[Review] Sakura Spirit

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You know, that’s the exact same question I was asking myself as I was reading through this… this thing.

In case you haven’t seen my nervous breakdown on Twitter, here’s the quick rundown: Sakura Spirit is an English-language visual novel released on Steam just recently, it’s about scantily-clad ladies and… well, not much else. It’s also not very good.

Update (9/18/2014): This review is based on the launch version of the game as it appeared on July 11 when I wrote this. I didn’t check myself so I can’t 100% confirm this (I’m *not* reading through this thing again, sorry), but I think the script may have underwent some revisions/updates since then due to all the complaints, mainly in order to fix some of the more horrendous errors highlighted in this review.

“Why did you even buy this, then?”, I can hear you ask. And you know what, that’s a perfectly valid question, but allow me to explain. As my experience with English visual novels has so far been, quite frankly, absolutely terrible, I went into this with fairly low expectations. Still, they weren’t *too* low —  I mean, I figured it would at least qualify as an acceptable moege sort of affair, with cute, competently-written dialogue and lovable heroines.

And then the first minute of the game happened.

sakura wat

sakura spirit1

sakura spirit2

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jontron wtf reaction

Random weeabooisms (basically blurting out Japanese in the middle of an English sentence), typos and strangely constructed sentences all in one delicious trainwreck of a package. Fun for the whole family.

Don’t get me wrong, a typo here and there I can absolutely forgive, it happens to everyone — hell, you should see the drafts of my reviews. Even after my initial surprise, I was all “okay, what the fuck ever, let’s press on, maybe it gets better”. Besides, it’s unprofessional to write off a game after only 5 minutes, right? The problem is, it doesn’t quite get better — well, if there’s one quality I can (morbidly) admire about Sakura Spirit, other than the ladies and their lady parts, it’s the game’s ability to be so consistently bad. Just when you think you’re out of the danger zone and can have a quick breather (because not every single line is *that* bad, honestly), BAM you suffer a preemptive strike right into your English prose muscle.

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And it hurts. Oh it hurts. There’s onee-samas, ojii-sans, shinigamis and kamis and bouzus and imoutos and everything else you can think of: I believe the screenshots speak for themselves. It almost reminded me of this. Out of place Japanese aside, the bigger problem is probably the really awkward sentence flow. Other than the author’s complete and absolute hatred of the comma, some sentences are put together so haphazardly that reading through them soon becomes a chore, a puzzle to be solved. They’re also quite often needlessly long, expressing things that would have worked far better broken up into two or more shorter sentences.

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KILL ME

*screams internally*

The story is basically just an excuse for softcore porn, so expect to see some of the heroines outright invite the MC for sex in a roundabout, innuendo-filled way, only to induce the usual “n-n-n-no thanks! blush blush” reaction — as such, the dialogue has its fair share of tryhard humor coupled with awkward references to pop culture. It’s not a very appealing end result, unless you think PANTIES AND BOOBS HAHA LOL is good comedy. Spoilers: it’s not. There’s even an extremely forced reference to the Ace Attorney series in connection with underwear theft, which ends up being about as funny as you would expect.

NO

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JUST

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MAKE IT

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MAKE IT STOP

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kill me

So, uh, anyway.

You might be wondering why I’m talking so much about writing. The reason is quite simple, actually, and shouldn’t come as a surprise — a VN’s primary asset in engaging the reader is, you guessed it, its writing. It’s the writing that sets the scene and brings your characters to life. It’s the writing that pulls you into a fictional world and makes you feel like it’s real.

And none of that happens here.

However, don’t let it be said that I’m a man who won’t give credit where credit is due, so I will have to confess that I did kinda enjoy Sakura Spirit’s artwork. It’s cute, it’s colorful, and even manages to be sexy here and there — in all honesty, it’s far better than what you can often find in many other amateur English-language VNs.

