Remakes are an extremely curious thing. When you're shouldered with the task of having to recreate something that exists, you also take upon the burden of delivering to each person's expectations of what a remake is, should deliver, and should be. There're more remakes than ever in 2020, be it a video game, a film series — hell, maybe even this very passage you're reading right now. So, instead of relishing in the experience of a modern-day, AAA remake of a beloved JRPG, let's talk about a game free of the shackles of the endless, modern-day remake cycle.
Ironically, the game in question begins with slavery.
Slave Fighter Sara (also known as Slave Knightress Sarah) is a November 2019 release by StudioS, the same circle behind the Strip Fighter series of games, among a myriad of other titles. Though it may have "fighter" in the title, it's like I said earlier: Slave Fighter Sara is a full-on action RPG. Although the store page for the game states it's a "retro cell phone-style action RPG," one glance at the game brings to mind something much closer to the original Final Fantasy Adventure or The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The sword swings, top-down perspective, and even the confined, blocky dungeons all seem to heavily evoke those two games. It's something that's consistent not only through the aesthetics but the gameplay as well.
Unfortunately, five months after its release and Slave Fighter Sara remains untranslated. It's a tragic truth that makes the task of understanding deeply profound world-building and lore the game possibly has something of a feat to an uninitiated gaijin, such as myself. After an opening text crawl of Japanese characters I can't read, the first few minutes of gameplay run down the basics of the premise: Sara, along with her sister, are slaves, owned and used as living onaholes by a single orc in a rather spacious house. After a failed attempt to escape from her master, he and Sara manage to work out a deal: the two women can escape with their freedom, but only if Sara can eke out enough money to buy the two out of slavery.
While this deal poses a question about how completely backward orc priorities are, if they can manage to put a price on perfectly good pussy and actually part ways with it, Sara agrees to the deal, beginning her adventure into a fantastical world to free her sister and herself from a life of degeneracy.
When it comes to Slave Fighter Sara's gameplay, the comparisons to the World of Mana series and The Legend of Zelda weren't just skin-deep: the way screens are divided and the two-button style of combat should feel familiar to anyone who's played either game. There's only one town in the entire game, and when your time isn't spent buying items or earning money in bulk, it's spent cutting down the game's solid ensemble of enemies on your way to the game's four main dungeons.
As you run around the world felling monsters, you'll gradually build up enough experience to level up, with each level-up giving you three stat points to allocate between four categories: HP, MP, Strength, and Intelligence. Combined with spells you can buy in the town's shop, and weapons found in the game's four main dungeons, you can end up making melee, ranged, or even magic-centric builds. It's extremely simplistic, but the game does give you options for how you want to build Sara up. Moreover, the right build can actually be a gamechanger in the game's combat encounters.
Spend a few minutes playing about with Slave Fighter Sara's combat, and you'll quickly find that the starter sword is just a bit too slow and maybe a bit too short-range, requiring you to get right next to enemies and time swings properly to deal damage safely. That wouldn't be such a big deal if swinging it actually covered the area directly in front of you. The arc of Sara's sword swings covers more of the area to her side than it does anything directly in front of her, and where her sword swing actually starts isn't consistent between the directions she faces. Her sword swings in a counter-clockwise arc in every direction except when facing to the right.
It sounds like a minor complaint, but some of the game's most common enemies late into the adventure are flying enemies who fire projectiles — sometimes even homing ones. When screens start filling up with a number of enemies who either blindly saunter around, charge you directly, or fire attacks from a distance, almost always from your blind spot and usually take enormous chunks out of your health in one hit, it becomes very easy to become overwhelmed. While some weapons are a bit faster, cover a greater radius, or even cover a good distance from afar, this is a recurring gripe that's only exacerbated the further into the game you get.
The already touch 'n' go style of combat is made worse by another quirk: damage calculations. Slave Fighter Sara seems to calculate damage in a very particular way, where attacks have a possible range of how much damage they can do, from a possible high to a possible low. The concept of using RNG to determine an attack's damage isn't a new concept at all, but the range between how much and how little damage a given attack can do is extremely wide in this game. The same enemy just bumping into you can either do 35 damage or 62 damage and attacking an enemy can do as much as 182 damage or as little as 70 damage. Hell, touching a boss can do 94 damage to 120 damage. The wide margin between these highs and lows makes combat way more of a gamble than it should be, and too often did I find myself going to the town's shop for a surplus of potions. The damage any given attack does just doesn't feel consistent in Slave Fighter Sara.
