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Portabliss: Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword (3DS eShop)


Did you know that you can download handheld games now? That's amazingly convenient! The only inconvenient part of it is finding the right games to buy -- and that's where we come in, with our Portabliss column. In each installment, we'll tell you about a downloadable game on the iPhone, iPad, Android device, DSi, 3DS, PSP, etc. Today: Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword.

Within ten minutes of starting up Sakura Samurai, I was sure that I hated it. It was simplistic, finicky, and frustrating. And then I kept playing it. A week later, I still felt like I hated the eShop action game, but I sure did finish it and start right back again in a higher difficulty.

It is at this point that I grudgingly accepted that I had actually been having a good time.

Gallery: Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword (3DS) | 10 Photos

Sakura Samurai is best described as a kind of bushido Punch-Out!! Your character must dodge well-telegraphed enemy attacks with perfect timing in order to create an opening for slashes. Those enemies include various sword-wielding soldiers, guys with polearms who either thrust directly forward or swing out wide, archers, and even (jerk) ninjas who throw stars and bombs at you.

Dodging at the absolute last moment will earn you "Precision Points," which can be traded in for cash depending on how many you can get consecutively. Taking a single hit or being blocked by an enemy will completely drain your Precision Points counter, providing incentive for learning the timing of enemy attacks.

Money can be used to buy items including health replenishment, throwing knives, sharpening stones, and frogs to throw off attacking enemies. At first, you can only carry a few of each, but success in minigames found within towns will upgrade your carrying capacity -- as well as your ability to upgrade your sword and your special attacks.

While it might not sound that difficult to dodge attacks, especially when they're preceded by glowing red indicators of their direction, I fell in battle more times than I'd care to admit. Not far into the game, enemies begin attacking in multi-hit combos, and three (giant) bosses at the end of exceptionally difficult stages use various kinds of trickery to keep you from guessing their mode of attack.

It's precisely because of this frustration, I think, that the game includes an optional "rock garden," a relaxing mode that turns steps taken with the 3DS into cherry blossoms on some scenic trees in a zen rock garden.

Despite dropping my 3DS a little heavily a few times, I'm glad I played Sakura Samurai. It's a very simple-to-understand, rhythmic (but not musical) action game. And it puts cherry blossoms all over the screen.

Sakura Samurai is available on the 3DS eShop for $6.99. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

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