Sakura Spirit was a game that, at first, looks like it would appeal to me. The reason for this is that just about any fanservicey anime game is a natural curiosity for me. What can I say; I’m a girl that knows what she likes. Unfortunately that was not the case with Sakura Spirit as it turned out to be nothing other than a boring tease.
The key problem with Sakura Spirit is that it has nothing going for it other than sexy women in compromising poses, and that simply is not enough to keep one’s attention if the rest of the game is flat out boring. You can experience just about everything there is to Sakura Spirit just through Google image search.
The main character cast of Sakura Spirit is so bland that I cannot even remember their names less than an hour after finishing the game. As such I actually needed to look them up in order to write this section of the review. Anyway his name is Takehiro and the game starts out where he is practicing for an upcoming judo tournament. At least he is until he gets thrust into another world and is thrown into a prison cell for being mistaken for working with two fox spirits who stole a girl’s panties.
One thing that one will notice right away is that the only thing this game is good at is creating titillating situations. There are a number of situations that are sexually arousing like Takehiro waking up next to an attractive fox spirit whom is naked. To some people, that might be enough of a motivation to play the game. Unfortunately though, this game is really nothing more than a tease when it comes to these things.
Despite there being a nudity tag on this game’s Steam page, there is no nudity and everything is conveniently covered up. Sure you have some sexy images but there is no frontal nudity involved. Truth be told, this game could have really used some because it is just boring otherwise and has nothing going for it for multiple reasons.
The first of these reasons is that our plot is downright uneventful. There is not so much of a conflict in this game as there is just waiting for things to happen while you see ecchi hijinks occur. There is something set up about the other fox spirits attacking the village because they do not know that their playful attitude causes harm, but that only comes into play towards the end in a very underwhelming climax.
The other problem is that our characters are very shallow and are not interesting to follow. Takehiro is pretty much a standard anime harem protagonist who is unnecessarily chaste, which gets frustrating considering the type of game this is. You have Miyo, aka the tsundere tyrant as Takehiro calls her, and that’s really all she is; an overly aggressive unlikable tsundere. You have Narumi, the typical nice girl to counteract Miyo, and you have the fox spirits Meoko and Machiko who only seem to exist to cause sexually compromising situations. There really is nothing that makes these characters endearing or likable enough to keep playing and the three hours spent on the game felt a lot longer than it should have because of it.
However, I will concede that the visuals are very nice and are well drawn, and they better be in a game based around fanservice. The music is decent but nothing particularly noteworthy either. The presentational values are all fine, it is just that the entire thing comes crashing down due to poor pacing.
That is the problem with Sakura Spirit; it knows how to make things interesting in concept and in the visual department, but it just fails to make an interesting plot. Sure it has some decent humorous moments, but the only way they can really be effective is if our characters are at least interesting. Sakura Spirit’s character’s, as I said, are so uninteresting that I had to look them up just after finishing the game.
The main plot progression was also dull enough that I started speed reading the further I got in and may have read over some stuff, but it is clear that nothing could have made my opinion change on this slog of a visual novel. Trust me, I usually enjoy these types of games provided they offer at least something, but when all you have are attractive still images that can be found through Google, you end up with a game that you have no reason to play.
This review was originally put up on GameFAQs about a year ago, but it was written during a time where I was suffering from bad writer’s block and could not muster up the ability to put in more detail. As such, I am going to use the addendum to provide, well, further thoughts.
Specifically, I don’t think I talked about just how tedious it was reading through this visual novel. To clarify, it is about three hours and there is only one choice towards the end that changes very little, but those were a long three hours. The story of this game was one of the most tedious and uneventful I have ever sat through.
The problem is based on a mix between poor pacing and dull characters. It is almost never a good sign when an ecchi anime or game tries to play itself straight. The reason that series like Hyperdimension Neptunia or Senran Kagura work so well it their sense of self awareness and humor. Both of them do have strong emotional moments, but there are obvious weakness in the plot structure and writing. However, such things are a lot easier to overlook when the characters are likable and the game plays to its strengths.
Sakura Spirit, on the other hand, plays itself way too straight and thinks that compromising positions are a substitute for humor; as if this is something that has never been done before. I can’t remember if there were any moments where whatshisface walks in on a woman while she is changing and gets the crap beat out of him or if he trips and accidentally gropes someone, but this game is so generic that it may as well have.
What is even more baffling is that Japanese games at least have the excuse of cultural differences for why the Japanese may still find them funny, but Sakura Spirit was made in the US, where even most otakus hate these tropes, and there is not a Japanese localization in site. Therefore, one can draw the conclusion that the game was expected to sell based solely on anime tiddies, and it did! This game came out in 2014 and has spawned 16 sequels!
Also I originally said the music was nice, but I don’t think that really explains things. On one hand, most of the tracks in this visual novel were very nice, having a soundfont made up of traditional Japanese instruments comparable to that of Okami’s OST. However, I also need to mention the abysmal “Careless Whisper” wannabe that is “Temptation.” I would not feel the need to single out one song when the other 9 were pretty good, but this song has irritated me so much that just hearing it has an almost “brown note” like effect on me where I start to physically cringe. However, it does at least have beautiful tracks such as “Tranquility.”
There really is not much else to really say about Sakura Spirit other than that it feels completely soulless, and I am having trouble seeing why anyone else can get into these things. Although maybe one of the later games are better. Seeing as how I recently got the Hunie Sakura Bundle on Humble Bundle, I’m bound to try out at least a few of the other ones. It is just unfortunate that Sakura Spirit seemed to be so lacking in said spirit.
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