When I started this adventure into Sakura depravity, I was expecting four weeks of ‘main’ Sakura games. Angels, Swim Club, Beach, Fantasy. I had a plan, as they say, and the plan was good.
And then at the last minute, at the proverbial eleventh hour, Steam dropped a new Sakura game in the store. The sixth feature-length Sakura. And not only that: it was actually a sequel! To one of the games I was going to play, no less! I recognize signs when I see them: there was obviously no way I wasn’t going to have to add this one to the repertoire.
And given how much I’ve been emphasizing last week’s Sakura Fantasy as being a Chapter One, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that this week’s game is…
Well, I mean, you’ve probably read the title. Sakura Beach 2. The Worst Sakura Game, Redux.
Screw you, signs.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, pretty high. Mechanical, you know the drill. NSFW level: mostly okay, with one or two glaring page-2 exceptions.)
(Game source: Patreon. I’m almost free, I’m almost free, I’m almost free.)
After the break: Sakura Beach 2. Oh boy. Will this be more adventures with space-guy Seiji and his horribly abusive friends?
Sakura Fantasy is probably the laziest Sakura game name I’ve seen so far. It tells me nothing. Oh, so it’s a game about a fantasy? I guess that sets it apart really nicely from all those other Sakura games. Like the one about spirits, and the one about angels, and the one about two large-breasted bisexual teenagers vying for the attention of Stockholm Syndrome Incarnated. Sakura Grounded In Reality, I like to call that set of games.
Yeah, yeah, I get that it’s probably intended as capital-F swords-and-sorcery Fantasy. Leave me with my spite. It’s all I have left.
Sakura Fantasy does immediately counteract its blandness with a bold implication of continuity. It’s not just ‘Sakura Fantasy‘: it’s ‘Sakura Fantasy… Chapter 1’. Meaning that, at the very least, the Sakura Fantasy experience was considered grand-scale enough to at least have to span two games. And maybe… maybe more?
Whether or not this is in any way a good thing, of course, remains to be seen.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, somewhat high. Mechanical, rope-a-dope. NSFW level: really high, almost excessively so. And starting from the first page! So, er… tread with care?)
(Game source: Patreon. Have I not danced for your entertainment enough, you cruel art masters?)
After the break: on the one hand, more Sakura games means I get to extend this lazy-writing joke for even more weeks. On the other hand, if Sakura Fantasy is anything like Sakura Beach…
Week 3 of VNADS II: Sakura Harder is here, and we’re going much stronger than I’d expected. Sakura Angels was ‘somewhat okay’, and Sakura Swim Club turned out to be actually good. And I know you guys mostly came here to watch me suffer through six weeks of garbage, but… I’m kind of okay with this.
Also, I’ve been thinking. Sakura Swim Club beat Sakura Angels, which beat Sakura Spirit. And what’s the one element that’s been increasing over all three games? That’s right: water. Water fun activities, to be precise. Sakura Spirit only had one lazy pool scene, and it was bad. Sakura Angels had an extended cheesecake beach scene and monster battle, and it was okay. And obviously, give or take half of Sakura Swim Club involved swimming, and the nuances thereof. The trend is clear: ‘more water’ equates ‘more gooder’.
Let’s see if we can’t keep that trend up, alright. This week, let’s take a visit to a beach. A… Sakura Beach.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, pretty high. Mechanical, nope^3. NSFW level: a little bit of underwear and some suggestive themes, but really nothing major.)
(Game source: Patreon.)
After the break: Sakura Beach actually has two distinct water sources! A beach, and a pool. So does that mean it’s double super good? Well…
The second week of my harrowing Sakura Adventure starts with a decided ratcheting down of the supernatural. In Sakura Spirit, time travel brought me to a feudal Japan where fox spirits battled ooze monsters for the affections of an incumbent judo champion. And in Sakura Angels, scantily clad celestial guardians fought shadowy monster, and succubus sorceresses from beyond the veil of history, for the affections of a lazy high school student with absentee parents. Colour me surprised, then, when the next game in the series seems to take place in a mundane high school swim club.
Well, ‘mundane’. A Sakura Swim Club. Mundanity probably still won’t factor into it.
Which forgettable white-bread protagonist will I control this time around? What particular style of anime nonsense plot will he fall into? And what are the unique and quirky attributes of the women that this time will try to win his affections?
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, pretty high, with a marked speedbump. Mechanical, still a visual novel. NSFW level: a few examples of ‘convenient objects obscure nipples’ full-frontal.)
(Game source: Patreon.)
After the break: the answers to these questions, and ‘more’, are revealed!
I regret this idea already.
I jest, I jest. This Sakura Angels review is actually a long time coming: of all the games you’ll see in the coming month, this is the one I’ve been actually planning. I spotted Sakura Angels on Steam and Twitter not long after it came out, January of 2015. I knew I’d eventually have to review it, right there and then. And so I kept a Chrome tab with the Steam store page open, among the interminably shifting chaos that is my Chrome browsing experience. I kept that tab open for ten months.
Today, I finally get to close it.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-to-high, I suppose.. Mechanical, ‘visual novel’. NSFW level: maybe not open the second review page around office bosses or small children.)
(Game source: Patreon. Damn each and every one of you.)
