Developer: Winged Cloud
Publisher: Sekai Project
Price: $9.99 USD
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
Back around November ’14 I reviewed Sakura Spirit. That game was developed by team Winged Cloud, a very interesting Visual Novel developer that caught my attention, for a number of reasons. Sakura Angels is a very similar game that, albeit in a different setting, shares many key plot elements with their previous work. Thus, for this review, I’ll be comparing both games.
Both Sakura Angels and Spirit feature very typical anime plots. Spirit’s setting was a “boy gets teleported to another world, becomes involved with the troubles of that universe”, while Angels features a “boy meets magical girl characters, stuff happens and now he’s involved in their battle” plot. Those two are about the two most generic and common plots in anime and manga.
Although the general plot around both Sakura games might be uninspiring, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to write an interesting story within them. Such was the case in Sakura Spirit, which managed to fit enough world building to create a believable universe. The same cannot be said for Sakura Angels, however.
Angel’s story begins with the protagonist having really bad nightmares and strong headaches. One day, on his way to school, he’s suddenly attacked by a monster. Fortunately for him, he’s barely saved by two Mahou Shoujos, Sayaka and Hikari. The story proceeds from that point forward in the usual “boy meets magical girls” routine, including eye-rolling cliche tropes such as “magical girls suddenly transfer into the protagonist’s schoo and class on the same day they meet” and “one of the girls cannot cook and messes up protagonist’s kitchen”.
Highschool setting romcom anime/manga are popular for reasons: there are people who love that stuff. Personally, I don’t mind generic school settings, so long as the story goes somewhere. Anywhere. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case with Sakura Angels. Every time our protagonist attempts to unveil any details regarding the magical girls’ background, what their lives are like, and where they come from, instead he just gets a reply telling him it’s a secret. Keeping secrets from the protagonist, and in turn from the reader, is only interesting if you intend to reveal those secrets later in the story. Instead, in Sakura Angels, it’s just an excuse for the game not to develop anything beyond the character’s current relationship.
The ultra-generic and uninspired premise of the game, along with a complete lack of world and character background building, could only conceive the obvious: a very shallow story. From a plot-centric perspective, at least.
The only thing that could possibly save Sakura Angels from being utterly mediocre was character interaction. Even if you’ve got an awful story, if the characters and their interactions are interesting, you can still write an interesting game. Once again, that’s not the case.
There are only 5 characters in the story. The protagonist, both Mahou Shoujo heroines, the antagonist Mahou Shoujo, and the ancient evil witch that’s behind the events of the game, but isn’t actually shown. The characters, all of them, are as bland as they possibly come. The ancient evil witch is evil “just because”, the main antagonist is a misunderstood girl that’s being use by the evil witch, the protagonist is utterly boring and soulless in order to make it easier for the reader to self-insert, and the two heroines are a generic Tsundere-Genki duo.
Their interactions aren’t anything to write home about, either. The comedy and plot-advancement usually consists of Sayaka(genki girl) teasing Hikari(the tsundere), who in turn gets angry and lashes out at the protagonist.
Ultimately, putting all the elements together, not only does Sakura Angel manage to be worse than Sakura Spirit in every way, but it is also a mediocre story on its own right.
Sakura Angels runs on the same engine as Sakura Spirit, the Ren’py VN engine. The game itself has choices, which will lead you to one of three possible endings: Hikari end, Sayaka end, or a “harem” end with both of them.
No voice acting, and no sound effects. The game has a handful of soundtracks for ambient music, although none of them are memorable. Overall on the same level as Sakura Spirit, but not bad by any means.
I haven’t written a single good thing about the game in this review yet, but I really must give it to them here: I absolutely love Winged Cloud’s art. All the visual assets in the game look absolutely amazing. Not just CGs, but also sprite portraits and backgrounds as well. That’s something I mentioned previously on Sakura Spirit’s review, yet it feels the artist has become even better since then.
If you’re going to play this game, do it for the eye-candy. You don’t get many games looking as good as this, specially when it comes to western-made Visual Novels.
After playing through Sakura Spirit, I had been pleasantly surprised. The story was rather crude and underdeveloped, yet I could see lots of sprouting talent and potential from its unpolished edges. I went into Sakura Angels hoping to see how much the writers had improved since then. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. The whole game felt very uninspired, and that spark of creativity was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I was just left with a shallow story played out by characters with one-dimensional personalities.
Though this might seem conflicting with the rest of this review, in reality Sakura Angels isn’t THAT atrociously bad. While it’s true that I could find faults with pretty much everything about the story and the characters, it was good enough to keep me distracted and focused while reading. Once again, the visuals are absolutely stunning, and while this alone doesn’t make up for all the shortcomings with the story’s writing, it made Sakura Angels worth playing.
– Amazing art
– Awful writing and story
– Boring music
– Generic characters
The Reviewer has given this game a Final Grade of 3/10.