Wow, Touhou Graphics Have Come A Long Way

After a long hiatus, I’ve finally started playing the Touhou Project games again. Unfortunately, I only have from 6 to 11 and after watching a few videos of 12 (Undefined Fantastic Object) I really, really want to get hold of it 🙂

One thing I realised when watching the clips of UFO was that the graphics are really, really cool. Lot’s of special effects and things happening on the screen, especially compared to Touhou 6. It made me search for footage from each game to see how things progressed over time, from it’s humble roots on the weird Japanese NEC PC-9801 to today. After doing a search for videos of each game (and getting annoying with people doing voice overs or inserting their own music), I found a series of 3 videos that showcased each game released so far. Thank you, ColdAqua 🙂

Touhou Project 1-6:

Touhou Project 7-9.5:

Touhou Project 10-12:

Yeah, the graphics have come a long way over the last 12 years. As mentioned before, the first 5 games were made for the PC-98 computer, which dominated the Japanese market in the 80’s and 90’s, but had rather limited hardware specs. It was designed primarily as a business computer, so the doujin game developers had to learn all sorts of tricks to get it to run games nicely (the hardware was never designed to handle large amounts of graphics).

This can clearly be seen in games 2-5. Touhou 2 looks very basic – the enemies didn’t do much and the graphics are rather simple. But with each successive game, ZUN (who was doing virtually everything from the coding to the graphics and music) was able to push the outdated hardware further and further. To put this into perspective, the first game was made in 1996, and the fastest PC-98 model was made in ’87. It used an Intel 386 for the CPU, and only had 1.4 megs of memory (upgradeable to about 14). A 386 has 16MHz of CPU power. However, the most common PC-98 was the previous model, which had a 10MHz CPU (some only had 8MHz) and even less memory. He was able to get a lot out of such limited hardware.

It’s also plain to see the sudden jump in graphics and game speed between 5 and 6. Touhou 6 was when ZUN broke away from the Amusement Makers doujin group and formed the one-man “group” Team Shanghai Alice. It also marks the first game to be made for Windows and the far-superior PC hardware. Not only are the graphics better, but from Touhou 7 onwards, the backgrounds get really detailed, to the point where I think in 10 and up they are actually 3D polygons (which would explain the smoothness of the animations).

And to think that this is all done by one guy. It’ll be cool see the direction he takes the graphics in for the future games.

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2 responses to “Wow, Touhou Graphics Have Come A Long Way

  1. Vivin 22 October, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Hi, nice analysis you got there.
    About the graphics what I noticed is about the background effect. From Touhou 6 to 12 there are lots of improvements. All hail to ZUN m(_ _)m

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