From the creators of Sakura Spirit, Winged Cloud has concocted another visual novel centering around magical girls, supernatural battles, and lascivious artwork that ties all together to be describe as a “angelic love comedy” called Sakura Angels. Not much of a creative naming convention considering it is unrelated to the aforementioned, but since I have little knowledge of this company other than that they are dedicated to creating visual novels for the west and haven’t had the opportunity to play any of their products up until now, I was very eager to try this out. As far as did my eagerness hold out…well, you shall find out now.
Title: Sakura Angels
Developer: Winged Cloud (Published by Sekai Project)
System: PC (Steam Store)
Length: Estimated 4 hrs
As someone who enjoys deliberately flippant titles, it isn’t hard to tell that Sakura Angels agenda is all about being a vivacious comedy. Everything from the characters to sequence of nonsensical moments blatantly point in the direction of it being akin to a romcom and while titles that do take this approach end up with a rather banal, yet endearing side – Sakura Angel is unfortunately one that does not. Even though it does not require much to create visual novel of its caliber, Sakura Angels does feel as if it is missing something important and fundamental to it capturing that endearment making it an otherwise dull product. As for what is that important thing – after jumping into it for about 15 minutes you should find out very quickly, but allow me to sum it up.
The most prevalent issue that concatenates the dullness is obviously the writing itself. No, it absolutely has nothing to do with the generic plot outline or how things work in the grand scheme of things more than there is a lack of guidance and effort to make it work. The gist of things draws you into the life of normal high school student named Kenta that has been suffering from some weird headaches increasing in frequency lately. After heading to school one morning, he is attacked by strange creatures, but saved by two magical-like girls with the express mission of keeping him safe. They even enroll at his school to do so. From there onward, the narrative cares little about exploring the issue further aside from a clash with the antagonistic role every once in a while to adopt a more comedic tone for the rest of the read. And while there is nothing wrong with that, the comedy itself sets the precedent for what to expect: badly contrived jokes, awkwardly flowing conversations, and the usual tropes done without consideration. Hence, where most of the dullness arrives from. The characters probably have to be best example: nothing more than monolithic designed characteristics – Hikari is a natural tsundere, Sayaka is incredibly cheerful and bright (aka the genki girl), and Kenta is the normal, semi-weak male that surprisingly fits the role as well as dispenses some rarely humorous lines when appropriate. There are few points of charm tucked away into the dialogue, although it is rarity and most of the time, seems locked away in the characters keeping these rigid archetypical molds that really do nothing for them aside from exemplify the passive writing. That’s not to say that the story is bad, but will be hard to get through and lacks anything remotely close to what Freytag’s pyramid would consider kosher. As for the antagonistic side, probably most disappointing and pettiest, especially considering her whole reason orchestrating the madness and is dealt with in the most anticlimactic way possible.
For the complaints rendered, Sakura Angels does at least give its presentation due consideration – more so than the actual narrative. There isn’t much it does differently with the Ren’Py architecture (I.E: changing the system menu, etc), yet small things like some animated backgrounds and ones that play with the lighting is a very unique touch. If you are familiar with the CG style of Sakura Spirit, then you can expect to find more of the same in this title as it features very gorgeous artwork…yet much of it is abit on the titillating end: the girls in some comprising situations or poses that is very not suitable for work. That being said, you probably don’t want to be playing this in a public space. The music composition is okay and most of the pieces do fit into the story’s mood – although, I can’t say any of it is exactly memorable or strike upon any cords.
I’m not entirely sure of who Sakura Angels target audience is and frankly, if they do exist, would advise them to seek out much better titles like My girlfriend is the President or Edelweiss if they are seeking something similar in nature. It is a shame since it did have a nice, albeit formulaic idea – just one that didn’t have enough ethos or dynamism imbued to take it beyond a rough draft. The price point of $9.99 is not asking for too much, but don’t think that the CG alone is just enough to justify it when the story is not. At any rate, Sakura Angels is not a completely lifeless work, but rather just lacking the spirit it so desperately needs in the right places and with only half-baked witticism and superfluous visual eye candy to stand on, it is best to use your money and time elsewhere.
Pros: CG and artwork quality, appropriate length for the story
Cons: passive writing, comedy elements more miss than hit, myopic characters