- Simple controls that are easy to get used to, in and out of combat.
- A variety of mini-games available from the main menu and towns within the game itself.
- A soundtrack fitting to the setting of the game.
- Precision Points can be used to obtain gold, challenging you to reach an even higher amount to get massive amounts of money.
- The game is fairly short, easily completed in just a few hours.
- Limited amount of enemy types encountered throughout the game.
- Precision points are easily lost during combat.
- Limited amount of support items available for purchase.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword, is absolutely a charming game. While it may be difficult at first when you are just learning the basic controls, you easily get adjusted to the basics and are on your way from a tutorial level. While enemies only have a few attacks as the game progresses they have a habit of faking you out to try and make you slip up, allowing them to land a hit.
Starting with just three hearts, or in this case cherry blossom petals, you obtain more life by clearing stages. Every stage you clear gives you half a petal. Upon completion of two stages and forming a whole petal, you get another point of life. In the beginning each enemy attack will only do one heart of damage to you per attack, this quickly changes though as you reach the second area. As you progress through the game enemies will do larger amounts of damage, bosses always doing the most damage per area. This however can be avoided by paying attention to the way an enemy moves.
Certain enemies, such as the basic swordsman, will charge you from a long range and may his rush immediately in front of you making you test your reflex speed when he starts moving again. Archers may fire off a single arrow, or fire several successive arrows to keep you at bay. With the introduction of each enemy, and progression into each stage, you are forced to relearn enemy attack patterns. While projectiles can be slashed it’s also possible to weave between them and progress towards an enemy. Movement in combat is largely limited to strafing and inching forward very slowly, unless you use the dodge function to cover more ground. Successfully dodging an enemy attack and landing a blow on your enemy will add a slight charge to your special attack meter, when it’s full you press Y to unleash a devastating attack on enemies.
Weapon upkeep is important in this game. As demonstrated in the tutorial, when you block too many attacks, or clash with an enemy’s weapon too many times, your sword will break. As your weapon’s condition deteriorates it will do less damage. Fortunately the weapon doesn’t ever truly break, but only goes down to red which indicates it is doing the absolute minimum damage. Using a whetstone, from either of the damaged states of the sword, brings it back up to full damage again. For a fee you can also have a blacksmith in town sharpen your weapon for you, resulting in a dramatic attack and durability boost. The blacksmith is also important as you progress into a new area, where enemies become stronger and require more hits to slay. At each town you visit, the local blacksmith can upgrade your sword increasing its maximum damage.
Visiting towns becomes a necessity, as they are the only places to fully restore your health at an inn. Also present in towns is a shop called Frogs Plus, where you sell your accumulated precision points and can get large amounts of gold to then purchase various helpful items such as whetstones for sharpening your sword, kunai to throw at your enemies and even frogs to gross out an opponent and get them to drop their guard.
The final attraction in towns are street games. Participating in Street Games, challenges issued by specific NPCs in one of the towns located throughout the map, will result in the player obtaining gold or stamps upon successfully completing the mini-game. While gold is used to purchase the necessities of the game, and a few extras, stamps have a single function. Stamps are redeemed for various attack gems, special stones that give your Samurai new special attacks.
The music within this game is truly fitting of the setting, an era of Japan where samurai wander the countryside with sword in hand. While there are only a few tunes to the soundtrack, they are all pleasant to the ear. From the menu to the credits not a single moment of the game is without some accompaniment.
Oddly enough, sometimes dying in this game can be of a benefit to you. When you die a kappa will appear at a random zone of the map. This signifies that the enemies located within the zone will drop abnormal amounts of gold. However, there is a downside to this. Entering any zones besides this one, even a town to recover, results in the kappa disappearing. Leaving you with a choice, do you risk dying again and having the kappa go to an even more difficult area, or do you recover and allow him to vanish. The amount of gold obtained in this manner varies by enemies.
Even with as short as this game is, it’s still fun to go back and see just how high you can get your precision points. Constantly challenging yourself to do better, creating a mini-game in and of itself. The last features of this game are Thug Challenges, mini-games accessed from the main menu in which you try to survive an onslaught of enemies. Then there’s the Rock Garden, utilizing the pedometer located within the 3DS itself, you can dedicate the steps you’ve taken in a day to make cherry blossoms bloom on empty trees in this garden, while it serves no function it is enjoyable to see all your movement in a day rewarded with a beautifully blossoming cherry tree.