The Dark Souls of Podcasts
It was the night of July 29th, 2015. Around 10 p.m. to be precise. I had just finished listening to the most recent Chooch podcast and I was chowing down on some wheat toast with strawberry jam. Usually I prefer grape, but we were out and I wasn’t jonesing hard enough to make any late-night jelly runs. I was browsing the front page of Steam, as I am wont to do, when something caught my eye. Under the “New Releases” section was a picture of some girl decked out in Egyptian garb with wings, animal ears, and what we in the business refer to as “BATs”; better known as Big Anime Tiddies. The kind of 2D girl who makes you wish you spoke a little Japanese. The name of the game slapped on this lovely creature was Sakura Clicker. Better yet, there was no price tag. This baby was Free To Play.
The Steam store search turned up a few more results for “Sakura,” but none of those girls had animal ears so I didn’t really care. At the time of downloading, Sakura Clicker had 44 reviews with a consensus of “Positive”. I ain’t much for knowing what to expect, so I decided to avoid the reviews and go in blind. I skipped the trailer as well, but the product page flaunted a lot of screenshots of more 2D babes in bear costumes. They looked like something you’d see at a furry rave, but with a little more skin and a lot less social stigma. I could tell I’d be spending a lot of quality time with Sakura Clicker.
The download took all of three minutes. There it sat in my Steam library, parking itself right between Saints Row IV and Shadow Warrior Classic Redux with a splash image of a busty burgeoning bear babe benignly bothering my…sense of self-respect. Only problem is that I had class in the morning, and I knew if I started now I’d be spending all night with the sort-of animal girls of Sakura Clicker. That brings us to today.
The Busty Bear Babe in question.
It’s June 30th, 2015. Tomorrow, the lease on apartment renews and I have to pay my utility bill. I also have to buy groceries, put gas in my car, and catch up with reading for my summer classes. But for now, none of that matters. All that matters right now, in this moment, is my first experience with the free-to-play anime girl game Sakura Clicker. I expect nothing, except euphoria.
Booting up the game, I had hoped for some exposition into the universe of the Sakura franchise. I needed an explanation for why these scantily clad young women were cavorting around in what I can only assume to be somewhere in Egypt. Are they on vacation? Are they starring in an anime reboot of Brendan Fraser’s 1999 blockbuster action film The Mummy? Regardless, I didn’t get the story I had hoped for, or even a menu for that matter. Sakura Clicker dropped me right into the action. I quickly figured out the mechanics for the game: click literally anywhere on the screen to send your enemies into the throes of orgas- I mean, reduce your enemies’ health to defeat them. Doing this gives you coins, which make the exact same sounds as Munny from the first two Kingdom Hearts games.
My first look at the sprawling world of Sakura Clicker.
The Steam page mentioned the game had English subtitles, but sadly, I wasn’t presented any translations for the small noises of pleasure or breathy Japanese exclamations. I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something important. At the very least, Sakura Clicker keeps everything simple with the enemy names – regular enemies are referred to as their respective animals like Bear, Boar, and Anubis, whereas their boss versions are titled Big Bear, Big Boar, and Big Anubis. Kojima would be proud. It’s worth noting these so-called “big” enemies are exactly the same size as their non-big counterparts.
It took me a damn long time to realize that the blonde chick on the right is apparently the player character, even though she doesn’t actually do anything and her avatar in the menu has purple hair. I’d say she’s a strong female character, because apparently she’s strong enough to remain completely immobile for indefinite amounts of time. The developers took a bold move out of the Valve playbook in that she doesn’t say anything either, which I think really pays off and serves to enhance her character as the secondary object of sexualization.
Of course, it turns out you can customize her too. What self-respecting RPG would be complete without the option to make your character wear a maid outfit or nothing but gift wrap? Sadly, those tantalizing options were only available as DLC, with each outfit costing 99 cents. However, I did go ahead and make her look a little more to my liking. There were options for hair, outfit color, and facial expressions. I thought about making her “sad” or “angry” to reflect how I was feeling at the moment, but then I found the figurative money shot of the expressions – “perverted.” Hoo boy.
