Continuing with Nintendo’s strong support for it’s downloadable content, comes another high-quality title on the 3DS eShop. Sakura Samurai, just like Pushmo, revolves around a simple premise, yet has some parts of deep gameplay. And just like Pushmo, it has a charming design and is easy to play. It’s a winning formula, as Sakura Samurai is another big hit for the 3DS eShop.
Platform: 3DS (eShop)
Genre: Action, Fighting
Release Date: February 2, 2012
The setting for Sakura Samurai is that you’re a wandering samurai who stumbles upon a kappa. The kappa is revealed to be a master swordsman and trains the samurai and tells him the story of the disappearance of Princess Cherry Blossom. With her disappearance, the ancient tree has never bloomed again. So the samurai is given the hard task of finding and rescuing Princess Cherry Blossom, and to reunite the divided lands. Thus he is dubbed the Sakura Samurai.
This is an adventure game with a large focus on combat. Each level will have you battling a certain amount of enemies, with larger groups being separated into waves. The enemies will consist of various types, with each type having a different form of attack. This is an important part of the game as you’ll need to learn enemy attack patterns in order to survive. It’s a similar set up in Punch-Out!!, where you’ll need to dodge incoming attacks first in order to land some of your own. In Sakura Samurai you do the same, by looking at how the enemy is attacking and then dodging in the appropriate direction and then performing your attack while your enemy is open. Doing an attack at any other point will mostly end with you getting blocked and then attacked by the enemy. You can also choose to block attacks.
That’s basically all there is to the gameplay. It’s pretty simple in concept, but there are some other mechanics to take into consideration. As you attack and get attacks blocked, your sword’s sharpness will begin to dull out. Once it does, it won’t do as much damage and you’ll need to use a whetstone to sharpen it. There are also other useful items from frogs you can throw at enemies in order to scare them and leave themselves open for an attack, to daggers that you can also throw in order to damage enemies from long range. There are also rice cakes you can eat to regain health points.
At various points on the world map, you’ll come across villages that you can visit. From here, you’re able to save your game or heal yourself from the Inn. Buy and sell items from the town shop, with a couple special items for sell like the Kappa Amulet, which will revive you if you fall in battle (think ‘Fairy in a bottle’ from the Zelda series). You can also sell your Precision Points for money, which are points that you get rewarded for performing perfect dodges in battle, but lose if you take damage or get your attacked block. There is also a swordsmith that can sharpen your sword or forge it into a higher level sword.
Also at villages, will be mini-games that you can participate in. These games mostly test your reflexes with your sword attacks as some will have to chopping fruit thrown at you to only cutting fruit with sad faces on them. These mini-games are optional, but they’re a good source of income if you are highly dependent on items or need to upgrade a sword. You’ll also earn stamps depending on how well you do in these mini-games, and getting enough stamps will also earn you some extra benefits, like a new special attack.
Sakura Samurai starts off easy in the early stages, but you can see the difficulty begin to ramp up, especially when you get around to your first boss fight. Being able to read attack patterns will be real key to beating these bosses, as they hit hard. So there is some skill involved once you reach the later points in the game. If you don’t find the game challenging enough, you can opt in to check out a harder mode that unlocks after you beat the game for the first time. In this more difficult mode, you’ll have a little bit of health, with the inability to gain more, and every attack that lands will kill you. So it’s a real test of your dodging capabilities.
Going through the game once can take a good few hours to do so, depending on your skill. You can also spend some extra hours on the mini-games and grinding out money. There are also extra modes outside of the story like the 30-man, 50-man, and 100-man thug challenges where you are given limited health and items while you take out a large sum of enemies without dying. The other mode, the Rock Garden, is a more peaceful setting, where the steps you take with your 3DS will cause the garden to bloom and provide you with some useful items.
Matching it’s simple playstyle is a just as simple design. Sakura Samurai isn’t set on performing any graphical feats, but the art is nice to look at. Seeing cherry blossom petals fly around, the bright colors of the scenery. It matches well with the setting of the game. The 3D is also nicely done. I didn’t feel that it helped me play better, but you get a nice sense of depth with it on and the joy of seeing things pop out.
Sakura Samurai is a challenging game, but a very satisfying one. Once you get a grasp of how the enemy attack patterns are performed, you’ll be dodging them easily and feel proud of it. The difficulty does ramp up, but the game does a good job at easing you into them, without any huge spikes in difficulty. The gameplay is simple, yet has several other factors for you to consider. There isn’t much more to it than that, but it does it really well and it’s definitely worth checking out.