Touhou 17 Wily Beast and Weakest Character came out yesterday night, and oh boy it was a solid great out of game.
I only cleared normal due to an arm injury so I’ll refrain from commenting on the gameplay too much, but the music I have enough listens throughout today to form a ranking. Without further ado, here we go.
EDIT December 4: More changes
- Move stage 4 up more
- Move stage 5 up
EDIT August 17: After some more listening, I’ve made the following changes:
- Moved the extra stage up a few places
- Moved stage 4 up a few places
- Exchange stage 5 and stage 5 boss
- Broke 1st place tie in favour of the boss theme. The trumpets are just too good.
15th place: Stage 4 Boss Yachie - Tortoise Dragon ~ Fortune and Misfortune
This uses the same electronic instruments as Stage 2, but I can never manage to grasp the melody. There is a melody, but the track never seems to go anywhere, it literally repeats 2 ideas for the whole time. When I first listened intently to this, I was like “that’s it?” when the song looped. Unfortunate, because this character is pretty central to the plot.
14th place: Stage 3 - Everlasting Spider Lily
This one has the same flaws, it’s two ideas repeated for the entire track. However, this one has more motion to it. Plus, it makes sense plot-wise since we’re in an endless field of spider lillies. I like how it gives a sense of “purgatory”.
13th place: Extra Boss Saki - Prince Shoutoku’s Pegasus ~ Dark Pegasus
Very prancy, fitting for a horse youkai. The main chorus is a bit spooky too, but I’m not feeling anything strong from this. A shame, since Hidden Star in All Seasons was so good.
12th place: Stage 2 Boss Urumi - The Stone Baby and the Underwater Cow
This new bass ZUN has going on is great, so is the main instrument. It’s meaty and low, and perfectly fits Urumi’s status as a cow youkai. It seems like Urumi is toying with you, since she used to be a fearsome youkai but is now “retired”. From here on out, it’s just “songs that are good but others are better”, instead of “songs I don’t really like”.
11th place: Stage 1 Boss Eika - Jelly Stone
This theme is not bad, but I honestly don’t really get the hype it got when the demo came out. I like the floaty “weewoo” sounds, but people were saying it sounds like a lategame boss and I don’t see it at all.
10th place: Stage 3 Boss Kutaka - Seraphic Chicken
A song for a chicken spirit. I think ZUN did a great job with this one. The first verse at 0:09 already sounds like chicken clucking around, then the chorus at 0:40 adds PCB-style offbeat blips. The song gets almost too cacophonous at 1:43 but it literally sounds like tons of chickens clacking. Props to ZUN for expressing that so well.
9th place: Extra Stage - Shining Law of the Strong Eating the Weak
The intro is actually pretty good, so is the main verse. To me it sounds like you’re bravely forging on through hell, the theme is dark but the chorus is heroic with the jumping trumpet arpeggios.
8th place: Stage 5 Boss Mayumi - Joutounin of Ceramics
The intro is alright, but the real highlight of this track is the chorus at 0:47. Triplets! I don’t remember the last time ZUN had such a bold triplet melody, but it exudes glory and makes you fired up to fight.
7th place: Stage 2 - Lost River
This stage takes place over the Sanzu River. ZUN builds up into the main verse at 0:53 expertly, and that lullaby-like 3/4 melody makes you feel like you’re in a small rowboat crossing the river of life and death, not knowing when the journey will end or what’s next. ZUN builds again into a stronger climax at 1:29. The climax is decisive and confident, but doesn’t lose that emotion from the original melody. I also love the additional instruments joining in at 1:48. All in all a very strong theme for stage 2.
6th place: Stage 4 - Unlocated Hell
The intro was so intense I was shocked when hearing it for the first time. It immediately tells the player “you’re in hell now”. Then it transitions to an almost pleasant melody at 0:55 that reminds me of the chorus of UFO Stage 4. The bass at 1:56 also reminds me very strongly of DDC Stage 4’s Boss theme Illusionary Joururi. The climax at 2:05 is what makes this so good.
5th place: Stage 1 - A Grief Only Known By Jizo
The opener. The aahs in the background and the choice of melody instrument paints the scene as a lonely, desolate place. The real highlight of this track for me is the buildup at 0:47 to the midboss battle at 0:58. The harpsichord(?) and the main instrument really give you the sense of a spirit that is lost and wandering aimlessly in the plains of purgatory. The atmosphere is top notch.
4th place: Stage 5 - Beast Metropolis
Another emotional, reflective Stage 5 theme. This piano is so soothing, along with the HSiFS Stage 5 style aahs in the backgrounnd. It definitely exudes a “lategame” feeling, like you’re weary but the journey must go on. If you read ZUN’s comments for this track, it’s even more emotional. I also like how the trumpets compliment the original piano melody (more on the trumpets later).
And now we have the final three. In my opinion, these three tracks greatly stand above all the others in this game.
3rd place: Title - Unspeaking Beast Spirits
I remember opening the demo and hearing this and just going, “wow”. Then I sat and listened to it for a couple minutes before starting to play. It’s just so dark and sinister and aggressive, but the true highlight is at 0:58 when there’s the little ornament and suddenly the track drops to a creepier, sneakier tone as the piano continues to pulse. But then, ZUN adds in the classic Theme of Eastern Story on top of it! (1:12). The blending of TOES and the original dark theme is so well done. Very few Touhou games have title themes that stand up so strongly to the rest of the tracks. This has probably overtaken DDC and IN as my top title theme of all time.
2nd place: Stage 6 - Electric Heritage
This track. This. track. Disco party on the way to the showdown! Same piano melody at 0:35 but the phrases are really carried through by the arpeggios in the bass. It just feels like this stage and upcoming fight have huge consequences on the world and you’re the hero, like you’re flying above a war-torn battlefield to meet and challenge the leader. Then, Theme of Eastern Story comes in at 1:21, adding even more to the sense of finality. I can’t overstate how good the main melody is. ZUN really outdid himself this time. This definitely has instantly become my top stage 6 theme of all time, surpassing UFO, DDC, LoLK, PCB, etc. Just wow.
1st place: Stage 6 Boss Keiki - Entrusting this World to Idols ~ Idolatrize World
This is a true showdown, as evidenced by the long held notes in the intro and the syncopated bass at 0:23 that’s like a hammer driving against you. Just as fast, we switch to the classic ZUN piano melody at 0:34. This is a really, really good melody. Next verse 0:56, the guitar joins and carries the same feeling. At 1:20, the stage theme is reprised (see above). 1:32 we get the classical Theme of Eastern Story. At 1:42 the trumpets come in full fanfare with the main chorus. Here’s where I’d like to comment on the trumpets. I don’t know what ZUN has done to his ZUNpets lately, but I’ve really been liking the sound of them. They’re loud, bold, and in your face, yet never get screamy or noisy. As much as we all liked the lategame tracks in Imperishable Night, you have to admit the trumpets there were so screamy and almost hurt your ears. Well done here, ZUN. At 2:03 we get a variation with the trumpets, with the same qualities as before. This whole sequence just oozes glory and showdown. Instant classic. Though I don’t know if I’d call it the best final boss theme of all time, there’s just too much competition. It’s a very strong contender though.