REVIEW – Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword
Game – Sakura Samurai
Version – 3dsware
Time Spent Playing – 12 hours
Price – $6.99
Obtained – Review Copy courtesy of Nintendo of America
Nintendo has always supported their own consoles, so it’s not surprise they have with the 3DS and are continuing to do so with the eShop. First with Freakyforms, then Pushmo and now Sakaura Samurai. Still, it’s always a pleasure to see another great title from the developers at Nintendo.
Players take on the role of the Sakura Samurai, a boyish looking, sword wielding fighter. You are recruited by Kappa, the master of a pond near an ancient sakura tree, to rescue the kidnapped Princess Cherry Blossom who was taken away by an evil force. Boy with sword? Evil Force? Princess? Zeld….uh no it’s not.
Gameplay and Controls
Sakura is all about patience and precision. In order to rescue the princess, you must traverse the lands, fighting bad guys and bosses until the final showdown. After a brief tutorial on how to fight, you are off on your own. Initially, you only have one path from the Kappa’s pond. After you defeat the enemies in the first area, the paths branch off to two different areas. This is how the rest of the map will open up to you, further access is gained by successfully defeating all enemies in an area. Upon completion of each area, you are awarded half a sakura petal. For every two you collect, you gain another heart on your life meter. So even though there are multiple paths on the map, it would benefit you greatly to visit and defeat the enemies in all of them.
The battle system is key to the whole game. Each area is a moderate sized arena in the local terrain in which you will encounter a handful of enemies. At times even a second wave of enemies may appear, in case you need a little lesson in humility! In order to be successful in fighting you must watch your enemies and learn their attack patterns (think Punch-Out!) Thankfully, the enemies give a visual indication of the direction and type of attack they will use. The color yellow on their blade indicates they will attack more than once and the color red is a single attack. Attacks come in the form of horizontal, vertical, straight jab and projectiles. The key here is to wait just until right before the enemy attacks and then you must dodge. Immediately counter with an attack of your own to successfully take down the enemy. The stage is complete once you defeat all enemies. Not only is dodging crucial to staying alive, it also earns you precision points if you wait until the right time to dodge. These precision points will accumulate until the next time you are hit and then the counter resets to zero. I found the best way to do this was to dodge the archers arrows until I racked up a high score of precision points. You are able to block your enemies attacks however, do this too often and your blade quality will suffer greatly thus requiring more hits to defeat enemies.
The map is split into three visibly distinct areas, each with a town and a castle. The towns are useful for a good handful of things. Most importantly, saving your game. You can rest at the inn to refill your health as well as save your game here. At Frogs Plus you can buy items such as rice cakes to refill your life, throwing daggers, whetstones to sharpen your blade and even sell those precious precision points I mentioned earlier. The more points you accumulate, the more gold you earn. There is also a swordsmith in town who can sharpen your blade and increase its power. In each town there are a couple of locals who offer you challenges to participate in and while they are completely optional, I encourage you to participate as they will aid your quest. For each challenge you successfully complete, you will earn stamps and once you reach a set number of stamps, you win a bigger prize. One of which is an increase in the amount of rice cakes you can hold at one time. I found this to be of great help when I reached the later levels.
The castles are home to evil lords and are filled with enemies. In order to face the lord, you must battle waves of enemies. The castle lords are quite impressive in stature and it’s refreshing to see some many variations of enemies throughout the game. The boss fights themselves are longer due to the increased amount of health each boss has and their increased defense. As in regular fights, the boss fights are all about memorization and timing.
Visuals and Sound
The best way I know how to compare the visuals are to Saturday morning cartoons, I’m thinking Jackie Chan’s Adventures perhaps? Anyways, the visuals are fairly decent, but the environments are considerably bland. You will notice this most especially on the mountainside levels. The character models look good and the animations are all smooth. The 3D effects are nice and definitely add to the enjoyment. You can play with the 3D turned off, but I noticed the game didn’t look quite as nice. As expected, the music and sound effects sound great and work perfectly for the atmosphere of the game. The strikes of the swords, when damage is taken and when you blade breaks you will notice the audio doesn’t disappoint. However, the music can be a bit repetitive. So, if anything I wish they would have added in more background music and switched it up, but it’s no big deal.
Concluding Overall Impressions
Nintendo took the basic formula of repetition (a la Punch-Out!) and expanded upon it greatly in order to create Sakura Samurai. Comprised of a decent story, good graphics, engrossing (albeit a bit repetitive) audio, moderate to high level of challenge, mini games, and additional modes – Sakura Samurai is well worth your time and money.
Final Score: 4 out of 5