Yeah, it’s fanservice-y, but Japan does the same thing, and besides, I’m not gonna pretend to be a saint and say I don’t like seeing some skin from time to time. But this alone is hardly enough to carry the game, and I believe everything I’ve written above makes that one fact painfully evident. If you just need to see some of the HCG, I mean, non-HCG, do a quick image search and call it a day. Look, I even posted some for you in this very review! The VN itself isn’t especially long, by the way. I’ve seen people say it’s under an hour — maybe I’m too much of a slowpoke for that, but I’d say it’s realistically more around 2 hours. Or at least somewhere between 2 and 3 hours, depending on your speed and how much you skip because you just want to make the pain stop.

Look, I know. I know it’s just a silly T&A cash-grab with lazy writing and no effort, and I shouldn’t get all worked up over it. But the thing is… if people think this is what qualifies as a visual novel, well… fuck, I don’t even know. This game only helps to spread the already fairly prevalent misconception that visual novels are just glorified porn (or in this case, softcore T&A) games. If you’re a VN reader yourself, or if you’ve just been following my blog, you know this is most definitely not the case.

And if you’re new to the whole visual novel phenomenon — and you’re reading this review –, I want you to know there’s much more to this medium. So, so much more. Don’t let something like this make you think this is all there is to VNs. And if you still have the urge to spend 10 bucks on a Steam visual novel, go spend it on something like Analogue instead. Or add another 15 bucks to it and pick up Saya no Uta, whichever works for you.

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36 thoughts on “[Review] Sakura Spirit

  1. So I started reading this review 4-5 minutes after you pressed “Publish”. Hey, it appeared in front of me, what else am I supposed to do?

    (pushes a pile of crumpled up tissues to the side)

    That aside, thanks for giving me a huge laugh at this. The English is terrible, and as much as I’d hate to say it, this kind of games would be really popular with the hardcore weeaboos all over the world (note that my definition of “weeaboo” is not correspondant with others’)

    So basically, just as we have fanservice anime being produced nowadays, we have fanservice VNs…? Don’t lie: you’ve seen more and more eroge being similar to a charage than anything else, and the same heroines over and over again.

    Hey, but the thing is, guys need the fap. We’re programmed to draw our eyes to anything round and peach-colored (or whatever skin color is called). When that becomes something originally designed to be like a book, then people (mainly the weeaboos and the *coff* Japanese *coff*) are losing the point of visual NOVELS.

    • Yeah it’s pretty much a fanservice VN. And it’s all ages.

      So… poor man’s nukige, basically, except most Japanese nukige are written a million times better than this.

  2. “Oh kami help us”

    Truly unparalleled authenticity of the English language in a western Erog-… VN.

    I think the most redeeming feature of this ‘work’ is the art for sure. Even then, however, I can’t shake the idea that the reflections of light upon the heroines’ skin look like pimples. Jokes aside, the art is ‘good’ in the sense of symmetrical features, buxom b00deh, and appealing battle garments tailored only for the sake of promiscuity however… it (perhaps) arbitrarily lacks any artistic merit such as: depth or emotion, including eroticism. Rather than inviting the audience for whatever sexual gratification, it always seems to ‘pop’ out in a disheveled array of focus. Instead of building cadence towards a single goal the artist seems to focus his attention purely on segments of the body. I guess, in that sense, it fails at being erotic, and is truly eye candy for eye candy’s sake. My point is (for kami’s sake, I’m criticizing weaboo fantasies for not having artistic value) I’d say, the art isn’t very appealing.

    If I had to say something positive about it… I guess it achieved its goal?

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your review as it’s both comcial and unbiased, so I hope to see more reviews like this in the future.

    Also, I wonder if one day someone will make a OELVN that seems like fanservice on the surface, but ends up being excruciatngly complex in both prose style, and plot. Kinda like a more ‘difficult’ harukuru. Ah… that’ll be the day.

    • “Instead of building cadence towards a single goal the artist seems to focus his attention purely on segments of the body.”
      Believe it or not… The artist is a girl.

    • “I hope to see more reviews like this in the future.”

      D-Do you seriously want to make me go through this torture again…? :p

      Btw the ending of the VN suggested there would be more to come, with a “may we see you next time” message and saying this might just have been the prologue of a larger story.

