Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2012-05-16


Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: February 2, 2012 Available On: 3DS

Sakura Samurai - Banner

Samurai Punch-Out!!

Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword was released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop a few months ago. Despite being drawn to its inexplicably charming style, I passed over the budget-priced action title for a few weeks before finally giving into the urge to play it.

Sakura Samurai - GameplayThe game is basically Samurai Punch-Out!!, if you can imagine such a thing: basically, the duel-style combat boils down to the mastery of your katana attacks and dodging the patterns of your foes. Fortunately, the fluidity of the game and its intuitive control scheme support the precision required to skillfully evade and counterattack your enemies. Basic attacks are carried out with the A button, though you'll tend to dodge more often with the B button, waiting for the right moment between an enemy's attack patterns to strike. Of course, there is a block/parry function (Right trigger), though the use of this ability takes away any of the valuable “Precision Points” that you've collected in the process of pulling off those last-second evasive moves. In addition to collecting gold coins from fallen foes, your Precision Points can be cashed in at the shop located in each village, and ultimately used to purchase useful items, among other things.

More Than Meets The Eye?

The game design is constantly rewarding, with a satisfying sense of progression as you travel across the world map in search of a kidnapped princess. There are three general regions to explore, with the later ones opening up after Sakura finishes each of the levels and tackles a challenging castle stage in each area. The castle levels, naturally, serve as the “boss stages” - Sakura must confront a difficult boss character at the end of each castle to move forward. These battles require you to pull off some of your best moves, and it is also helpful to have an inventory stocked with items. This is really only possible if you re-visit the stages you've already completed, stockpiling gold coins.

Sakura Samurai - Town

This may sound like a tedious process of grinding, but it actually makes Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword feel slightly “RPG-lite”, and it never really gets old because the gameplay is just so entertaining to play. Sakura Samurai is certainly deeper than what I expected from the $7.00 download price; the rewarding sense of progression leads to an expansiveness I never expected, though it is by no means as robust as what you would expect from the “upgrade systems” in deeper RPGs.

Sakura Samurai - Evasion

Still, the game is no slouch: using the gold you've collected, you can forge your katana to make it stronger, purchase several different items in the shop, rest at the local inn, or play a variety of mini-games in each of the villages scattered throughout the world map. You can chat with the local villagers, and though they won't have much to add to the story, there is a feeling that Sakura Samurai could be so much more – perhaps the IP could even be expanded upon for a full retail release, with a bigger map and more in-depth features.

A Lost Art, Or Fresh New IP?

I walked away from Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword completely impressed and admittedly surprised, regretting the time that it took for me to finally invest in the download on the eShop. I don't think it warrants a purchase from every 3DS owner out there, but Sakura Samurai is certainly one of the finest games on the eShop market – and I would go even further; Nintendo should consider developing this new IP even further.

The swordplay is solid, the combat is smooth, the controls are as intuitive as you could possibly hope for – not only that, Sakura Samurai has an undeniably charming visual style and plenty of components that could be expanded upon. I fell in love with the title quickly after picking it up for the very first time, and I think anyone looking for something interesting on the eShop will feel the same way.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 8.6 out of 10
Written by Cliff Bakehorn W rite a User Review

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn