Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword is an eShop game about timing, about knowing the right moment to dodge and riposte, like Punch-Out!! but set in feudal Japan, yes, but it’s also about patience and gambling, sometimes literally with the coins you’ve pocketed from making short work out of enemies that have no business holding a katana, and other times with your life as you push your luck to see how long your sense of timing will keep you alive.
It’s in those gambles when patience comes into play — you can sidestep and attack the moment your foe pulls his sword up, or you can stand steady and wait a breath, wager a heart or two, then slip around your enemy’s swing at the last second for a counterattack and a Precision Point. You can dispatch your enemies efficiently, never wasting a movement, mimicking the proficiency of Samurai Seven’s Kyuzo or Zatoichi’s Gennosuke. Or you can toy with the clumsy conscripts that circle around you, skipping away from their strikes repeatedly, racking up Precision Points that you can later cash in at the village shop.
As you master Sakura Samurai’s timing and learn to practice patience in every encounter, those gambles begin to tip more and more in your favor, your pockets start to bulge with gold, and the corpses behind you multiply.
Five things that are fab:
- From the beginning, you can see the final stage looming atop a distant mountain, promising to meet you at the end of the adventure.
- While there are only three areas you’ll walk through during your journey, there are several minigames that serve as fun distractions from the main game, and will test your timing and patience. You can bet your gold and earn stamps (redeemable for useful prizes) while performing street tricks. The 30/50/100-thug challenges are also very addictive.
- Especially at the start of your quest, when you’re still adjusting to the weight of your blade and figuring out the tells of different opponents, every duel, every moment before your enemy brings down his weapon is brimming with tension.
- I have the most fun fucking with archers in this game. If you position yourself correctly, you can dodge their arrows and have them hit other enemies. And if you dodge them enough times (or anyone else’s attacks), the archers will get angry and send their missiles at you even faster — raising the stakes by increasing your chances of getting hit, but rewarding you with more coins when you finally kill them.
- I love how rival samurais, the ones that leave their swords sheathed until they slash out, die with a hand outstretched and a look of shock on their face, posed for a second before collapsing.
Four things that are butt:
- I was really disappointed that the three towns all feature the same characters, as well as the same shops and shopkeepers. Some of the street games, too, are reused with only a minor twist.
- Blue-shirt spear guys. These guys are total jerks. Make sure to stock up on frogs that you can throw at them as distractions, then disembowel these fools.
- I know it’s foolish to expect gore from a Nintendo title, and the cherry blossoms do an adequate job representing the results of your slashes, but it would’ve been badass to see fountains of blood spraying from your enemy’s wounds.
- Speaking of Shogun Assassin, I found myself wishing that the soundtrack was more like Rza’s dark, menacing production in classic Gza album Liquid Swords, instead of the standard samurai game fare.
See also: More eShop news
[Image via Rand]