Sakura Spirit is a visual novel made by Winged Cloud. While this is my second review of an installment in this non-linear series, I believe this is the first of them. At any rate, as it was the first one I experienced I will be going over it as such. Also note that I have this game on PC through Steam, a platform primarily for gaming. Since the service seems to treat them as games and not as something different as they do with movies, I will most likely be referring to it as a game while keeping in mind the genre. With all of that in mind, let us begin.
This is a visual novel so I’ll try not to spoil much for the story events, but the basic plot revolves around the perspective of the main character, Takahiro. Takahiro is a student and also is training to become a judo champion. Before his championship, he gets convinced to go pray at an old shrine for luck, only to find himself greeted by a mysterious spirit and then transported to another world. Could it be some far away land, the past, or an entirely new world? It’s hard to know, but Takahiro quickly finds himself in the middle of a feud between the humans of a nearby village and the spirits of the forest. In particular, he finds the two village guardians and the two fox spirits he encounters to be on poor terms. They also happen to all be cute girls as well, which certainly plays into many sexually tense situations. It’s up to Takahiro to help stop the fighting and hope that THIS is the task that fate has sent here to accomplish so that he may finally return to his own world.
The gameplay is the standard for a visual novel, really. You simply click to advance the text and scenes. If you hit the scroll wheel you can temporarily remove the interface to see the entirety of the current image. Most scenes consist of a background with the characters placed on top. They mostly retain the same poses but with different positions, expressions, and sometimes different outfits. At certain key scenes during the game you’ll be shown a more unique, detailed image of the situation. These images will then become available to view later in the gallery option on the main menu. You can also save multiple files, load, quick save, and quick load. There’s even a back, auto, and skip function. Back allows you to go back to the previous set of text. Auto will automatically go forward at a pace you can select in the settings. And skip allows you to skip over parts you’ve previously seen. The few other options are minor things such as a fullscreen or windowed option, screen transitions, and audio. I had the sound off as I played so unfortunately I cannot comment on the soundtrack. There is also one part of the game that offers you a choice, leading to a different following scene before meeting back up with the main story so the ending is unaffected either way. After the ending, the credits roll and you are back to the title screen.
The game has plenty to like… if you like hot anime girls. The fox spirit girls are somewhat exotic, if you’re into that sort of thing. Though the warrior girls might tickle your fancy more. It all depends on your taste, I suppose. Still, it’s clearly well designed around putting you into these scenarios with the scantily clad cuties… just like you know you wanted. The story is rather simple so you don’t need to deal with crazy twists and turns or any confusing concepts while you’re trying to enjoy the view. There’s also only one choice to consider which can be easily accessed again to see the alternate route and it doesn’t even change the ending. The writing is functional and the characters each have their own personality trait to make them feel different, which is nice. You even play it with one hand! It’s just nice to have some context to your fapping now and then, ya know? Or if you just want to come back later for the goods… the gallery will always be there after you experience the story.
Of course, there’s plenty of issues here. Obviously, it’s not a very good GAME as it is a visual novel. The singular choice hardly counts as gameplay and it also adds nothing to the experience but another gallery picture. The writing isn’t that great. There are some typos here and there which are a bit more noticeable in something so text-heavy. Really I think it needed either a better story overall or stronger characters. They are rather one-dimensional with only a bit of depth slapped in via backstory monologues. The plot has a similar issue of very clunkily going from an establishing scene to a chunk of exposition to make the current situation actually have some weight, and then swiftly turns to sexual scenarios to break up the seriousness. It’s all rather predictable and lacks the style to be so simple. Also, they don’t have that many poses for showing off the characters in the regular scenes nor is there any romance options. The main character might be the roughest part to adjust to. While it’s from a first person type of perspective, it plays out as the character Takahiro would do thing rather than letting the main character be yourself. Beyond that, he seems to turn down every single amazing opportunity he gets, yet he’s still written as if he’s a straight male struggling with it. It’s just too unbelievable to resist that much in EVERY situation. So that took me a bit out of the idea.
All things considered, it’s something I can’t recommend as a game. As a visual novel, I can only really suggest it to those who want some context to their jerk off material. It’s not a great story and the characters could use more work, but the art is quite appealing and it will put you in plenty of fun situations. It has only the one choice to deal with so it’s quite simple and as an older installment in the series, Sakura Spirit is a great candidate to get on sale for a few bucks in order to give the series a shot. While it’s not the best of them, it’s a solid start and aspects will go up and down from there in later ones as you experience the rest, should you choose to do so. If you’re looking for a visual novel for the novel part… you might want to look elsewhere. All I can tell you is… Maeko is mine. I’ve got dibs, so back off!