The tower defense genre has never been my forte for a variety of reasons and probably never will. Something about the endless struggle against waves of enemies coupled with resource management never quite hooked me like it does with other people. Despite dismissing the genre, a 2D Anime themed strategy defense game called Winged Sakura (available Oct 17, 2014 and currently undergoing the Steam greenlit process) caught my eye and requesting to play the demo for myself, not only does it do a few interesting things with the genre besides adding RPG elements, it also somehow feels less tower defense and more an element reliant on the player to develop stratagems on the fly, yet never in expeditious manner – if they choose to.
While I will not get into the story too much, it basically involves a girl named Mindy whom has been getting strange visions. When she comes into contact with contact with Cherry Blossoms, she enters into another dimension and there meets a girl named Minzy, that essentially tells Mindy she is her Contractor – a person granted supernatural abilities in exchange for their life. However in this world lurks many dangers and the two have to work together to fend them off, if they wish to survive. That is the gist of the demo version and probably makes little sense, but will as things progress.
Between catching glimpses of the story and trying to piece them together, the real meat of the story lies within the gameplay – where aforementioned stratagems come into play and for good reason. Unlike a lot of tower defense games that have you procure resources – Winged Sakura thankfully eliminates that issue. Instead, most of the resources regenerate over a period of time and can be tracked in the upper left hand of the screen. These resources are used for summoning various units that will help you fend off waves of incoming enemies – however there is one big caveat: those units disappear after a period of time. Unlike most titles where the units are good as long as they will last, Winged Sakura will have you constantly summoning and re-summoning units in different places as the situation calls for it. Luckily, if you are novice like me, you can pause the game at anytime and summon units as long as they are not in the cool-down phase as well as cast spells that will help you better take down advancing enemies. Although, if you think you can handle things on the fly, that is also an option, yet with game containing 4 levels of difficulty and the rewards contingent on different factors (such as not letting XXX # of enemies past) there is a challenge to be had…if you can take it.
The units are also very cool and unique providing you with a variety of helpers to deal with any situation. My favorite would have to be the bird unit that will shield and hold back a line of enemies for a specific amount of time as well as magic caster unit that looks like a cat that will target a row of multiple enemies if it is in its range. The combinations you can use are as only good as the units you gain access to and does look like you will have quite a selection in the full game. When you complete stages your units will level up and if your lucky, you be given a chance to get various items through a small mini game (the rewards for meeting the aforementioned conditions). Most of these items are used to buy equipment, others are the equipment used to power up your units, and some will also come in handy in battle to help you get various optional achievements. After battle, you can also upgrade your magic skills that is design like a tree: using skill points to strengthening them, you can unlock new ones that will either help you or make you rethink your tactics.
Despite only spending 4 days with Winged Sakura, it seemed not as tower defense game, but move a like a complex checkers game where the situation always changes and up to you how to best deal with it. The few fundamental changes it makes to genre is refreshing enough and coupled with the motley crew of units – sure to provide some entertaining gameplay styles. However, I do wish the game had or has interactive stages such as the player starting off with so much mana to summon troops and has to kill a certain amount for it rise or something where the map has interactive environments like the 2nd map with the landmines. With the game utilizing the Unity engine, the artwork looks amazing – yet hope for individuals like me with mid-range computers, the full release will run quickly – since the version I had access to was sort of slow to start-up. The name convention also interest me as it is called “Mindy’s Arc” leading me to believe that there might another game or expansion in the future. Regardless of anything withstanding, Winged Sakura is solid and refreshing take on the tower defense genre and hope you will look forward to release this Friday. Want to try it for yourself? A demo for everyone is said to be released Oct 14 according to the Steam page on the official site provided below or above . While you are it, you can also watch the official trailer below.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review demo copy of the game was kindly provided by Winged Sakura Games. All images and rights to them belong to Winged Sakura Games and for review purposes only.
Update (10/14/2014): Dev has clarified that the game is currently undergoing the greenlit process on Steam, but will be available the homesite HERE.