Review – Gensou Skydrift (PS4)

Gensou Skydrift is such a completely weird anomaly of game that you know it couldn’t have been created anywhere else other than Japan. A racing title about kawaii anime witches riding on other kawaii anime witches as if they were flying surfboards, all while racing against each other in physics and gravity-defying levels just for the sake of it. It sounds like the worst elevator pitch in history. Although, once you find out that the studio behind this game was founded by former developers of Mario Kart: Double Dash (the best one, don’t at me), you start feeling that yes, there might be some untapped potential in this little title.

Gensou Skydrift Witch Surfing

Gensou Skydrift defies logic.

You can clearly see this game was developed by people trying to bring back the joy and slight amounts of strategy initially featured in Double Dash after just a few races. You’ll have pick up two kawaii witches out of a big roster, each one with her own stats and abilities. You might have to pair a character with good acceleration with one with better traction and swap between them whenever the course layout demands for a specific character trait to be used. You’re not picking up these characters out of how kawaii they are (or at least, you shouldn’t); you’re doing so to best create a team that suits to your playstyle.

To my surprise, Gensou Skydrift‘s gameplay is great. Levels are well-designed, the controls are actually very responsive, and to top things off, the game features an interesting twist on how players acquire items. In order to do so, you need to fill up a bar by either going through boost rings or by drifting. If you fill up one bar, you can get a random common item, while two bars will grant you rare and powerful items. All in all, the gameplay is great, so one would imagine that I’d recommend Gensou Skydrift and call it a good game, right? Well, about that…

Gensou Skydrift Design

Gensou Skydrift’s tracks are actually well-designed. Except this one.

Gensou Skydrift plays well, but as a whole, this is a very underwhelming experience. This might be the first game I have ever played in which the gameplay might be the great, but there isn’t an actual good game to take advantage of these tight mechanics and responsive controls.

Let’s start with the presentation. Gensou Skydrift looks like a PlayStation 2 game at the very best, and I’m not talking about some high end PS2 titles like Gran Turismo 3 or Shadow of the Colossus. This looks like a mid-tier game released in 2003, and that’s being generous. The sound department is also disappointing. All it has to offer is a plethora of decent tunes being played during races, but no sound effects or voice acting for the never-ending cutscenes which show up during the game’s worst mode: the story mode.

I don’t even know how to reply to that.

Gensou Skydrift is part of the Touhou multimedia franchise and it assumes you know more about the franchise than the people who write its Wiki page. If you have no idea who these characters are and what the hell they’re doing here, then you won’t understand a single thing about the borderline fanfiction story presented in its annoying main campaign. Besides the campaign mode, there’s the option to do a single race or a time trial practice. There’s also both local and online multiplayer in here, but I seriously doubt Gensou Skydrift will amass a sizeable online community after launch.

Boost rings are the key to victory.

In short, despite the surprisingly great controls, Gensou Skydrift is a low budget disappointment. It’s ugly, it doesn’t feature a lot of content, and it’s not exactly the most accessible game if you’re not a die hard fan of the Touhou franchise, since you won’t understand a single thing about its plot otherwise. It might occasionally remind you of why you used to love Mario Kart: Double Dash back in the day, but it’s certainly not a worthy successor.


Graphics: 5.0

Gensou Skydrift is colorful and runs well, but it looks like a PS2 game at best. One of the mid-range ones at that.

Gameplay: 8.5

This one caught me off guard; not only does the game run well, but its controls are really precise. It also features a very interesting take on acquiring items and constantly maintaining momentum with boost rings.

Sound: 5.5

While the in-race soundtrack isn’t half bad, the game is basically devoid of sound effects and voice acting.

Fun Factor: 5.0

The core gameplay is good, but Gensou Skydrift suffers from a severe lack of content, a barely existing campaign mode, and an overall lack of polish.

Final Verdict: 6.0

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

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Gensou Skydrift was provided by the publisher.