|Release Date||July 9, 2014|
*Note: While this game is not rated by the ESRB, some would likely find the content questionable. There is no sex or nudity contained here, but they get about as close to nude as you can get without actually being nude. You have been warned.
Sakura Spirit is a visual novel that follows the story of a young man named Gushiken Takahiro. Takahiro, who is really big into judo and has a very important match coming up. This match could lead him to representing all of Japan in an upcoming tournament. Feeling he might need a little extra luck for his upcoming match, Gushiken visits a mysterious shrine in the woods. This shrine is said to grant any wish with a proper offering. After making his offering, he becomes weary and faints. He awakens in a strange world with fox girls being chased by female ninjas. Now in this strange world, Gushiken must try to find a way back home.
This is how the tale begins, and I really enjoyed the story overall. Each of the four main heroines are pretty well-developed, and have a distinctive tone. For example, Tsukino Miyu is your classic tsundere character, while her friend Hikage Narumi is much more laid back and approachable. I think the younger fox sister, Sakurano Maeko, was my personal favorite, though. The innocent playful nature just stood out the most to me. As the story unfolds, you will find out plenty about each character’s background. I won’t get into to that too much here to avoid spoilers, but I found it all pretty interesting. Since, as with everyone you’ve ever met, things that happened to them in their life shape who they are.
Another thing to note on the story is that, while there is a ton of fan service (and I do mean a ton), the story is still very interesting, and has a good message overall. Now, I know some players will be totally turned away by the fan service, and I can respect their choice, but if you don’t mind it, you will find this quite enjoyable.
The artwork is fantastic. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Yep, they put giant-breasted girls in front of Steve, so of course he is happy.” While that may be true, I thought all of the character designs were well done and fit the tone set by the story. I was honestly surprised at the level of detail in the character artwork. All of the environments were nicely done, as well. The outdoor forest environments look very green and lush, while indoor environments are pretty detailed. As your progress through the game, like in many other visual novels, you will unlock all the CG in a gallery you can view at any time.
I really enjoyed the music in Sakura Spirit, as well. It sounds like a more modern version of classic Japanese style music. This fits the mood of the story very well. The drawback here is I felt there really wasn’t enough music. So, you end up hearing the same tracks over and over again. There are very few sound effects. What few there are get the job done, but they are not anything special. There is no voiced dialogue either, which is not a bad thing in my opinion.
There is only one choice you have to make during the entire playthrough of this novel. This was kind of an oddity for me. I am used to playing visual novels with many choices and branching paths. The one choice has no effect on the ending either, it just seems to net you a different CG picture for one story section. I kind of see why they did this here, since this is actually setting you up for a bigger story later on in another installment. I still feel they should have thrown a few more in there to spice things up a bit.
At the end of the day, for the $10 price tag, you get a pretty interesting three to four hour read out of this. I thought the artwork and music were great. Though it could have stood some more music and choices, for the low price point at which they are selling it, I feel you can get that much entertainment out of this. I look forward to seeing what they do with future entries in the series, so long as they include lots of Maeko.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.