THERE WILL BE SPOILERS– HONORABLE, NOBLE, BATTLEFIELDS OF SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
OS: Android and iOS options
Route: Sanada Yukimura, Divine Ending
I SPENT SO MUCH MONEY ON THIS GAME. I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT SO, SO BAD. I NEEDED ALL OF THE THINGS. THIS GAME, GUYS. THIS GAME.
I like otome games; this isn’t a new thing. I reviewed Mystic Messenger and specifically 707’s route in October, and I have also played Midnight Cinderella, Be My Princess PARTY, Wizardess Heart and My Forged Wedding PARTY. There is something so fun about dressing up your avatar and going through this “chose your own romance” style of storytelling and events. It’s addictive. It’s entertaining.
And Samurai Love Ballad Party just did me in by adding two more elements to the mix: historical time setting and true environmental tension. You actually fear for the lives of these characters because they are real figures of Japanese history, who’s endings you can research with a simple trip to Wikipedia. You KNOW when they die– which means in game, their lives are not always going to be guaranteed.
For me, that is so deliciously tempting. I love me a good, gripping, tense love story. SIGN ME UP!
Also, it should go without saying that the game is not historically accurate in any way. The Sengoku period was full of blood and betrayal and many of these characters were dead or not old enough to participate in the battles mentioned in the game. Liberties were taken to make the story what it is, just be aware you will not leave an expert on the time period!
The game itself is free with in-game purchase options for pearls and love passes. You know, for those of us (
me) who can’t seem to wait when the 5 love passes you get each day at 5 AM end on a cliffhanger. Or when you need those pearls to get the avatar piece that earns you the special portraits.
THE PROLOGUE & IN GAME SET UP
After selecting your main character’s birthday and name (I chose to use my usual otome game name, Kanako Otohime), the prologue begins to set up how MC ends up in this twisted, dangerous love with a samurai, daimyo or future shogun. It turns out MC is working hard to avoid the advances of a very creepy Magistrate who believes he has a right to her hand, despite her continuing to refute him. Her little brother comes in to protect her honor and knocks the magistrate down.
On her way back to her family’s restaurant, she reminisces about her father whom they lost to war a few years before, and begins running into some of our main men from the game– Oda Nobunaga, Ichuniyo, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Date Masamune, and Sanada Yukimura.
Just as her family is winding down for the night, the Magistrate appears again with a threat to shut down the restaurant, which is their last connection to MC’s father and what brings in money to support her family. He offers again to marry MC as a suitable solution, but she refuses. As punishment for this and a trade off to keep the restaurant running, he offers to instead submit her little brother Yahiko into service to a warlord as a poison taster. Her brother agrees.
MC has other plans– to save her family, she musters her courage, dresses as a man and goes to the warlord promised under her brother’s name, taking his place as the poison taster.
Then, you pick your route.
To select the route, you have to pick a group of two characters who’s stories are tied together and then play through the previous and set up stages of that route. For my first go ahead I chose the Sanada Clan, following Yukimura and Saizo. After playing the preview (which was hilarious and tense and I will detail later), you get to chose the character out of the two you want MC to continue her romance with. Throughout the beginning levels and bar will appear as you chose responses, letting you know which of the two you are leaning towards based on your replies.
I picked Yukimura– because he was a sweet, hilarious goober who didn’t realize MC was a girl until he touched her boob and fell off the roof.
Throughout the game you are given the chance to direct the dialogue of the story, which allows you to gain chemistry points. These chemistry points are important for you to have more options for the ending. You will also run into two types of story missions which will need to be satisfied in order to proceed. Avatar missions will require the purchase of attire for your avatar out of a choice of two- one option requiring pearl to obtain and offering a special portrait, or a base attire which can be purchased with coin. The other mission requires a certain number of skill points to move forward.
Pearl are earned as bonuses for logins, event missions and completing episodes or they can be purchased through your google account. Skill points are gained by participating in Cooking Battles. Cooking battle also give you coin and onigiri. Onigiri is used in your Tea Garden, which allows you to advance after a certain number are served and gives you a prize at each level (pearls, coins, attire, energy or love passes).
When you reach the end of the character’s route, you will have the choice between the Divine Ending or the Noble Ending. The Divine Ending is the harder of the two to reach, requiring more skill points and chemistry.
PERKS OF SLBP vs OTHER OTOME GAMES
In most otome games, the extra type of currency (pearls) is unobtainable in game unless you purchase them outright through your Google or iOS accounts. SLBP offers them as rare gifts and rewards. Along this same line, they offer many beginning bonuses (extra love passes for finishing stories, pearls and outfits for achieving beginner missions, free spins on gacha for your castle or avatar, etc), a monthly login bonus AND a daily login bonus. This gives the player more options to process the story faster.
