Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Cardcaptor Sakura - Tomoeda Shougakkou Daiundokai (Game Boy Color)

Around the turn of the twenty-first century, Cardcaptor Sakura was a very popular show in Japan and around the world. Being a popular kids anime meant that obviously, it got a bunch of videogame adaptations, too, though since it's a cartoon with a female lead, and western companies inexplicably hate cartoons with female leads, none of them got released outside of Japan (in fact, there was barely any western merchandise in general). Testament to exactly how popular the show was is the fact that though it only ran for a little under a hundred episodes, it got ten games across six formats in that shot time. And while most of them were as you'd expect: games about magic and action and so on, this one more than any of the others, I think, shows just how popular the series was: it's a game about Sakura and her classmates participating in a school sports day.

A fantasy-action show getting a videogame that totally eschews both of those in favour of the characters having some light-hearted fun seems like a big risk to me, especially releasing it on a cartridge-based console in 2000, rather than as a simple download in 2018. But anyway, it exists, and it's a Track and Field-style button-annihilation game in which you pick either the pink or blue team and take part in various events. There's normal sports, like the 100m dash and the relay race, there's sports you only see in school sports days, like the three-legged race and the "assault course" that ends in sack racing, there's sports you only see in Japanese school sports days, like the one where teams of three kids carry around a fourth kid, and the kids on top have to steal each other's hats, and there's some slightly weird stuff, like a colour matching puzzle game and a thing where you race over bumpy ground, running behind a giant ball.

As for how it plays, it's alright. A lot of the events are about pressing A and B as fast as you can, with a few extra little twists for each one too, like handing the baton in the relay, or crawling under obstacles in the assault course. The hat-stealing game is the most fun, as it sees you trying to knock your opponents off their balance to so you can easily grab their hat, while also trying to avoid your own hat getting taken as you lean in to do the pushing. Of course, like all TaF-style games, I'm completely terrible at every event, and in a couple of hours' play, haven't managed to win a single one. But that's where the game's secret weapon kicks in: the license.

Of course, Cardcaptor Sakura is an all-time classic show, that doesn't get quite as much recognition in the west as it should, for aforementioned reasons, and this game captures (ho-ho!) a lot of its charm. The actual in-game character sprites are pretty nice, and between events, there's lots of big, luxurious pixel art of the characters, and it all looks excellent, brightly coloured, and super-cute. Though it's clearly a case of just applying a license to a generic game, it's still very effective and adds a ton of charm.

If you're a fan of the show, I'd definitely recommend tracking this game down, as it's pretty fun, really captures the show's feel against all odds, and would generally be a cute addition to your collection. If you're a fan of the genre, I'm not really sure what might make a good or a bad Track and Field game, and there's probably plenty of others that are a lot more easily available for you to get your hands on, and provide just as much of that arm-tiring action you crave.

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