Free Video Game Reviews: Sakura Clicker

…It’s times like this that I wonder why I announce stuff without stopping to check that what I’m doing is actually a smart idea. When I announced this series, I thought it would be an opportunity to do some fun gaming stuff: I could look for some cool looking free game and talk about it to reward the developer who just does his work for the art.

And that idea went out the window not even a week after the series was announced because the only free game that came out that I thought looked even slightly interesting was Sakura Clicker. And I only got THAT because I have been meaning to play Sakura Angels for far longer than I care to admit and thought “Well, it’s bound to be fun, right?”

And it was…for about five minutes. After that, I found myself thinking “God, why am I still playing this crap? Sid Meier’s Civilization V downloaded half an hour ago, I should be playing that!”

Now, let me be fair for a moment before I start being harsh: this is definitely a game that is intended for a casual audience. It screws up horrifically in the execution, as I’ll come to later, but the basic design and premise is one which I’d expect to see from a casual game. If I was to speak only to a casual gaming crowd…well, I still wouldn’t necessarily recommend this game, but I would say the problem is purely that it’s a casual game in all but execution: it has the same logic of the games you play on mobiles and the like where you tap the screen to do stuff and get options on the screen to allow you to improve aspects of your abilities. Nothing major, but nothing awful either.

Unfortunately, the execution is definitely what kills it. See, most of those mobile games I talked about which this can be compared to are either short games which you can beat fairly quickly or which are endless games which you can quit from and return to at any time without loss of progress. There’s a reason for this: most of these games are simple and not very complex because they’re the sort of games most people might play on the bus or on a lunch break, which means they need to be able to be put away at any time and can be come back to at any time.

Sakura Clicker, however? This is that same logic, but applied to a game which can EASILY last for several hours before you get the final power…which basically sets the game back to the start. And with NO ability to quit the game and come back to it later without a loss of progress.

Yeah…sounds fun, doesn’t it?

The game is, indeed, by the company that developed Sakura Angels (Winged Cloud, if you’re really curious). Since I haven’t actually played any of the other games that make up the Sakura series (Sakura Angels, Sakura Spirit and Sakura Fantasy Chapter 1), I can’t really say how this game connects to them, but I have a good suspicion that it is connected to Sakura Fantasy Chapter 1 due to the characters in this game bearing a remarkable resemblance to the ones in Sakura Fantasy Chapter 1. Now, already there’s a problem with this fact: the Sakura games are visual novels with mature content (although your definition of maturity might not include busty angels and panty shots…), which makes doing a non-visual novel game connected to the series a bit of a risky prospect.

So a game which is like a mobile game already falls apart because there’s no story to the game. Some people won’t object to this because, well, boobs, but, for me at least, I need to have some sense of there being an actual PERSON attached to the breasts (that was poorly phrased, I know…), which I can’t really get when there’s no story to the game. It also means the game fails on a fanservice level for me (and possibly anyone who has played any game with mature content before now) because all I’m getting is busty anime girls who look like they’re cosplaying as various animals. Granted, there are worse ways to get that, but the previous Sakura games, from what I’ve heard, were laden with fanservice AND had story, which puts them above this game to me simply because I have a reason to CARE about the anime girls. Here, it’s just boobs for the sake of boobs, which might be fine for some people, but does nothing for me.

But I’m ranting. Let’s move over to the core of the game.

The game is probably best described as being a clicker RPG in that you have to deal damage to enemies (the aforementioned busty anime girls who look like they’re cosplaying as animals) to get gold by clicking on the screen and level up abilities or obtain allies with the gold to cause more damage to them. You’ll have boss enemies to fight, but they only really have more health than their usual counterparts, so there’s not really a lot to say. You and your allies deal more damage the higher your level is, but you also need more gold to level up, so you can go from needing a few gold coins to level up to needing several million as the game goes along fairly quickly. The enemies DO increase the amount of gold they drop, but, eventually, you’ll have to grind for gold to level up characters to ensure you can defeat a boss monster. On paper, this would actually be OK as a mobile game, but, as I’ve mentioned earlier, you can’t quit the game without losing all of your progress, which means you either need a HUGE amount of time and patience if you want to get your main character to level 600 or you need to run the game on silent in the background and keep coming back to it whenever you feel like playing the game again, both of which beg the question of why there isn’t a way to save your game to allow you to come back to it later simply because there’s not really enough to the game to make playing it for long enough to reach level 600 feel enjoyable. Honestly, I found it a chore just getting to level 100! Maybe dropping the levels for abilities (not necessarily the gold drop) down by half might alleviate some of that, but it wouldn’t make up for the fact that you’ve basically spending your time playing the game just clicking your mouse non-stop.

One thing I will give the game credit for is the fact that the art design is really good! It’s not mindblowing as far as anime-influenced artwork goes, but I will concede that the characters were well designed (although some of the random generation of character hair color occasionally resulted in moments when it didn’t really match up with the rest of the character on a color level very well) and, while the lack of change in the background did bug me, it wasn’t badly drawn by any measure. Part of this is arguably down to the fact that fanservice doesn’t tend to work if it’s drawn poorly and it is connected to a series of adult visual novels, so I would have expected effort to have gone into making the characters look good anyway, but I still would say the art design was above what I was expecting.

The voice acting…well, it’s mostly restricted to a few bits of Japanese dialogue (which I won’t even pretend that I understood, so your guess is as good as mine as to what they were saying) and grunts and moans, all of which were in response to being attacked, but I guess it did add a bit to the game, as I can’t help thinking the game would have been a lot more dull without any of it. I wouldn’t call it GOOD, but it wasn’t bad either, so I don’t really have a lot to say on it.

I don’t think I really need to comment on the controls, since all the game comprises of is clicking your mouse, but I do think the developers should have mapped the abilities to buttons on the keyboard rather than requiring you to click them to activate them. It’s a nitpick, I know, but it feels like the layout was more designed for use on an iPad or iPod than a PC, which is not really a great sign.

I must speak against the fact the game launched with 10 pieces of DLC attached to it while I’m here. All of it is purely cosmetic, which isn’t a HUGE problem, but it was all provided on launch and LITERALLY is just there to dress up a second character on the screen. Each piece of DLC is only 79 pence, in fairness, so you’re hardly going to break the bank if you want to buy all of them, but it just feels like it was deliberately taken out of the game to encourage you to purchase it later. It’s part of a free game and definitely isn’t pay-to-win by any measure, so it’s not as bad as some stuff I can think of out there (the Ghosts ‘n Goblins games released on iOS have payment options to allow you to reduce the difficulty of the game, which is kind of defeating the point when you realize that the reputation of the original game in the series WAS the insane difficulty of it!), but it does seem a bit iffy to me that they released ALL of the DLC on the same day as the game’s launch and it literally adds nothing to the game of any real importance.

Overall…well, I can’t say I hated this game, because hatred implies I really cared about it, but it’s not really a game I can recommend. It’s not awful, but it’s the sort of game you’re likely to play for an hour or two and then never play again simply because it’s not really all that interesting in practice. I think an idea for a very enjoyable game IS inside Sakura Clickers (if the game was redone as an RPG adventure game, it would probably be really good!), but, as it stands, it’s just not recommendable by me. I think the game COULD do well on iOS or mobile platforms if it was given a save feature, but, on PC and without the save feature, it’s not really something that I imagine most people will find any real enjoyment from.

Unless you’re spellbound by boobs in any sort of exposure, obviously, in which case, you’ll get enjoyment from the game, but probably not from the actual gameplay!

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