Sakura Spirit
Gameplay 5
Graphics 7
Sound 6

Sakura Spirit features some very nice visuals, but despite an interesting setup the plot never really goes anywhere. The lack of animations or poses are also very noticeable, although the CGs are very good. The nudity that is included in the game definitely leans more towards the ecchi side of the scale and not hentai, which might be a letdown for fans of the genre. There are better visual novels available, but hopefully Winged Cloud learns from their mistakes, as there are not many Western developers who bother making these titles.

Gameplay: The story is rather short and not very engaging.

Graphics: Very detailed and features nice character designs, but the amount of outfits and poses are lacking.

Sound: The soundtrack is nice, but the game features no speech

Summary 6.0 Above Average
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Summary 0.0 Terrible

Sakura Spirit

Developer: Winged Cloud | Publisher: Sekai Project | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Indie Visual Novel | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

Things are going pretty well for Gushiken Takahir. He is on the cusp of realizing his dream to become a national athlete for Japan thanks to his Judo expertise and the only obstacle left for him is to compete in a very important championship. Although confident in his abilities, it will be the match of his life, so Gushiken decides that it wouldn’t hurt to check out an abandoned shrine where wishes or prayers are supposedly granted. Gushiken finds the shrine, but after fainting, wakes up in a different place.

Although Winged Cloud is not the first non-Japanese developer to create a visual novel, Winter Wolves have been doing it for years, it is still unusual due to how niche the genre is. At first glance it is also very easy to mistake this game for a Japanese release thanks to the polished visuals. There is more to a visual novel than just the visuals however and this is where Sakura Spirit trips up a bit.

The story is quite lighthearted and whimsical, so anyone expecting a serious tale will be disappointed. Shortly after coming to his senses Gushiken encounters a couple of fox girls in the middle of what appears to be a panty raid and this goofiness continues throughout the game. The lead character finds himself caught in the middle of a feud between some villagers and the fox girls, but despite the potential the story ends up a little too predictable and the lack of depth keeps it from being memorable.

Of course not every visual novel can or should have a story like Steins;Gate or Ever17, but usually the ones that are light on plot make up for it with plenty of hentai content and humor. Sakura Spirit pushes the boundaries of what is allowed on Steam with some very ecchi content, but refrains from outright nudity. The game is packed with fanservice as the hapless Gushiken is forever barging in on girls as they are changing or ending up in compromising situations due to the infatuation of the female characters. The game also features some slime girls in addition to the fox and human girls. Not only are all of them very well endowed and skimpily attired, but also shiny enough that they look as if they have been dunked in oil. For all the teasing and suggestive artwork nothing ever happens though, and the lead character doesn’t become romantically involved with any of the girls either.

I quite liked the detailed art style of the game, but the girls could definitely have benefited from a few more poses. The CGs are very nice, but during normal conversations the girls remain in the same rigid, static poses with only their facial expressions changing. This is even more jarring later in the game when one of the girls change her outfit, but still maintains the pose she had in the previous one, which featured her holding a katana. The backgrounds look nice, but I would have liked to see a couple more of them as the locations in the game are rather limited.

I quite liked the audio of this visual novel, but it could have benefited from some more sound effects to breathe more life into the story. The music and sound effects can be adjusted independently, but unfortunately the game doesn’t feature speech for any of the characters. Unlike some visual novels, there is no music player within the game (although there is a CG gallery) but the soundtrack is available separately in MP3 as well as FLAC format at a low price. Sakura Spirit has a polished interface and you can save your progress at any time. Advancing the story is as easy as left-clicking, pressing Enter or pressing the space bar. The text can also be set to advance automatically according to the speed that you have selected. If you do miss any text you can easily scroll back using the mouse wheel.

I would definitely classify Sakura Spirit as a kinetic novel, and a very short one at that, as it only features a single choice in the entire game. The decision you make also has a small impact on the story, which means the replay value isn’t exactly very high. When the game was initially released it featured some rough spots in regards to the writing, but a subsequent grammar patch rectified most of the issues. It doesn’t look like they caught everything though, as I still noticed one or two mistakes while playing.

It is a pity that more wasn’t done with the story as I quite liked the characters and setting. The game does hint at a sequel, so hopefully the developers can improve on what they already have with better writing and more animations. Sakura Spirit is far from the worst visual novel that I have ever seen, but the shallow writing makes it a bit hard to recommend unless you are a big fan of the genre.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Pentium 4
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1280 x 720
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
  • OS: OS X 10.6
  • Processor: Any 64 bit processor
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1280 x 720
  • Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Pentium 4
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1280 x 720
  • Hard Drive: 200 MB available space

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1 Comment

  1. Kenshinkensei March 12, 2015
    Reply

    I’m very divided on this one. One the one hand the illustrations are beautiful, but on the other I didn’t find the story engaging at all and by teh time I finished the game I couldn’t even remember any of the character names. Thanks for doing a decent evaluation instead of just blindly bashing the game over its themes. Too many reviews contain no insights and just hatred.

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