Granted, talking about damage calculations is more time that could've been spent talking about the game's dungeons, but that'd require there being something to discuss. Rarely ever labyrinthine in design, the game's four dungeons all house the game's surprisingly easy boss fights. Slave Fighter Sara's dungeons try to use some degree of misdirection, loads of enemies, and a few puzzles to impede your progress, but it all feels very pedestrian. Only the final dungeon is of any note, showcasing multiple floors with looping level design, some extra puzzles, a challenging boss fight, and even an optional item to find off the main path. Despite this, though, the game's dungeons are primarily there to give you additional weapons, increasing your strength in combat and unlocking the way to the next dungeon.
Dungeons aren't really the main point of the game, though, and there's no other side content to keep you from achieving that main goal. Much like Keiji Inafune, the very soul of Slave Fighter Sara all comes back to money, and there're two main ways to achieve that goal: the faster, slightly less degenerate method, and the slower, incredibly promiscuous method.
The fastest way to get money is to take up quests at the adventurer's guild in the game's main town, where you pay a fee to collect items, kill a number of enemies, or kill a boss, in return for a bigger payout on every successful quest. The main reason to go out and progress through dungeons is to get weapons and level-ups, building yourself up for the later quests, which are otherwise insurmountable but have a greater payout. Though there are three different quest types (normal, boss rematches, and hard), you can only do either of those first two quest types once a day. In order to reset the quests, you have to end your day by going back to the orc master, who reveals that it's 4 PM — time for Sara's daily dicking.
You can choose from a menu of different options to watch Sara (or her sister) get fucked in different positions, where the art style shifts to something far more detailed and animated. Different parts of the CG are animated depending on what's going on, such as Sara's sister taking it from behind or Sara giving a blowjob. Some of the more extreme fetishes on display in Slave Fighter Sara don't feature the same level of animation as the vanilla sex scenes, such as the wax torture, the enema play, watersports scenes, or the hot iron branding.
All of this also holds true for the other method of making money in Slave Fighter Sara, which is selling your body to someone behind an inn, who'll either fuck Sara on the spot or send her inside the otherwise useless inn to fuck one of the clients there. Though, it's well worth it for the additional CGs, it's not as efficient in earning money as quests are, contributing to the monotony in the game's last stretch, just trying to earn that last bit of money to buy Sara's freedom.
On the whole, Slave Fighter Sara's presentation is solid. The simplistic visuals convey everything in the game adequately, and the more detailed sprite work in cutscenes and CGs generally hit the mark. Though, there are points in certain sex scenes where the artwork can look a bit... off. I'm not sure if it's a result of the art direction or the intentionally limited resolution and color palette, but it's hard to tell what's even happening at certain points. It's only ever a big issue when bosses make contact with Sara, showing a small scene of them raping her. In the heat of the moment, it takes a moment to parse just what the mess of animated pixels are even supposed to be portraying.
Meanwhile, the game's audio absolutely sells the feeling of a Game Boy game, with songs that manage to capture the essence of the games Slave Fighter Sara is derived from. Punchy sound effects go a long way to sell every hit, magic spell, and item use, which helps make the gameplay feel more satisfying as a result. The sex scenes even feature extremely, heavily bitcrushed voiced dialogue, though whether it enhances or detracts from the scenes, I'm still not exactly sure of.
I'm certain of one thing, though, and it's that Slave Fighter Sara could have benefited with some more polish overall. There're a few occasional oddities on the technical side of things, from enemies being trapped in walls as a result of knockback, enemies occasionally being able to follow or attack you through screen transitions, or even one dungeon not properly respawning a key needed to unlock a door after dying midway through, requiring a reset. There was never anything truly game-breaking, but the game could have nevertheless benefited from some extra time to iron details like those out.
On the whole, it's a bit tricky to say where Slave Fighter Sara lands. It's a pretty short, easy to pick up 'n' play action RPG with a gameplay loop that keeps feeding you erotic content every few minutes, whether it's by way of the frequent game over screen, the bosses' rape attacks, or the slew of CGs to unlock. On the other hand, nearly everything about actually fighting enemies is more cumbersome than it should be and the level design feels like it's on autopilot much of the time. At about $15, it's a hard sell for even fans of retro action RPGs.
If you're really hungry for a 3-5 hour action RPG, can overlook the rougher elements outlined, or you just get a kick out of degradation/humiliation fetishes, then Slave Fighter Sara is for you. For anyone else, maybe get yourself a pizza instead; give the pizza boy a good tip in these crazy times.
If you're still interested in playing Slave Fighter Sara, you can buy it on DLsite for ¥1,650, or about $15.