Dag / Touhou Project: Playing First 5 games with Retroarch

Created Fri, 01 Sep 2023 23:10:00 +0200 Modified Fri, 17 May 2024 07:32:45 +0000

This small guide aims to become the main guide for all those who would like to play Touhou Project (abbreviated as TH), but don’t know where to start and how to set up the right emulator.

Note that I only tested this guide on an Anbernic portable console (I told you about it in another article) precisely because I wanted to test how comfortable it actually was play it and because there isn’t much material online, neither in English nor in Italian.

Brief history of the Touhou Project

The TH Project is a series of games (called bullet hell) created by Jun’ya Ota, alias ZUN: in 1996 he decided that video games were boring, there was nothing really fun for him, so he decided to create a series of titles on his own, partly for fun and partly to experiment.

Games of this kind are normally difficult for the average player: the skill lies in observing and understanding the patterns that are proposed and the fact of remaining calm while being bombarded with bullets.

However, not all of them will hit the player: it will be up to the latter to understand (and remember) who hits him and who doesn’t.

What is it about

During the game, we will take on the role of Reimu or Marisa and we will have to shoot and avoid monsters that will try in any way to knock us down.

Between one chapter and another (episodes) we will have small interludes that will push the story forward, allowing us to understand what is happening.

In Italy it is not very popular, but it is especially so in Japan: in addition to the fandom they even have a manga and an anime.

How many games exist

The TH Project has been released in 18 different chapters, not counting the 11 official spinoffs which brings the total number of games to 29.

The first 5 chapters are the only ones to have been released for PC-98 and nowadays have become almost impossible to find, except online. They are:

  • Touhou 1 - Highly Responsive to Prayers
  • Touhou 2 - Story of Eastern Wonderland
  • Touhou 3 - Phantasmagoria of Dimensional Dream
  • Touhou 4 - Lotus Land Story
  • Touhou 5 - Mystic Square

This article is about the 5 games listed above, all others are available and released for Windows.

The first game is very different from all the other chapters: it is a kind of arkanoid with tiles.

Material required

To play the Touhou Project you need:

  • copy of TH Project games for PC-98
  • PC-98 emulator (Neko Project II) or
    • Retroarch configured with NP2 KAI core (Neko Project II Kai)
  • scissors with a rounded tip


  1. Load the Retroarch (RA) core called Neko Project II KAI. The KAI version is essential, in fact nothing will work without it.

  2. Make sure you already have configured the core. If you haven’t or don’t know how, RA guide will help you

  3. Load a game. What a bummer right? It all jerks and feels crappy. Now let’s go make some improvements.

  4. Open Retroarch menu > Core Options > Core Settings > and make these settings:

    • PC Model: PC-9801VM
    • CPU Base Clock: 2.4 MHz
    • Feature CPU: Intel 80386
    • CPU Clock Multiplier: 16
    • RAM Size: 13
    • Skipline Revisions: 255
    • Soundboard: PC9801-86
  5. Restart the content, and enjoy.

N.B.: this configuration is specific to the Anbernic 353V: experimenting a bit with the settings I reached a good compromise.

If you have a higher-end computer or console, set the CPU Clock Multiplier to 40 and RAM Size also to 32, and then gradually decrease the CPU Clock Multiplier in case you notice frame drops, or slowness in general.

The minimum values are CPU 24 and RAM 13.

(yes, I had to put 16 otherwise everything was laggy)

What if I use the emulator?

These settings are obviously also valid when using the standalone emulator.


  • It gives me black screen with a)> how do I fix it?

    • you are not using NP2KAI, but NP2. I told you Kai was needed 😇
  • The second chapter does not take my input.

    • you are not using NP2KAI, but NP2. I told you Kai was needed 😇
  • I don’t see the fonts

    • Optional files are missing, official guide tells you how to fix this annoying problem. Or play without fonts.
  • The zip doesn’t work!

    • unzip the zip and put the hdi file in the rom folder. In case you use Anbernic and similar, this folder is called pc98
  • I can’t stop playing, I’ve become good, I’d like to start chapters for Windows from Steam. I’m just here to thank you!

The guide in the Bignami version, reduced to the bone, is available on Gist Github.

Have fun!

p.s. maybe you already knew TH Project for Bing of Bongs | Big Ben plays ‘Night of Nights’ for the Last time or for [McDonald’s clown video](https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=Q16KpquGsIc)