The home screen is another plus; it replays the most recent scene and at times offers a preview of what is to come in future episodes. The background changes according to the story, and is not always going to include the main man; sometimes it’s another side character who is also progressing the story along with a bit of their dialogue in the corner. You can also choose to view your avatar instead, but why in the world would you want to do that?
Samurai Love Ballad PARTY also includes bonus diary entries which explain some of the major battles and cultural aspects of the route you chose; reading these gives you 30 onigiri. You also receive letters from prominent characters in the story that are short but refer to their inner thoughts or opinions on MC’s relationship with the male love interest.
Everything about SLBP feels like a game that is intended to reward the player as much as possible, so spending money to get ahead is not as much of a requirement which I loved. Granted, I DID still choose to spend money so I could race through Yukimura’s story, but I do not feel the need to do that going forward now that I have finished the route and am headed into the next character’s story. I can collect pearl and coin and move ahead at my own pace and not feel like I’m missing out at all.
YUKIMURA’S MAIN STORY
Now that I have finished gushing about the technical part of the game, let’s get right into the meat of it– let’s talk about the story that SWEPT ME AWAY, left me grinning and handing my money over to Voltage like a crazed woman. The one that inspired my Camp NaNoWriMo project.
LETS TALK ABOUT SANADA FREAKING YUKIMURA.
When I chose Yukimura, I had no idea what a sweet innocent child he was. Seriously, this boy can kill you with a spear before you can say “Sanada”, but he is so lovably dense sometimes it makes your cheeks burn.
Upon taking up the role of poison taster for Takeda Shingen, the daimyo that Yukimura is allied with, MC learns about the rumor that she is “strong”, and Yukimura says he wants to see this strength– believing her to be a man. When she retires to her room that night, Saizo enters her room and asks her why a woman is there at all. Sure he will kill her, MC tries to answer but is interrupted. Saizo lets her go and escapes before anyone can find out he was there.
The next day, MC gets mixed up in Yukimura’s training of his men and is invited to spar with him one-on-one. She is no fighter, so although she gives it all she’s got he still captures her… and turns bright red when he realizes she smells nice. The men tease him for being attracted to a man, which he denies, and Saizo shows up. MC is sure he will reveal her as a woman which would mean her death, but he keeps the secret and pokes fun at Yukimura as well.
That night there is a battle; MC trips and saves Shingen from an arrow. It is here she sees how Saizo and Yukimura fight, with grace and power she could have never imagined. She hides in the trees for the bulk of the battle, too afraid to participate or return to where she had before and injured with a twisted ankle.
On the walk back to the compound, Yukimura appears and offers to carry MC on his back not because she is slowing them down but because she shouldn’t be tough just because she’s hurt.
Upon returning to the compound, Shingen has his men celebrate and thanks MC for saving him from the arrow. She notices that while his men are feasting and drinking and being merry, Shingen hasn’t eaten. She makes him a special dish which he loves, and she is released to celebrate that night. Yukimura pours her a drink.
When the festivities die down, Yukimura invites MC up to the roof to drink with him and Saizo. At first she is afraid, but chooses to go with him anyway to thank Saizo for saving her on the battlefield. He isn’t happy to see her there, but eventually she learns about how Saizo has watched after Yukimura since he was little, beating him at sparring. He makes a few jokes at MC about how “pretty” she is, to which Yukimura responds he must be really old to compliment a man. Things get awkward. MC stands to leave, but slips on the tiles.
Yukimura reaches for her to catch her, and ends up grabbing her boob. Recognition. Yukimura breaks out into a huge blush, and falls off the roof. Saizo laughs. MC is worried.
Then you have to pick your route– Yukimura or Saizo. I picked Yukimura here.
MC goes to seek Yukimura out to apologize for lying and to explain herself; when she finds him, he is less worried about why she is there and more about the fact that he has defiled her by touching her in such familiar ways when she could be someone else’s wife. She assures him this is not the case, and explains that she hide who she was in order to save her brother, explains why the restaurant is important and how they got into that mess.
Yukimura promises he will do everything in his power to help her, and will keep her secret, as repayment for the dishonor he did in touching her. Outside the game, I die slowly inside over the sweetness.
The next morning MC is awoken from her sleep by Shingen’s men and taken into the main room. No one is welcoming, even Shingen, and Yukimura is no where to be found. The men inform her that they have discovered she is a woman and accuse her of being a spy for the Tokugawa army. Saizo offers to kill her and is given the go ahead, but the moment the steel is to split her head from her shoulders, Yukimura appears and parries the attack.
And he offers to marry her, for he knows she is no spy and he must make up for the dishonor he did– AND SHINGEN AGREES, sending them back to Ueda Castle to meet with Yukimura’s elder brother and father and officiate the wedding. Saizo and another retainer of Yukimura’s, a young boy named Sasuke, go along.