After the break: Sakura Angels. What are the odds, you think, of these ‘angels’ not understanding the human concept of ‘concealing clothing’? Place your bets now!
Awww yes. Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook. I started this insane exploration into visual novels and dating sims with Winter Wolves‘ Summer in Fairbrook, a little over two months ago, so I can’t think of a better game to close it out on.
That’s right: with this review as the gate closer, I’m officially calling VNADS 2014 finished. I really need to play some games that aren’t visual novels, you guys. I’m not done with visual novels for good, of course. In fact, I’m considering making VNADS a recurring event. Visual novels have been an interesting way to get through late fall and early winter. Who knows what November and December 2015 will hold? At the very least, the coming ten months should give me just enough time to power my way through Fate/Stay Night.
If I hurry.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, somewhat high. Mechanical, complete…ly pointless, HAH.)
After the break: Back to the Steve that started it all. And all the other characters, I suppose.
Woof. Lemme tell you something, readers: these visual novels and dating sims are getting to me. I’ve been doing this VNADS nonsense for, how long, two months now? Two and a half? And I haven’t even scratched the tip of the iceberg for what’s available. Hell, I haven’t even started scratching the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been taking loose-lying pieces of ice for handy-dandy drink refreshment and patting myself on the back for bravely diving into the weird and wonderful world of visual novels.
I need to wrap up the VNADS experiment soon. At least for this year. I’ve been letting so many interesting indie games pass by simply because they weren’t visual novels! It’s honestly driving me a little mad. Plus, I think I might be starting to parse my real-life conversations in visual novel terms? I’ll probably revisit this idea again, next year — maybe as an annual autumn celebration of sorts? For now, you get this week’s article, then I’m taking next week off for Christmas purposes, and then one to close out the old year and lead in the new. I even have just the game picked out, too. Don’t worry, you’ll love it.
As for this week: don’t ask me how I decided on Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ (Go Go Nippon from here on out). If you have to ask, you’ll never really understand the answer. Look at it! It bills itself as sort of an animated guide book to visiting Japan… except it’s also a romance-driven visual novel? And the Steam tag ‘Nudity’ promises some great things as well. I have zero idea how easy-to-write-about this game’ll end up being, but I assume you all understand that I have to find out.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, somewhat high, for those parts of it that can meaningfully be spoiled. Mechanical, still a visual novel!.)
After the break: visiting Japan, yeah! Learning facts and trivia, yeah! Incredibly contrived romance, yeah!
You know what? Sometimes, you just gotta go by instinct. A few weeks ago, in the comments section for that most inspiring of visual novels (Sakura Spirit), a commenter by the name of Pawel (345) mentioned that if I was ever in the market for non-awful visual novels, I could try… well, it was a whole list, but the thing that stuck out is the two particular games mentioned that were on Steam: WORLD END ECONOMiCA, and Hatoful Boyfriend.
Sometimes, you just gotta go by instinct. WORLD END ECONOMiCA, developed by Spicy Tails and brought to Steam through the Kickstarted efforts of Sekai Project, being mentioned in the same breath as Hatoful Boyfriend, a game that I unreservedly recommend to anyone ever? I’m not incredibly superstitious, but it seems to me that sort of thing might mean something.
And, well, that’s how we find ourselves here, readers. WORLD END ECONOMiCA, silly capitalization non-optional, episode 1 of 3. Sometimes, you just gotta go by instinct.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, really very high, particularly on page 2. Mechanical, not a factor.)
After the break: then again, sometimes you shouldn’t.
Long Live The Queen is an interesting case as far as review histories are concerned. On its Steam release about one year ago, a large group of my Steam-and-Twitter-friends all started playing and talking about it simultaneously. It was everywhere for a few days. And while you’d think something like that would practically impel me to write about it, I, er… just kinda didn’t.
I don’t actually remember why I chose not to write about Long Live The Queen. Given that Hanako Games‘ repertoire includes Magical Diary, one of the very first games I wrote about on the Blue Screen Of Defunct and a game I enjoyed a great deal in general, and given that all my friends were playing at the time, neither game nor publisher had done anything to earn any active distrust. But… again, I don’t know. The most likely answer is that there were just too many other games around then, as there are now, and I just forgot about ever addressing it.
And now, one year after everyone stopped caring, I’m here to rectify that oversight.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-high. Mechanical, mostly absolute.)
After the break: does the Queen, in fact, Live Long? Those of you who’ve played this game will know the answer to that one.
It was a dark and moonless night.
“Bah, humbug!” Jarenth was overheard to mumble. “I don’t know what to do for this week! I could just grab another random game, but I find myself tired of all the ur-Japanese VNADS I’ve been reviewing for the last month and a half. High-school-age people in a high school setting, one man surrounded by half a dozen women all meticulously varied in looks, hair colour and personality, maybe one or two entirely non-threatening guys thrown in for good measure… It works as a formula, sure, I guess, but can I find something different for once?”
And look, in a flash of thunder, there appeared before him the Steam suggestions queue. “Why don’t you play Cinders“, it chimed, “Moacube‘s re-imagining of the Cinderella story? Look at how little high school uniforms these screenshots have on display!”
And all was right with the world again.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-high. Mechanical, still a visual novel, guys.)
After the break: and they all lived happily ever after! Except the ones that didn’t.