Card Captor Sakura: Sakura Card de Mini-Game (Import) review
A Short Magical Girl Adventure

The good:

Mostly charming visuals
Nice audio
Mostly entertaining mini-games
Easily accessible despite the language barrier

The bad:

A little short on content
Story a mystery unless you know Japanese or the CSS series


The things I do on a whim…

I remember watching Cardcaptors a long time ago. The anime wasn't anything special but it had a cute charm to it that made it somewhat appealing. So, years later here I am and I spot this particularly interesting looking game (by interesting I mean it involves anime girls - somewhat shows how simple it is to grab my attention). Old memories are dragged up, but initially I leave it alone as Japanese language is hardly my forte. After a little research though I begin thinking that the language barrier may not be such an obstacle.

So here I am, reviewing my first import title. Thank goodness for the Gameboy Advance's lack of region locking. So once the fond memories have settled what exactly do we have here?

Card Captor Sakura: Sakura Card de Mini-Game pretty much defines its content in its own title. The game is a collection of mini-games set within the Card Captor Sakura universe, therefore the characters and objectives are somewhat related to the series in question.

The main game mode involves progressing through a sort of story mode, where you are fed a series of story bits and then thrust into a mini-game. The mini-games in question range quite wildly in what you do. The first game you'll play involves moving left and right while hitting A to launch fireballs up at descending jets of water, while the next game is a rhythm game where the player is required to press buttons in time to the onscreen icons passing the center bay.

What gets me is that, while some of these games may be a little generic in their approach, there are some games that have a fairly unique and interesting approach to their design. One game involves navigating a maze by listening for the song coming from the character you need to find. Another is a spot the difference game, but where the original alternates between normal and scrambled throughout.

Listen carefully to find the correct path to take.

For the most part the games are generally slow paced, so pretty much anyone can keep up. Even the games with time limits tend to move along at a slow pace. Dodging a large stomped bear foot simply involves waiting for it to appear then sliding out of the way and then waiting again until the next stomp. Only a handful of games turn up the speed, like the water waves game where the number and speed of incoming waves continues to increase until you miss one.

The difficulty is somewhat on the easy side for most of the game but there is some notable inconsistency with it. For one, the difficulty takes a sudden spike upwards for the last two games. One is a sliding tile puzzle where you have to reform a picture while making use of an empty tile space while the other is a game of Othello. These two games are way harder than any of the others, and the sudden jump will no doubt catch out players used to the relatively easy pacing previously.

Another difficulty issue is how inconsistent the 'chances' given are. Some games allow you to incur a number of fails (such as getting hit) before deciding the game is lost, or others give you a generous amount of time to complete the task. Some aren't so nice, resulting in an instant game lost for a single fail. Despite the instant fail concept of some of these games they still aren't that hard to avoid failing often, except for the last two games.

It's worth failing this game once if only to watch Sakura's expression.

Progression through the story mode is on a linear path, so you can't play one mini-game until you've completed the ones before it. Fortunately, players can also play any mini-game they have opened in the main mode for free play at any time. This is great for replaying those really good games that entertain you.

I did find many of these games enjoyable as well, but as always with this type of game you're going to get a few duds and this game is no exception. The avalanche game seems to be difficult at first glance but once you've worked out the trick it quickly loses its appeal. The actual number of mini-games on offer is also a distinct downer. There is only a mere 21 games on offer, and since that number is affected by a few duds then the lifespan takes a notable hit. Fortunately some of these games are worth replaying a fair bit, but a little more choice would have been nice.

The game has a few extras on offer as well. There's a paint program set in there too that resembles Microsoft Paint. There's a novelty value to it but the fact that it's essentially a simplified version of what is already a pretty basic program means it won't hold your interest for very long. There is also a story viewer, but it won't likely interest you unless you happen to know Japanese.

Visually the game has a rather mixed appearance. For the most part the game is beautiful. The character sprites look very nice in all their chibi glory and are animated well enough. The environments the games take place in also look good. They are quite colourful and detailed. Even the special effects have been done well. The whole appearance also fits in well with the whole anime theme carried by the CCS licence.

So, what goes wrong? It's the graphics used during the story sequences. The imagery consists of screencaps from the actual anime, but they are such low quality, especially when compared to the rest of the game, that it does drag the visuals down a bit.

The audio is definitely solid as well. The music, once again, is quite fitting to the setting. A lot of the tracks have a catchy light-hearted sound to them too (the end credits music inparticular sticks in my mind). There's a few forgettable tracks in there but I wouldn't call any of them bad as such.

The sound effects are also strong. They sound just right for the action they accompany and help make the games that little bit more immersive.

So, what's the story about? Unfortunately, all the text being in Japanese somewhat hinders my ability to answer that question. However, the game does provide quite a few anime screencaps during these sequences, and judging from them the game simply recaps the events that took place during the anime, starting from when Sakura first got the Key of Clow to the final challenge of transforming the last cards into star cards. That said, you're not going to understand it if you haven't watched the anime already, but chances are if you're not a resident of Japan then you'll already have some knowledge in that area.

In times like this you nod while pretending to understand what's going on.

Speaking of which, this is one of those games where the language barrier really doesn't matter. Putting aside the story the game does have its menu options and the instructions for each mini-game in Japanese, but the game is so simple in its approach that it shouldn't take anyone more than a few seconds to figure out the menu options, as well as what the goal of each mini-game is. No need to reach for that Internet FAQ this time, as I was perfectly capable of working my way through and figuring out what to do each time.

Overall the game is a decent blast through some entertaining mini-games that will certainly appeal to Card Captor Sakura fans. However, it's also apparent that more could have been done here. The game is simply short on content, especially when compared to some of its competition. If you're willing to forgive that then by all means go ahead and try it out.

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