By Steve Baltimore / February 4th, 2019
|Publisher||Sol Press USA|
|Release Date||November 19th, 2018|
Sakura Sakura is the second title released by Sol-Press USA. This title was crowdfunded first, but due to some production delays it launched slightly after Newton and the Apple Tree. I found their work on Newton amazing so I was really looking forward to digging into this romantic comedy romp. My expectations were pretty high going into this one. Let’s see how it turned out.
The game is divided up into two main story sections. The first follows Tohru Inaba as he falls in love with both his dorm mother/teacher, Nanako Sakura, and the very strict Fine Arts Club member, Sakura Kirishima. The second follows the game’s second banana, Naoki Fuse, as he is forced to choose between his childhood friend, Akira Nitta and Kurumi Tachibana, his old MMO partner that got separated before they could meet in real life. Sparks will fly, problems are a plenty. But will our heroes prevail? Maybe?
My first impressions of this one were that it was dragging things out way too much. There is a ton of character banter for the first few hours of this game, and to be honest I had a hard time getting into it at first. Later on when the story finally picked up I was kinda glad there was so much horsing around to begin with. This is mostly because it really did give you a better sense of the personality of each character, and keeps a good balance of tone through the game.
Tohru has to be the most indecisive guy in visual novel history. When he first meets Nanako he instantly falls for her. I mean, I can’t really blame the boy; she’s adorable. He transferred to this school to join a non-sports club because of family pressures on the issue. When he lays eyes on Sakura from the Fine Arts Club he is again completely taken in. This leads to a nice love triangle between the three with some pretty hilarious results. He may come off as kind of a pervert at times, but he’s easygoing and probably spreads himself out too thin helping others. Very lucky guy as well. I mean, there is no bad Sakura here; both are amazing in very different ways.
The two Sakuras are like daylight and darkness. Nanako Sakura is a bit older since she is a teacher. Though with her small stature she is often mistaken for a middle schooler. She is very easygoing and has lots of domestic skills. This was pretty much a given since she is the dorm mother where Tohru is staying. She gets jealous easily which I found pretty cute, but she is quick to warm back up to him even when he does do something stupid. Sakura Kirishima is the much more stern girl. She commands the attention of all around her with her overwhelming presence. She is cool, calm and collected in most matters. She takes an interest in Tohru since she feels he has genuine interest in art, and I think he inspired her from the start a bit as well. She is also much more timid in private. To the point, she’s basically a sweetheart at times. She doesn’t have all the daily life skills Nanako does, but she makes up for this with sheer will and dedication.
When you first meet Naoki and Akira they don’t make a great first impression. Both seem really selfish and a source of nothing but trouble for Tohru. You soon realize that although some of their actions aren’t on the up and up, they look out for their friends by whatever means are at their disposal. The pair are childhood friends so it’s only natural they have some feeling for each other, but something from their past nags on them. Naoki’s other love interest is Kurumi Tachibana. The two were partners in an MMO they played a ton of back in the day. Kurumi realizes this is Naoki because of his ringtone and she sets out to claim her first love.
Though I think I like Nanako the best out of the girls, Kurumi ran a really close second place. Kurumi is bullied very badly at the beginning of the game and I felt for her much like I do for Mirai in the Senran Kagura series. When playing her route with Naoki I was happy for her that she was able find and be with the love she lost, even if he’s not good enough for her. Well maybe he is and I’m just jealous!
Nanako really stole my heart though. Not only did I love her character design but her voice actress has one of the sweetest voices I’ve ever heard. The amount of different facial expressions they gave her was simply amazing. Her personality though is what really got me. Nothing like an adorable earnest girl that just wants to be loved.
The gameplay here is a bit different than your typical visual novel. You still have the standard text choices that do affect which story route you’re on and such, but you will also explore the dorm at times. You can choose which room you would like to visit among other things and a 16-bit version of the protagonist moves around on the map. Visiting certain rooms will trigger sub routes that tell the side stories of Tohru’s and Naoki’s adventures. Most of these are quite hilarious, and you can obtain some interesting items as well. You can get hints on where to go from the board located by the phone. You will need to complete these to get all the Steam achievements, but if you don’t want to miss anything in one go there’s a guide on Steam to help you out.
I really enjoyed the artwork overall in Sakura Sakura. Even though Nanako was my favorite I thought that all the characters looked great. This even includes the sub characters, and these get short changed often in the design department. The slight character animations during gameplay really help bring these characters to life. The environments are nicely detailed and there a quite a few of them, though most of the game takes place in just a few areas. I think the CG is where this one really shines. All of the images are highly detailed and I thought of great quality. It’s a shame the mosaics had to be kept for the H scenes, but some Japanese companies just won’t let the localizers do away with them.
A visual novel without a great soundtrack would be very lacking, but that is certainly not the case here. There are plenty of light hearted tunes that add a bit more craziness to the comedy scenes, some really emotional tracks for those more somber moments and some really stand out vocal tracks thrown in here as well. I mentioned Nanako’s voice actor above, but this entire cast really stands out. They really brought these characters to life. I will say you may wanna turn down the volume a bit during the eroge scenes. These girls really get into them, if you catch what I’m saying.
I had a good time with Sakura Sakura. The writing is fantastic, and I caught myself laughing out loud many times while playing this one. It does drag on a bit, especially in the beginning, but so long as you aren’t looking for a super serious story I think most will give it a pass on that. You get 30+ hours of gameplay here for $34.99, so if your jam is a very funny romantic comedy with some amazing girls, this is must-buy title.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
erogeSakura SakuraSol PressSteamvisual novel