Review – Gensou Skydrift (PS4)

Gensou Skydrift is such a strange game that we know it can’t have been developed anywhere but Japan. A racing game where kawaii animated witches ride other kawaii animated witches as if they were flying surfboards and compete against each other in physics and gravity defying levels, just for fun. That sounds like the worst elevator pitch in history. Although, when you hear that the studio behind this game was founded by former developers of Mario Kart: Double Dash (the best, not with me), you start to feel that there might be some untapped potential in this little title after all.

Gensou Skydrift defies logic.

You can clearly tell that this game was developed by people who wanted to bring back the fun and bit of strategy that was originally in Double Dash after a few races. From the large list, take two Kawaii witches, each with their own stats and abilities. You may need to pair a character with good acceleration with a character with better grip, and switch between them if the course pattern requires the use of a particular trait. You don’t choose these characters based on their appearance in Kawaii (or at least, you shouldn’t); you do so to assemble a team that best suits your play style.

To my surprise, Gensu Skidrift plays very well. The levels are well designed, the controls are very responsive, and on top of that the game has an interesting twist on how players acquire items. This is done by padding the rod, either by passing reinforcing rings through it or by pushing them in. Filling one column can give you any generic item, and two columns give you rare and powerful items. Overall, the gameplay is excellent, so you can imagine that I would recommend Gensou Skydrift and call it a good game, right? Well, about that…

The Gensou Skydrift tracks are actually well designed. Other than that.

Gensou Skydrift plays well, but overall it’s a very underrated experience. This may be the first game I’ve played where the gameplay can be great, but there’s really no good game that takes advantage of those tight mechanics and responsive controls.

Let’s start with the presentation. Gensou Skydrift looks like a PlayStation 2 game at its best, and I’m not talking about high-end PS2 games like Gran Turismo 3 or Shadow of the Colossus. It looks like a mediocre game from 2003, and it’s very generous. The sound department is also disappointing. All it has to offer are a few decent tunes during the race, but no sound effects or voice acting for the endless cutscenes that appear during the game’s worst mode: story mode.

I don’t even know how to answer that.

Gensou Skydrift is part of the Touhou multimedia franchise and assumes you know more about it than the people who write their wiki page. If you have no idea who these characters are or what they’re doing here, you won’t understand the frontier fantasy story presented in the boring main campaign. In addition to the campaign mode, it is possible to participate in a single race or a time trial. There is also local and online multiplayer, but I highly doubt Gensou Skydrift will be able to create a large online community after launch.

Gear rings are the key to victory.

In short, despite the surprisingly good controls, Gensou Skydrift is a low-budget disappointment. It’s ugly, it doesn’t have much substance, and it’s not the most accessible game unless you’re a fan of the Touhou franchise, because otherwise you won’t understand anything about the story. It can sometimes remind you why you loved Mario Kart so much: The double bar is a thing of the past, but certainly not a worthy successor.

Gensou Skydrift is colorful and works well, but looks like a PS2 game at best. One of the mid-range. This one surprised me, not only does the game run well, but the controls are really precise. It also offers a very interesting approach to acquire items and constantly keep pace with boost rings.
While the race soundtrack isn’t bad, the game has virtually no sound effects or voice acting. The basic gameplay is good, but Gensou Skydrift suffers from a severe lack of content, a barely existent campaign mode, and a general lack of polish.
Last block : 6.0

Gensou Skydrift is available now on PS4, PC and Switch.

Tested on PS4.

A copy of Gensou Skydrift was provided by the publisher.


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