Saizo convinces MC that she can escape and head back to Kyoto if she takes a certain trail; this is all going so wrong and in ways she never intended for it, so MC chooses to run as he advised.
And ends up falling down a cliff and straight into the sights of one of Yukimura’s rivals, Date Masamune. She had witnessed the two of them fight back in Kyoto and knows that they are not on the same side, and finds herself at the end of their blade as Sasuke appears to defend her as the wife of Sanada Yukimura. Yukimura bursts through with his sword, killing many of the men and pulling her atop his horse to escape. Masamune is surprised to learn that Yukimura has wed and congrats him, telling his men to stand down and not pursue.
Yukimura takes an arrow to the shoulder, and this is where we get our first portrait of the game. He and MC stop and she patches him up, thanking him for saving her and asking why he is going to all of this trouble for her. He explains that he promised he would help her and at the moment the only way he could protect her was to take her as his wife to remove suspicions over her connection to Tokugawa. He knows she is no spy– and he does harbor a large amount of guilt over having been so familiar with her and touching her in a way a husband would touch a wife.
The rest of the ride to Ueda Castle is uneventful.
Now is when I lose the well thought out descriptions of the story and become a bumbling mess. On my playthrough, I managed to get this far without buying anything– the tickets were being replenished as I completed beginner missions and I was already on Episode 4, and Yukimura had stolen my heart with his valiant self.
Upon arriving at Ueda Castle, you are met with welcome from his brother and animosity from his father who believes Yukimura should only focus on dying a samurai’s honorable death in battle and expects her to feel the same (which she does not). Since he and MC came to the castle as a married couple, they are given one room to share with only one set of bedding. Yukimura puts up a screen and sleeps on the floor and allows MC to take the bedding. Neither can sleep.
They discuss the upcoming battle that Yukimura will participate in. She asks if he will come back. He assures here that when he dies, she can call upon Saizo and he will see her safely back to her family. This does not sit well with MC.
The next day, in order to make up for the scene she made the first day and out of desperation to give Yukimura a reason to fight, MC prepares an Absolute Victory Bowl and serves it to Yukimura and his family. This gains her the approval of his father.
As the men go to leave for the night, MC makes the decision to give Yukimura her treasured hairpin. It was a gift from her father, the last she received before he went to war and never returned. It was broken in the scuffle at her restaurant and Yukimura had helped her pick the pieces up, but she hands the broken pieces to him as a token and promise that he will return it to her. She dares not have him promise to come home for her, but out of the duty that he has to give her back her hairpin.
Yukimura is surprised and caught off guard, but he takes the hairpin and tells her he will be sure to bring it back.
Days pass, and Yukimura and the army do not return. His older brother Nobuyuki sits with her on the watch tower as they wait for his return. If she is not there, she is walking along the river where she finds an injured warrior. She drags him into a shack and goes daily to feed and tend to his wounds, unable to leave him behind despite knowing he is the enemy.
Then, one day, Yukimura comes racing to the castle gates on his horse; MC spies him from the watch tower and runs to meet him at the gate. He jumps down and informs her he came riding so hard because he could not stand knowing that he was leaving her waiting the way her father and his had when he was younger. He knows how it feels.
And then in jumps Saizo, with a snide remark about the passions that have been stoked by MC’s daily vigil. Yukimura corrects him. MC is just so relieved to see him. I cried, because I am a puddle of feels and emotions this week and it seemed the right thing to do.
Later that night MC goes to tend to the wounded soldier in the shed; Yukimura goes looking for her, stating he has something he wants to give her. When he gets to the river he finds her, threatened by a Tokugawa soldier in the shack– not just any Tokugawa, but Tokugawa Ieyasu, a mortal enemy. Yukimura protects MC with the intent to kill but she begs him to let Ieyasu go, which he does begrudingly. They fight, Yukimura completley on edge because this is the same man who just killed so many of their own even though the battle he had fought was a Takeda win.
They remain distant and aloof all the way through the festival until the rain, when MC loses track him. Yukimura pulls her toward a shrine and explain his motivations.
After explaining he was worried she was lost and that he let his emotions over seeing her with another man get in the way, he presents her with the hairpin she had given him to ensure his safe return– now repaired. Yukimura places it in her hair and when they look up at each other, realizing how close they are, beginining to lean in—
Saizo appears and interrupts. Freaking Saizo, who’s side are you on anyway?
After the festival, Nobuyuki informs them they are going to Kyoto to see MC’s family and have an engagement party. They travel back to Kyoto, where the Magistrate appears before the restaurant and is dealt with my Yukimura once and for all as he tries yet again to claim MC as his. Yukimura and Nobuyuki scare him enough that he runs off and is never seen again. Yukimura gains MC’s mother’s permission to wed her, so long as he promises to take care of her and know her well enough to know that MC is too strong to tell him when she is sad.
