Sakura Spirit May Have Opened the Gates for Eroge on Steam

Steam Eroge Games

From my North American perspective, video games (and all media to an extent) are bracketed by ridiculous notions of “maturity.” For some reason, it has become acceptable and expected that young children can view depictions of violence in games. Parents may not like it so much, but they buy their kids games like Call of Duty anyway. However, show one scantily-clad character or make one heavy-handed sexual euphemism and the content inexplicably becomes more “adult” than seeing a character’s head bursting open with sickening detail in slow motion.

Sakura Spirit Steam Review

The strange concept that violence is okay, but sexual content is not, has been present on Steam as well as game consoles for a long time. We have finally begun to take formative steps toward sexuality in games in the West, but they still feel very childish in execution. As such, when Sakura Spirit launched on Steam, the community went absolutely ballistic.  Where most new games on Steam get a few dozen players during the first week, Sakura Spirit had an immediate player base. People all jumped on board writing ridiculous, juvenile reviews and posting screenshots on their accounts. What was it that caused one small visual novel to gain so much attention?

Simple: It was the designs of each woman in the game. Sakura Spirit is not subtle with its intent to titillate heterosexual men. Each character has a typical “moe” permablush style face paired with a very large chest, hips, and whatever else is stereotypically deemed to be attractive to the typical guy.  Yes, theoretically anyone could enjoy the artwork but it’s doubtful the designers really considered a lesbian, bisexual, or queer audience when creating the artwork.

Sakura Spirit Screenshot

Even though we have sayings like “don’t judge a book by its cover,” that’s exactly what innumerable players did with Sakura Spirit. Either they avoided it because of the artwork or bought it purely for that reason. The latter camp should be very pleased with the game since it has a copious amount of CGs to showcase each character in compromising positions. Sometimes they are even nude, minus careful (and often anatomically incorrect) covering of a few regions.

As far as story is concerned, it feels undeniably average. Thanks to a quick grammar patch most of the unfortunate lines have been fixed, but that change alone can’t make a story worthwhile. It took me around two hours to “beat” Sakura Spirit, but it felt much longer thanks to a lot of fluff in the storyline. Once the game finally kicks into gear, it unfortunately ends way too quickly.

Despite being a middling visual novel, the game has received a tremendous amount of attention. Publisher Sekai Project didn’t seem to anticipate it at all. Now that they’ve tasted what “sexy” content can do for them, well, it’s likely they will push that further in regards to what games they publish in the future. They’ve mentioned considering 18+ games and actually appear to have negotiated with Valve to help create an environment that is eroge game friendly. One change due to these negotiations was a warning page on Steam as well as a warning on the store page itself. Usually, M-rated games ask for your age but this one says the content “may not be appropriate for all ages” or for “viewing at work.”

Sakura Spirit Warning

Therein lies a strange divide since other games actually have semi-depictions of sex in them (Mass Effect, The Witcher, etc) and never were charged with such warnings. In any case, it appears Valve may now be open to more sexual content on their storefront. If so, things are going to become very interesting. Personally, I would love to see story-driven eroge (ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two, Dengeki Stryker, etc) arrive rather than ones like Sakura Spirit. My biggest fear is that, if Valve really opens up the store in this way, that it will become another DLsite. DLsite certainly features some good content but the adult side of things is often frightening. Although I acknowledge everyone has their own tastes, if any, it feels like a bad idea to allow dark titles with rape elements to be easily accessible via Steam. Of course, as of right now Steam does not allow eroge at all.

Although I can’t help but roll my eyes at Sakura Spirit, I must give credit where credit is due. Publishers such as MangaGamer with a stable of eroge games apparently have never attempted to ask Valve about adult games before, simply operating under the notion they’d say “no.” But if Sekai Project has helped to open the doors for it, then this is the start of a very interesting era on Steam.

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  • DrPixel

    Interesting article for sure. I was thinking about it, and I’m surprised Valve allowed this game to even be on the store. I hadn’t known about the warning on the store page as I’d only looked at it near release day, but it’s nice to know that at least a warning does exist. I guess there are some people who are into these types of games, and it’s definitely nice to see Steam potentially opening up to more obscure game types like eroge games.

    Also, where’d you get that header image from? I mean… least I don’t remember a Hentai category on Steam. >.<

  • maverynthia

    No, I hope they don’t. Mangagamer would have all thier rape games up there and the community would become a misogynistic mess even more so than it is.

    • anon123

      At least Grisaia no Kajitsu is coming on steam!
      It’s a very notable visual novel game.

      • maverynthia

        Notable but still terrible, even ‘ef’ had that moment where a woman was unconscious on the ground and the MC was being a total pRedditor.
        Grinsaia if memory serves has a point where the MC asks a maid character her measurements because he’s a total douche, like all these eroge MCs are.

        • anon123

          What are you talking about? Normally, eroge MCs don’t ask that. lol.

          • maverynthia

            I’m talking about Grinsaia or a very other similar eroge with “special students” that are all women and some douchnozzle comes in on them. I remember Grinsaia was terrible in the beginning so I’m pretty sure it’s the one. I take it you’ve never played the game and thing all the MCs are saints.. lol no. Eroge MCs all seem to be douchey rapists.

          • anon123

            I’ve completed the enter visual novel game. I wouldn’t call it notable
            otherwise. Rather, it’s you that I thought that hasn’t played the game.
            The beginning of Grisaia was just as good with it’s comedy rants… and
            who said the all eroge MCs are douchey rapists? That’s pretty ignorant.
            I’ve seen more than just a few out there. You need to play more visual novels if you think like that. Either that, or you’re just playing the horrible side of eroge visual novels.

          • maverynthia

            As I suspected you don’t know much about the eroge, or much eroge in question and that really eroge itself is really misogynistic with very little redeeming qualities. Like Sakura Spirit which I would call an eroge despite it not having an 18+ rating. And no the MC for Ginsaia was a douche as well as the first MC for ef. It is you who cannot see what it wrong with the MC probably because you’ve been steeped in sexism and misogyny all your life you can tell WHY these games are wrong. Besides the fact the women are all cardboard cutouts of each other (so much that we even have labels for what kind of interchangeable women they are “Tsundere with the twintails”, “Deredere with the megane”, “Yandere with the intake hair”. So interchangeable you can make a script to spit out eroge characters. Adding a “touchy feely story” doesn’t correct this, especially with an MC that doesn’t accept consent (actually is consent even a thing? Or is it expected that all the women in these games is “putting out”, save the ones that are indeed rape simulators Valkyrie and [Title I wish not to type because it is THAT bad but Mangagamer puts it out])

            Really I’d like to see decent dating sims rather than eroge, despite me not being the audience. It seems that ALL dating sims aimed at men NEEED to be eroge (Just look at the list on VNDB that read 18+, some weeks the entire list is 18+ eroge), and any man should probably be insulted that everyone thinks that’s all they think about or want to do with their gaming. I’d like too see games like Sakura Taisen, get localized (5 was). It has a good, story a good setting, non-douche MC, the women are actually treated as people and not just 2D sex dolls, it also have some actual GAMING elements too.

    • kurbstar2

      >complaining about misogyny

      back to tumblr

  • kurbstar2

    “but it’s doubtful the designers really considered a lesbian, bisexual, or queer audience when creating the artwork”

    this isn’t a problem, and never should be. Let these minorities make their own games, and finally they already are (My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant). Getting tired of the ‘requirement’ these days that all developers should start reading sjw tumblr blogs, and then write a believable and non-stereotypical story based around a quasi-sexual transgendered foxboy.