Because it has apparently been far too long since the last Sakura game, Winged Cloud has make a quick little holiday entry with Sakura Santa. While you can expect to see the usual tropes and ecchi stuff in this entry, the game actually does some things that hint at a better future for them.

Sakura Santa is a about a young man named Koji, who is alone on the last few days leading up to Christmas. Tired of being in his apartment he decides to go to the local shrine and make a prayer to not be lonely. Of course soon after his wish is granted, and he now has three girls to choose to have dates with. Unlike past Sakura entries, the game actually has decisions that majorly affect the route and ending. Each of the girls routes are nice, but much like other Sakura games, there's little character development but plenty of ecchi stuff that's sure to please the series target audience.

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At least the character personalities are a bit more fleshed out this time around. You've got Akina, the provocative and perverted tease for Koji; Itsumi, Koji's old childhood friend who doesn't mind Koji seeing her naked or scantily clad; and a girl Santa Claus, daughter of the big guy himself. She is a pure-minded girl who isn't like the other two girls, so she doesn't get lewd and is reserved, but very clumsy. However there is one scene that is slightly discomforting to see play out that involves a candy cane being manipulated. But since this a is more or less a little holiday-themed visual novel it's mostly acceptable at about $9 USD for the amount of content you are getting. What you won't find is an 18+ version of the game, unlike Sakura Swim Club.

The game's music is typical of Sakura game, and it's just serviceable. The character art is nice, with each of the girls looking distinct enough from each other. The artist from Sakura Beach returns, and their art style seems to have improved (or maybe it just fits this game better). Sakura Santa lacks voice-acting, which seems like a missed opportunity considering that Winged Cloud recently updated some of their back catalog to include voice acting, with other titles to receive the same treatment soon. Maybe this game will get a similar update in the future, but maybe there just wasn't time to make it work before Christmas.

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Font type-face is different from what is usually used, but it suits the look of the GUI, which is pretty festive. This is a decent entry into the Sakura brand, and its branching path hopefully will hint at a more in-depth experience in the future. If you like the series, go ahead and check this out if you also feel like seeing something Christmas-themed.

VERDICT:

The Good – It's a fun read for the visual novel crowd, and the ecchi parts are nice, if but a tease.
The Bad – Voice acting could have helped push the game a bit more.
The Ugly – That there isn't a lot of character development, like most of Winged Cloud's titles.

SUMMARY: Sakura Santa is a fun read that's cute when it when it tries to be cute, and ecchi when it gets lewd. But the fact it has a branching structure puts it above other entries in the brand.

FINAL GRADE:

Review code provided by Manga Gamer and John Pickett

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