Hana Samurai: Art of the Sword finally arrived on the European eShop last month, eight months after its North American release under a slightly different name, Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword. The 3DS eShop has been getting more and more quality titles lately, but is Hana Samurai one of them and was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.
The story of the game is pretty simple and really only appears in the opening and ending of the game. A young nameless hero, who is dubbed the Hana Samurai by an old kappa that also trained him, is on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess called Cherry Blossom to restore peace to the world.
Much like the story, the gameplay is also pretty straightforward. There are three worlds, each with its own boss, several stages and a town. The towns are used to forge or sharpen your sword, buy supplies such as healing items or whetstones, rest up and save at an inn or complete challenges to earn stamps for free items and even gems that grant more powerful special attacks. The stages are all just small locations filled with a few enemies. The three boss levels are all a bit longer but they also offer virtually no exploration or items to find. Once coming close to enemies, the player enters a combat stance where slow movements can be made, dodging in all four basic directions, blocking and, of course, attacking with a sword.
The combat is largely based on timing and Precision Points are doled out for each successful dodge at the last second. These can be exchanged for gold at the shop but unfortunately each time a hit is received or an enemy blocks one of the attacks, the points reset to zero. This can be very frustrating and it would have been much more preferable for a slightly less harsh approach than losing all points with just one small mistake. Each encounter is basically dodging either backwards or to the side based on the opponent's attack pattern and then scoring a hit on the enemy; rinse and repeat. Blocking is virtually useless since it decreases the sharpness of the sword and it has no advantage over simply evading an attack entirely. Once the sword has been fully charged by dodging attacks and killing enemies, a special attack can be performed to deal damage to a wide area, depending on what gem is currently in the player's possession.
The concept of the combat is good, but it becomes repetitive fairly quickly due to a lack of options beyond dodging and counter-attacking over and over again. There are only a few different types of enemies too, which only get more powerful and slightly faster as the game goes on.
Hana Samurai: Art of the Sword looks pretty in some places but not so much in others. Stages tend to look extremely similar with a lot of re-used material and the 3D is 'decent' at best.
The music is traditionally Japanese as would be found in games like Ōkami, but unfortunately it's rather forgettable, though it still does an acceptable job overall.
Playing through the game will take three-to-four hours, depending on whether you regularly take on challenges in towns to earn rewards. There's also an Expert Mode to unlock by beating the game, which removes all health upgrades, making an already challenging game extremely difficult.
Hana Samurai: Art of the Sword, while not a must-have, is still a good addition to the growing library of the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Currently the game is available online for what may seem like a high cost of £6.29, but is worth buying for people who like challenging, timing-based combat and the overall style of the game.
This is supposed to be using the Zelda DS game engine? How did you get that idea? I've also never heard of this developer before. When I saw the tags, I was really confused what 'Grounding" was for until I noticed it was the studio that developed this game. I can't seem to find anything on Google about them though.
( Edited 10.11.2012 22:09 by SirLink )
Same developer that did Picturebook Games for Nintendo: http://www.g-rounding.com/en/product/
As for the visuals, many thought Dillon's Rolling Western clearly used the same game engine as Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks, and I reckon this also looks similar. Maybe not, but that's what I think