Monday, November 17, 2014

Indie Impressions - Winged Sakura: Mindy's Arc

Winged Sakura: Mindy's Arc

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Winged Sakura Games

When it comes to strategy games I've come to expect a long and arduous process of tutorials and insane difficulty curves that keep me putting them off, but what's so pleasing about Winged Sakura: Mindy's Arc is how quickly I was getting into the pace, drawn into the action driven by attractive artwork and incredibly snappy background music.

The story is colorful to put it simply, and seems to take after the Magical Girl/Transformation tropes often seen in 90s anime. Much like the magical shoujo series I remember seeing in my youth, the quirky and fast moving story is mostly lost on me and I'm just content to relax and take in the pretty artwork and up-beat tunes driving this off-the-wall story.

The plot is strange enough to keep me wondering about some of the more mysterious characters and their situation while offering just the right amount of anime cheesecake to be entertaining without overstaying its welcome, but overall where Winged Sakura really shines is the unique brand of fast-paced defensive tactical combat.

The gameplay at first glance simply resembles a more anime themed Plants vs. Zombies with player units being placed as defense on the left while enemy hordes advance from the right, however the similarities stop here as Winged Sakura takes a more complex and refined departure towards deeper RPG mechanics and unit variety.

Just as you're starting off you already have three distinct units fully displaying the importance of their combined teamwork. Leapies are shielded units and will act as a defense block to gather a row of enemies while Magicats will bombard the cluster with a magical area attack, whereas the Sneaky Cat archers will pick off the stragglers with a simple arrow shot. Units both ally and enemy have their own elemental strengths and weakness, adding another bit of depth to planning your offense.

With the addition of a multitude of spells the user can cast to change the tides of battle, things can become a little overwhelming with how much multitasking goes on. Luckily this is remedied with the insanely useful Strategic Pause command, allowing even the slowest of strategists to carefully plan their next wave of defenses at their own leisure. Of course, once you get to Insane difficulty this option is no longer available forcing you to put your prior practicing to the test.

While the basic formula of the game may be simple and easy to pick up for all skill levels, the difficulty quickly ramps to ridiculous heights often forcing me to drop the setting to Easy until I leveled my Spirits (units) up enough. It's accessibility keeps victory in sight at all times despite this challenge, and the player will always have a good idea of what they did wrong at the end of a soul crushing defeat. With each return to these frantic stages of multitasking and quick wits I was more excited than the last, picking up on new strategies and complex combinations

If you aren't totally adverse to bits of corny albeit fun anime fluff and filler this is nothing short of an incredibly deep strategy title, and one I recommend to any fan of the defense genre or games with heavy RPG mechanics such as crafting, enchanting, and stat building. The artwork is eye-catching and very attractive and the constant stream of interesting character designs keeps your attention, as does the catchy original soundtrack. Don't be fooled by the sugar coating, Winged Sakura is one hardcore game of strategy and tactics.

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