Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword
Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword is, in fact, a 3DS game exclusive to the 3DS e-shop. A bit surprising I'm not talking about a book this time, but I've been playing this game recently and I just thought I would like to talk about it. Since the last two books I wrote about are underrated, you may be wondering if this one would also be underrated. Yes, you would be right, and no, I'm not always going to have posts about underrated media, though it interests me.
I bought this game many years ago when it first came out, and I wasn't disappointed. To be honest though, the story isn't very unique. It's the whole princess is kidnapped by an evil who wants to take over the world and you, a young samurai in training, goes out to save her. I can't complain too much about this I guess since the game focuses more on the gameplay than the story. It knows what it's going for.
If I were to describe this game to you as a genre, I would compare it to a hack-and-slash, though it's different. A hack-and-slash game is best known for combat. The player rushes through screen after screen beating up bad guys with speed and power attacks! This game is slower than that. Sakura Samurai is all about precision and reaction timing. You're not encouraged to be the first to strike. Instead, the enemy comes to you, and you must wait for him to attack first, then quickly dash out of the way and strike. The closer the attack when you dodge, the more points you get.
As you can imagine, this makes for a pretty frustrating play, but it's so rewarding to get it right! Since the game relies so much on your ability to dodge in time, it's very strategic. You have other things you can do to help you as well. You can block instead of dodging, though that dulls your sword. There's also hints in the opponent's movements as well. A red tail to a swing means they're going to strike once, and a yellow means they're striking multiple in succession. You can carry whetstones to sharpen, daggers for a ranged weapon, sakura rice cakes for healing, and frogs to scare your opponent. Yes, all the lesser opponents in this game have a phobia of frogs. Throw one out and make them flinch!
There are also bosses in this game.
The first one isn't too bad, but the other two are very tough, especially the last one! I die a lot in this game. I did manage to beat it, but I still don't really know how to avoid the last one's attacks. He is very unpredictable, and it doesn't make me feel much better when the game tells you how many times you died in the game before the credits roll!
The game is made up of three areas. Each has a castle with a boss at the end, and each has a town where you can heal up, stock up, and play games for prizes. The games in the towns aren't too different from the reactionary gameplay in the other areas, though the prizes are worth it. If you play for a prize, you get a sheet for stamps, and you'll get stamps based on how well you do in the game. For each sheet you complete, they'll give you a new power gem. The power gems increase the range and attack power of your special attack. Each time you dodge something successfully, you'll fill up your sword meter. When it's full, you can attack everything in front of you, or, if you have some of the later gems, things all around you. If you're struggling with the game, I do recommend going for the gems (even though you can't use them on bosses).
Minigames are different for each town, and they involve tasks like cutting a number of things perfectly in half, or slicing at floating leaves, or hitting every thrown item in front of you.
I mentioned before there are three areas, but I should also mention how short the game is. I took my time and still beat the main story in a few short hours. It does offer some other features though. After beating the game, you can play again on expert mode, which only gives you three hearts of health throughout the whole game. Bosses can wipe you out in one hit in this mode! I have a confession to make; I have never been able to beat expert mode. I can't make it past the second boss. Boo.
Besides the main game, there's thug challenges on the main menu, which gives you a slew of enemies with only a certain number of supplies. There's thirty, fifty, and a hundred. Took me a while to beat the hundred challenge, though I've done it.
There's even a little rock garden screen where you can dedicate the steps you took with the system to make the trees bloom! It doesn't offer much in terms of gameplay, but it's very pretty to look at.
One of the biggest reasons why I like this game is actually on the aesthetics of it. The characters may not be much to look at and are often hilarious, but the music is absolutely beautiful! I also love being a samurai. As I said, it's very rewarding if you become good at it. Though your precision points start back at zero if you mess something up. That is my biggest frustration.
I also can't leave this post until I talk about the kappa! Oh my, there is a kappa in this game! I'm a huge lover of folklore, and kappas are a Japanese classic! To be honest, they're one of my favorites! For those who don't know, a kappa is a Japanese monster who is kind of like a human crossed with a turtle. They usually live in ponds and lakes, and the bowl on the top of their head carries the water from their home.
Stories involving the kappa usually shows them being quite the tricksters. They like to pull dirty pranks on people, and some stories even have them kidnapping people and killing them. Some are quite dark, but I still can't help to love kappas. People can usually stop their tricks by appeasing them with their favorite foods; cucumbers. Some other stories tell us the kappa can be immobilized if they lose the water in their head.
Surprisingly, the kappa in this game is more of a mentor to the player. He is deeply distressed over the loss of the princess and has been waiting for a hero to help her. He shows the player how to fight and can be found in the wells of the towns. He mentions how he doesn't think anyone there knows he's a kappa, though he's usually the one to test you in the minigames. The human characters don't seem to mind him and refer to him as Master Melonbowl.
Overall, this is totally an underrated game. If this post makes you curious and you have a 3DS, I totally think you should try it. It's not the best game made. That's for sure. It can be lacking in gameplay sometimes, it's really short, and the story isn't very original, but it's also very cheap. I bought this when it first came out for ten dollars and you can buy it for cheaper than that now. For the price, it is certainly a must-play! The music makes me wish I had a soundtrack for it honestly, and I have to give it points for the kappa. It's fun, challenging, and totally awesome to improve with.
I would love to know what you think about this post. Are you interested in posts about games and tech, or do you think I should stick with books? What underrated games have you played? If you played this one, tell me your opinion on it!