With my questionably sexy catgirl character completed, it was time to get down and dirty with Sakura Clicker. Sadly, at first I could only really get “down” with it because at aside from the relatively boring Bear, Boar, and Anubis, the game only has one other enemy, which is “Aqua”. I don’t know what she was supposed to be, but since she didn’t have animal ears, it didn’t really do anything for me. More arguably sexier enemies show up later, like Fairy, Dragon, Bunny, and Mud, who is literally just a girl covered in mud – but she has underboob, so she’s different!
The gameplay mechanics are decidedly un-sexy. It plays like every other mouse clicking game ever made – you click to get money to buy upgrades to click some more. You don’t even get extra points for clicking on your enemies’ chest, which honestly is probably a good thing. This game does enough already in terms of setting back both feminism and the concept of sexy anime girls by a few years. I probably won’t ever be able to see an anime girl with animal ears for the rest of my life without feeling phantom mouse clicking in my right index finger.
Regardless, I spent about three straight hours actively playing Sakura Clicker. That’s less time than I spent on Cookie Clicker but more than I’ve put into Duke Nukem 3D. I fought through countless Big Bears, a couple of Big Muds, and even a Big Cheetah. The upgrades which once seemed unattainable became mere stepping stones on my way to absolute clicking domination. More enemies unlocked – is that really what a Dragon looks like? I recruited a bunch of auto-click party members who destroyed a number of foes when I took a bathroom break. But even then, Sakura Clicker began to wear on me. I hated to admit it, but you can only click on a certain number of enemies for so long with the same music looping in the background before it eventually gets old. I needed something to spice things up. I needed the full, immersive, Egyptian experience. I needed…DLC.
This…this was a good idea.
With the dregs of spare change left in my Steam wallet, I purchased the totally family-friendly “Egyptian” outfit for my main character. That’s one less tag I can buy for Team Fortress 2, but at least I get the gratification of ogling a character I don’t recognize in an outfit that’s about as “Egyptian” as Dio Brando’s assless chaps. Finally, the stage was truly set for me to enjoy Sakura Clicker. I could now easily visually identify the setting and maybe fill in some exposition gaps in my head. With this 99 cent purchase, I was sure I could milk at least another five hours from Sakura Clicker.
Sadly, I could barely manage five more minutes with Sakura Clicker, much less five hours. I probably kept going for another fifteen minutes before throwing in the towel. What does this game achieve? If we’re being honest, I could go on literally any anime image website on the internet, pull up a couple 2D girls, put some Final Fantasy battle music and hentai moaning clips in the background, and achieve the exact same effect but with more self-respect and less of my life wasted. The game plays itself in the background, but after you’ve seen all the enemies, what’s the point of continuing to play? As far as I know, this game isn’t a critical story-based entry in the Sakura franchise. Maybe I’ve just truly failed in understanding otaku culture.
Did I get the euphoria I sought from Sakura Clicker? Maybe for like the first five minutes when I was somewhat enjoying myself, or when I got a chuckle out of the absurd DLC. I could’ve bought more cat ears! Who doesn’t like ten more variations on cat ears? If freemium games are the Devil, Sakura Clicker is like the imp the Devil uses as a footstool. Dumb, a little funny, but ultimately completely pointless. I’m sure this game would have a bright future on the mobile market, although Sakura Tapper doesn’t quite have the same ring to it and is also a little more uncomfortable.
At some point near the end of my time playing Sakura Clicker, I realized how to improve it. This game has two things going for it: it’s sexy, and it’s in Egypt. I bought the DLC to make it even sexier and Egyptian-ier, but we can go farther. It’s plenty sexy I guess, but Egypt could be represented a little more. People love Egypt! They love pyramids and mummies and scarab beetles and horrible curses! That’s why I argue we bring Sakura Clicker to its logical extreme and add the perfect combination of both “sexyness” and “Egyptian” to the game. I took the liberty of mocking up a screenshot below:
Thanks for reading.