Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword (Available only on Nintendo 3DS eShop)
Number of Players: 1
Release Date: February 2nd, 2012
MSRP: $6.99 US
Parent Talk Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword is a downloadable game in the Nintendo 3DS eShop catalog. The player must battle with dozens of other warriors across Japan to try and rescue Princess Cherry Blossom from an evil lord. The violence is no more offensive than a Saturday morning cartoon series; there is sword fighting, but no blood, gore, profanity, or vulgarity of any kind.
Review Basis: Completed the game on the normal mode and completed the 30-Thug and 50-Thug challenges.
The Great: An absolutely gorgeous game. Sakura Samurai is a wonderfully colorful and expressive journey. The aesthetic bears a strong resemblance to the Ukiyo-e visual style seen in the critically acclaimed Okami, but the visuals are far from generic and certainly not a ripoff. Characters are cartoonishly disproportionate, villages are fun to explore, and the presentation great. Even the menus are well-designed.
+ Wonderful timing-based combat. Sakura Samurai smacks of the Punch-Out approach to game design. There are a wide variety of enemies, each of which has a unique attack pattern. To effectively beat enemies, the player must recognize and analyze enemy combat stances and styles and master the ability to perform quick dodges, blocks, and sword swipes. Learning to watch for openings in an enemy’s guard should be familiar to anyone Punch-Out fan. Luckily, the combat is deep and the enemies are varied, making every showdown challenging and fun.
+ Upgrades, items, and depth. It may be easy to dismiss this game as a simple hack and slash title, but the combat is deceptively deep. The player not only has to watch out for enemy attacks, but also keep an eye on sword strength/sharpness, effectively use items, and save up energy for special attacks. Excessive blocking will weaken your sword, making attacks less effective until you either use a whetstone or visit the local forge. Swords can also be upgraded at villages and new special attacks can be obtained over the course of the game. Additional items, like Frogs and Kunai, can be used to throw off enemies and force an opening, while rice cakes can restore health.
+ Mini-games, villages, and more depth! There are about 30 spaces on the world map, but not every space is a battlefield. There are also three villages to explore. Each village has a standard inn (restoring health and saving), shop, and sword forge. Villages also have mini-game opportunities, letting the player take challenges in exchange for cash or stickers. Earning stickers can result in prizes, like special attacks.
+ The music is wonderful, especially the excellent battle scene music.
+ The story is brief, but charming. The introductory cutscenes are narrated effectively with both Japanese writing on the top screen, depicted on picturesque scrolls, and English text on the bottom. The presentation is absolutely stunning.
+ The 3D effect makes the presentation stand out even more, especially giving attention to the visually expressive opening story scene.
+Completing the game can take several hours to complete. There are 24 basic stages, three villages, and three boss castles. There are also two difficulty modes and three challenge modes.
+ The Rock Garden mini-game implements the 3DS pedometer feature in an interesting way. By dedicating more “steps” to the Rock Garden, the cherry blossom trees will bloom.
+ Precision Point feature. By dodging enemy attacks at the exact right moment, the player will earn Precision Points. Successively performing dodges without being hit, and you’ll be able to sell your Precision Points for a lot of cash.
– Defeated enemies rarely drop health items.
– The difficulty level, even on the normal setting, is surprisingly high.
Sakura Samurai is a gorgeous, fun, and quirky adventure. It’s well worth the price and comes highly recommended.