I actually intentionally sought out Winged Cloud’s Sakura Spirit. I saw it on the new release list, contacted our editor, Eric, and requested a review copy. The reason I gave: it would be a horribly embarrassing game that could be subject to copious immature laughter and potential derision. Just viewing the trailer on the Steam page, as well as the plain view warning that the game featured naughty stuff, made it seem like a prime target for attention. I mean, the top user review in its entirety is “My friend got me this game, I swear.” What reason could I give for not wanting to hop aboard that train? Well, besides a nominally developed sense of dignity.
While the reason I gave Eric was accurate, it was also incomplete. I am new to the visual novel genre. Having recently played Danganronpa on the Vita and Virtue’s Last Reward on the 3DS, I have certainly warmed to the concept. Both featured an extremely long, detailed story that felt as though I was watching a motion comic. The gameplay was also respectable in both. Danganronpa features multiple mini-games that served as well thought out metaphors to holding your own in a court room setting. Virtue’s Last Reward contained some more traditional adventure game style puzzles but each puzzle area was laid out in such a way that each step of progress felt tangible, as though you were peeling the skin from an orange.
Having played these as well as Christine Love’s Analogue: A Hate Story, I wanted more. Sakura Spirit looked to fill the bill in a much less serious fashion. To my regret, this was not the case. Sakura Spirit is not a game. It is better described as a motion comic. I am not saying this as an ad absurdum reduction of what is here. Truly, barring only one player decision, the only interactivity to be had is clicking the mouse to advance the next line dialogue. So, I have a Steam copy of slightly animated comic that I can’t play until the wife goes to bed.
With that out of the way, I must say that I was entertained by Sakura Spirit. The protagonist, Takahiro, is thrust into a strange world populated by furry-bait spirits and buxom warrior guards. He is well written, coming across as a teenager who is still trying to figure out his own personality. His reactions to situations are, by his own admission, cribbed from the anime and manga he grew up reading. How his statements and actions come across is part of the growth and is interesting.
I do want to stress, however, that this is absolutely not a highbrow game. Another part of him finding his personality is dealing with being a teenaged male oozing hormones from his ears. This is not a story you want to view with your mother, father, or anybody who might be needed to provide a character reference during your public indecency trial.
The women who become his friends don’t help matters. It’s very rare that an exceptionally crude double entendre is not being built up or uttered by one of them, and there appears to be a contest between them as to who can be the most inappropriately nude the longest. For those who would consider the previous a selling point, I should point out: none of the models have accurate…pieces. I believe that there might be a blight on the mammals of this world as areolas do not exist. How their infants obtain succor is beyond me.
The characters themselves are well drawn. They are certainly bright and colorful, and excellent examples of the anime/manga style. I do wish there were more though. Meaning, there are long stretches of time with the same image while reading through the dialogue. More emphasis could be brought to the story were there were more varied portraits displaying the sword fights, conversations, and so on.
The music is also a skip, just to warn you. Just turn it off.
It might seem like I hold disdain for this one; I do not. Once I got past the fact that it wasn’t what I initially wanted, I enjoyed the properly terrible jokes, goofy tone, and fun atmosphere. It provides plenty of eye rolling “Oh, Japan” moments and some cringe worthy scenarios. While the crass attempts to titillate fall flat, this is an entertaining read.