A Little Slice of Heaven
Since early summer of last year, the Nintendo 3DS system's eShop has seen a robust lineup of interesting offerings, some good and some bad. We've seen great titles like Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, and Mutant Mudds, for starters. A title that released in the first quarter of 2012 in North America, Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword, has finally released in European territories, though renamed Hana Samurai: Art of the Sword, for whatever reason. Is the swordplay within the game a work of art or a disaster of a masterpiece?
The story of Sakura Samurai is very simple. You are the main titular character, Sakura Samurai, and you are taught the ways of the sword by a kappa creature. Your journey's objective is to scour the land in search of the kidnapped Princess Cherry Blossom. The quest will take you across plains, through bamboo forests, and into ancient Japanese castles.
The game features three main castles where Princess Cherry Blossom is supposed kept in. Between these three castles are various battlefields where Sakura Samurai will unsheathe his sword and fight. For every new battlefield cleared, your hero receives a Sakura fragment (it looks just like a rose petal). Collecting two fragments increases his health by one unit, so it's smart to try to complete all battlefields to have as much health as possible to tougher bouts.
|Welcome to Sakura Samurai's world.|
|Enemy strikes downward, dodge to the side.|
I particularly enjoy the timing and precision battles require. It keeps you on your toes immensely, and makes it so every battle is important. Some enemy types are easier to defeat than others, but there is no better feeling within the game than masterfully cutting through an armada of foes with perfect precision.
|These boss characters certainly mean business.|
|An example of one of the villages within the game.|
Street challenges change based on what village you are in, but these are the perfect places to earn lots of gold and prizes. You can bet as much gold as you have on you to go from rags to riches in an instant. (And since you can save your progress in the village, you can reset the game if you lose. It's a cheap tactic, but it works.) Such challenges require you to time your sword strikes to make a perfect slice right through the middle of thrown melons, to slash through falling objects, or to slash through sad and angry melons while avoiding slashing through happy melons, to name a few challenges.
Sakura Samurai is a nice looking game with colorful backgrounds, though at some times it can seem a bit subdued. Characters animate well and are designed nicely, and the backgrounds, while not tremendously detailed, have enough put into them that the game does not look cheaply made. Battles all run at a relatively steady framerate, something paramount for a game based on timing. The stereoscopic 3D of the Nintendo 3DS works wonderfully for this type of game. You get a real sense of depth to help dodge and evade attacks and get full feel of how far away enemies are. Moving to sound, the music is a subtle mix of ancient Japanese sounds, perfectly fitting for Sakura Samurai's setting. Overall, the presentation is very nice given the price and size of the game.
|Master the elegant art of the sword.|
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]