      I HOPE YOU ARE READY BECAUSE I SURE AS ALL AM NOT

  3. I’m really glad I decided to skip this one >.< It's unfortunate that it seems to have made it onto steam so quickly, being pretty much everything negative that visual novels are stereotyped to be.

    That writing is beyond awful though. I'm not sure I could get it that wrong if I was -trying-.

  4. Damn you! Thanks to that photo at the beginning I had to read this whole review with Jon Tron’s voice in my mind!
    “a VN’s primary asset in engaging the reader is, you guessed it, its writing.”
    The funny thing about this is that I was reading some Japanese tweets about the game and it seems they really enjoyed it! The main reason for this was the CG quality (some didn’t even accept the game wasn’t made in Japan, just because of the artwork), most didn’t give a damn about the story. It think this is how VNs work for Japanese people nowadays.
    So, Is the game at least voiced? Because, if the text is already like that, I wonder how bad the dub could be! Probably something worth to be on Audio Atrocities!

  5. I agree there are games you play for the real Fanservice and there are games you play because they are awesomely written and Sakura Spirit fails at Writing and is like a tame TV version of an Anime they should have done at least one thing right

    • The comedy in that screenshot could be argued about (it’s the most cliched joke you can make in that situation, but Japan does it all the time too), but the writing is atrocious. That first sentence is a complete mess and needs to be read at least twice to even get its full meaning, aside from the actual errors in the sentence.

  6. The writing is bad.
    It’s not even just the way the sentences are worded, but the grammar itself is often bad.
    But you know what? In terms of quality it is honestly not much different from a ton of the manga or VN fan translations out there, and for some reason, lots of people seem to eat that shit up. I’ve looked at some manga translations before and have been unable to actually decipher what is being said half the time, yet you look at the translators website, and they have tons of people thanking them for their translation.
    I imagine this game, is for those same people. And at only 7 or 8 dollars, the entry point is pretty low.

  7. It’s funny how this VN would be very difficult to translate in other languages, the translators should convey the same errors that were present in the original version.

    Seriously, I can’t believe that someone could make a mistake like “It aren’t important”. Even for a non-native speaker it’s considered a horror, not an error.

    • Actually Sekai Project is going to translate it to Japanese. You can’t help but wonder if they’ll keep the hilarious mistakes. (let’s be real though, they won’t). And they *might* add English voice acting as well, but it’s not set in stone yet.

      • I think it would be simpler rewriting the entire VN than translating it. Good luck to Sekai Project.

        “May kami help them”.

  8. I saw your twitter comments but didn’t respond, since I didn’t play Sakura Spirit, so I didn’t know just what made them as bad as you said.

    Actually, truth to be told, I’m one of those types who are more forgiving with typos and is already appreciative of the fact that fan translations and localization of visual novels even existed. So for me, any English visual novels is more than welcome. But even for me, I can see just how bad it is the writing is, lol. It feels as if it’s written by some random fanfic writer (though I got to say, some of those fanfic writers can perhaps do even better, lol). And the story felt like it’s written by someone who doesn’t really delve as much as he thought into the medium. Definitely not a visual novel to recommend to expand the medium’s fanbase within the English-speaking community >_>

  9. I guess this is pretty much the usual mediocre standard of writing in the self-published Japanese VNs that the Western audience never gets to experience, though. Except for the weeabooism.

    So at least now we’re equal on that field as well~

  10. Except that the mass majority of japanese VNs are this bad as well. It’s actually kind of refreshing to see this kind of bad game coming to the English language market, as it just shows the generally positive opinions towards VNs in general.

  11. Dude, why did you include the words “Ace Attorney” in your review, now Google Images picks this review up when searching for AA wallpapers. So, when I was searching for those I’ve come across one of this game’s pictures and out of my curiosity I read the review, goddammit I need bleach for my eyes.

  12. Pingback: Steam – A Double-Edged Sword for Visual Novels | deluscar

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