The Sakura series of visual novels, developed by Winged Cloud, maintains some notoriety in the visual novel community for being artistically beautifully but rather lacking in the story and plot departments. I've read countless posts and reviews deriding the entire series and the company that makes them. And yet, they're pulling in over $13,000 a month from their Patreon account, have been published by Sekai Project and MangaGamer, and by all appearances are sitting on a position of success that I'm sure many OELVN developers would kill to be in. So it might surprise you to hear that before Sakura Agent, I had never played a Winged Cloud game. Call it hesitance, or call it listening to reviews. But there comes a time when we all have to delve into something new and unexpected and see what we find, and that time is now.
Sakura Agent is about the sarcastic and perverted agent, Akira, who works for an organization that handles extraterrestrial threats invading the world. He's helped out by an assistant named Kimiko, who was assigned to him ostensibly to keep him from getting distracted but tends to have the opposite effect, and a rookie agent named Masumi who is just getting her start at the organization. And together, they're going to save the world or something, if they can pull themselves away from having constant threesomes long enough.
Well...I can at least say that all that money is going back into the art assets, if nothing else. The art is some of the better I've seen in a visual novel, with really detailed sprites and CGs. The backgrounds could be more varied, but the ones that are there look well enough.
And...I have to be honest—that's about as far as I can stretch my goodwill for the game. The characters are stereotypes of stereotypes, and the term “fetish outfit” hardly feels adequate to describe what the two main heroines go around wearing. The writing is painful enough that I have to take breaks from reading it. There's parody, and then there's wearing a new skin and occasionally pointing at yourself and laughing, and only one of those is actually funny. The dialogue in particular can be agonizing to read. Akira is the worst stereotype of visual novel protagonist I've seen yet, and I own School Days. His female companions aren't much better, displaying little actual personality outside of innocently tempting their man, or of reprimanding him for being tempted in the first place. What little plot there is reads like the most distilled version of a James Bond movie without any of the timeless charm that made those so much fun to watch.
All of that said, though...I have to give credit where it's due. Winged Cloud has their niche, and it's people who like the admittedly very well-done artwork and don't need story or character development or anything like that with their porn. And I'm not arguing against the merits of porn without plot; if nothing else, this proves that it has an audience. But I guess, suffice to say, this just isn't my thing. This is mindless fluff that might kill a couple of hours, but in such a way that puts some of that fluff into your brain in place of something far more useful.
Sakura Agent is available on Steam.
Final verdict: Despite undoubtedly high production values in regards to the artwork, Sakura Agent is horrifically and completely bogged down by stereotypical characters and a nonexistent plot, and is one of the few games that I wish I could entirely erase from my memory.
Sakura Agent is developed and published by Winged Cloud. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my review. This review was originally written for Anime Backgrounds.