That night, Yukimura and MC talk and he tells her she should stay behind in Kyoto, because he will have to go to war again and it would make him feel better knowing she was somewhere hidden and safe. Instead, MC gives him her hairpin again.
Yukimura accepts her momento once more and the promise that she will always be waiting for him to return to her at Ueda Castle. They return together before he heads off for battle once more. This time he is not as lucky; Yukimura is not focused and races off into danger, getting himself and Saizo injured and losing the bulk of the Takeda calvary. Saizo blames MC for making Yukimura weak and unable to focus because he is more focused on coming home to her than going to war.
MC finds Yukimura, who is guilt ridden over his mistake that cost so many lives. He informs her that when he goes to war this time, he will not be back. He begins speaking as if he is already dead, and MC can feel it. Out of fear, she lies and tells him that she loves someone else at home and she can no longer be here for him– believing if he did not have to worry for her, he would be able to make it back alive as he always had before.
She’s crying, Yukimura knows she is lying and trying to be strong and give him a kindness neither of them truly wants, and they part ways with MC heading back to Kyoto.
I cry. Again, because dang it– YUKIMURA YOU CANNOT DIE ON ME YOU JUST CAN’T OKAY?!
Instead of making it to Kyoto, MC is ambushed by Tokugawa Ieyasu and taken prisoner as she is the supposed weakness of Yukimura, held captive in the Tokugawa camp. There she is recognized by Date Masumune, who walks on as Ieyasu threatens her and Sasuke to get information to help him take out the Sanada. MC, now so tied into this war with her heart out on field musters her courage (YAY GIRL YOU GO GIRL) and offers the best insult of the game.
Yes, MC. You do us all justice with this.
That night, Masamune defeats the guards and helps MC escape the Tokugawa camp to warn Ueda castle of the incoming enemy attack. He states his reasons for helping her is because he agreed to help Tokugawa take out Takeda, not Sanada, and he respects Yukimura even if the two have no friendship between them. She thanks him and heads into the city to warn the townspeople.
Walking away from the battlefield with his father, Yukimura realizes he still has MC’s hairpin and admits to himself that he hadn’t forgotten to give it to her, he chose not to because he wasn’t ready to let her go. Sasuke’s owl, Momofuku, appears with an arrow in his wing and Yukimura, silently, reflects on all of these developments.
When MC makes it back to the town with Sasuke, they begin to warn the townspeople but it is to late. The Tokugawa army is already there and the city is lit on fire and Ieyasu appears, ready to kill MC for escaping. Just as she prepares to accept her death, Saizo appears to defend her.
SERIOUSLY SAIZO DO YOU OR DO YOU NOT LIKE MC?!
He is still severely injured from the previous battle and falls quickly; MC picks up his sword to defend both of them much to Ieyasu’s surprise, but it is quickly taken from her and she is once again weaponless, Ieyasu threatens to make her beg for her life. She refuses three times in a show of solidarity for the honor she has seen through Yukimura, and closes her eyes to accept the sword aimed toward her with some level of dignity.
Yukimura returns the hairpin to MC, then begins his fight with Ieyasu. Yukimura breaks Ieyasu’s sword, then Ieyasu begins knocking arrows and firing them toward MC who is so surprised by the change in tactic she doesn’t move.
AH-HA SAIZO, YOU DO CARE.
The fight continue, Yukimura dropping to his knees due to blood loss, and just when it appears Ieyasu will win the soldiers inform him that Masamune’s troops have betrayed them and are fighting on behalf of Sanada. Ieyasu mutters over the fact that he has to escape, and leaves after asking why he should spare them. Once he has fled, Yukimura stands to rejoin the army and continue the fight for his city until MC stops him, reminding him of the shape he is and demanding he for once think of himself.
Then we get the last portrait and it is oh, so, so nice.
WHY YUKIMURA WHY WHY ARE YOU SO AWESOME AND WHY ARE YOU SO HONEST AND HOW CAN YOU BE SO UNBELIEVABLY JUST YOU?! (as a side note this is the DIVINE ending, which I had already selected by this point. You do not get the image without the Divine ending).
In the epilouge, Yukimura is helping rebuild and MC prepares a meal for them all. She invites Masamune to thank him, which causes Yukimura’s jealousy to rise. Each time he tries to ask her, once and for al, to offically become his wife, someone interrupts him. In the end, he asks her in a drunken mess in front of everyone at dinner, and then once again privately in their rooms (new and improved with two sets of bedding and no screen). She says yes, and then Yukimura does what he does best– melts my heart.
I am definitely going to play every single event that has Yukimura in it. And now, since I have finished his route and left with the feels, I am off to do Date Masamune next. I must know more about his mochi loving rival!