A demo for the upcoming Shin Sakura Taisen for the PS4 was available for attendees at Tokyo Game Show 2019.
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The demo allowed players to experience ten minutes each of the adventure and battle parts of the game. The adventure part takes place early in the story, beginning after the sequence in which protagonist Kamiyama reports to the manager of the imperial theatre for the first time. The player is given free reign to explore the theatre, interacting with characters and experiencing the latest version of the series’ LIPS conversation system.
The series transitioning to 3D from the 2D portraits of previous games is definitely a positive thing: A great deal of work was put into animating characters, which makes a massive difference in how expressive they are. There are also many silly choices that the player can make for Kamiyama, and these choices can also result in things like camera work and sound effects also being used for comedic effect, making him seem like even more of a goofball than previous protagonists in the series ever were.
The battle part of the demo takes place somewhat later in the game, and has Kamiyama and Azami going through a stage up to what is most likely the boss room (the boss itself is not available in the demo). The controls in the battle part are as below:
The player has access to a weak and strong attack, with the strong attack being changed when added to the end of a string of weak attacks. The player can also double-jump, dash, and step (dodge), with the step resulting in time slowing down and giving the player access to a powerful counter attack if timed to dodge an enemy attack perfectly. Attacking while dashing also results in dashing attacks. A spirit power gauge builds up in combat, and can be used to unleash a powerful special attack with the square button when full. Another feature shown in the demo is the wall dash, which is performed automatically when dashing towards specially designated walls in areas (the player can wait till the end of a wall dash to jump off automatically, or manually jump off at any time).
The player is given access to Kamiyama and Azami in this demo. Kamiyama is a balanced melee character with somewhat decent reach, and some crowd control measures such as his spinning strong dash attack. Azami on the other hand has short range but higher damage, making her more effective against small numbers of enemies. Her combo can also launch enemies into the air and continue with an air combo, allowing her to focus on a single target without being interrupted by surrounding enemies.
Regular enemies come at the player in large numbers but do small amounts of damage and do not take swings very often. There are some stronger enemies that do swing more often mixed in, but combat remains mostly one-sided in the player’s favour. The result is gameplay feeling very Musou-like.
While the combat itself generally felt good, I did not like the button placement: I personally felt that the special attack would have been better off placed on a shoulder button, and that square would have been better off designated as the weak attack. I would also have preferred to have step as a face button. Unfortunately, the demo had no way of configuring buttons. The demo did however have options for altering camera speed, reversing camera controls, and changing the brightness, which suggests that the options that will be available in the final game are already implemented, meaning that button configuration will not be included, which is disappointing.
Another issue is with the lack of a lock-on function. Camera control is completely manual, and because attacks are all face buttons, this means that the player easily loses sight of enemies when there are only a few left. The player has to defeat all enemies to progress in most areas, and sometimes a weaker enemy will just wander off to the other side of the room resulting in the player having to spin the camera around to look for them. The lack of a lock-on also makes fighting flying enemies much more troublesome than it should be.
Flying enemies were the most problematic part of the demo: As both Kamiyama and Azami are melee characters, the player has to use melee attacks to defeat flying enemies, but they are needlessly hard to hit. These enemies do not pose any kind of a threat, and are thus nothing more than an annoyance.
Shin Sakura Taisen is scheduled for a 12th December 2019 release. While the adventure portion of the game seems perfect as it is, the battle portion does seem that it needs a few adjustments to get it just right, and hopefully such adjustments will be made.
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