage, the following is added:
Player x 3,000,000 (lives in stock, not including your current one) Bomb x 1,000,000 (bombs in stock)
Finally, depending on the conditions you played under, the result is multiplied by these modifiers, rounded down to the nearest 10:
4 Initial Lives: x 0.5 5 Initial Lives: x 0.2 Easy Difficulty: x 0.5 Normal Difficulty: x 1.0 Hard Difficulty: x 1.2 Lunatic Difficulty: x 1.5 Extra Difficulty: x 2.0
The end result is then added on to your score.
- Return to Embodiment of Scarlet Devil