The Land of the Rising Sun, cherry blossoms and a god who lived in the mountains provide the inspiration for Nintendo’s latest digital release.
Yet darkness has swept the lands. Princess Cherry Blossom, the god’s only daughter, has been kidnapped from her home within an ancient cherry-blossom tree. As the guardian of the land, she was loved by all its inhabitants, yet following her disappearance, the lands grew violent as heartless beings set out to destroy one another for personal gain.
As time progressed the princess was forgotten, with only a lone kappa remaining to grieve her. He believed that a young Samurai, pure of heart and the only one capable of hearing the kappa’s voice, would emerge, the hero known as the Hana Samurai.
And so in the clunky wooden sandals of such hero begins your endearing quest, your weapon imbued with the essence of the cherry-blossom tree granting it the mystical power to become the Sakura Sword.
In terms of mechanics, Hana Samurai: Art of the Sword assumes a straightforward yet challenging approach. In your quest to rescue Princess Cherry Blossom, the player progresses through stages across an overworld within which they’ll find themselves faced with besting foes.
To do so, precision is key. Players required to evade attacks, block, and then attack in quick succession. It proves difficult at first, but you’ll soon become accustomed to how each enemy attacks and therefore have the necessary knowledge to counter them.
Delay your evasion as late as possible grants you with the opportunity to receive Precision Points. These will increase with successive dodges, yet one wrong move results in the counter being reset to zero.
Successful attacks allow you to charge your blade with sakura power, which may later be unleashed through a special attack once full. Whilst relying on blocking dulls the blade, necessitating the use of a whetstone to sharpen it once again.
The village of Little Tree proves a base, of sorts, allowing you to level up your blade at the swordsmith, rest at the Blossom Inn to recover health, or restock at the Frogs Plus shop.
There are further modes in the game including a Rock Garden, in which you grow a cherry blossom tree dependent on how many steps you take with your Nintendo 3DS, as well as an Expert Mode, amongst others.
With the main story lasting little more than a few hours, it is here that the Nintendo eShop title is ultimately let down, especially when priced at £6.29. Yet the journey is an enjoyable one, and will hopefully lead to greater things down the line.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo