On Monday, May 16th, just a month after their preview, Linden Lab released the Sakura Linden Homes theme for Premium subscribers. Thanks to the prior April preview, I’ve already offered something of an overview and thoughts on the house designs within Linden Homes: Asian theme in Second Life, so what follows is a very brief recap on them, followed by more of a look at the Sakura regions as a whole, and my thoughts on now having seen the regions.
Overall, the theme is offered with both 1024 sq m and 512 sq m parcels, with a total of 8 house designs split between 4 styles (each style having two versions, one with multiple rooms, the other with fewer rooms and something of a more open-plan feel). Some of the designs are specific to the 1024 sq m parcel size, but the smaller designs are available on both 1024 and 512 sq m parcels.
The houses are predominantly single-floor units, with only the Himawari / Haibisukasu (available on both 512 sq and 1024 sq m parcels) and the Kaneshon / Kuchinashi (available on 1024 sq m parcels only) having upper floors.
By default the outer walls of all the designs have been given stucco / plaster finish, and all have the typical steep tiled roofs we in the west identify with this style of house. The majority of doors are of the sliding variety, either fully glazed and set between glazed window panels, or for a degree of privacy between rooms, may be opaquely screened. I assume they include the same decorating options found in the more recent Linden home releases.
I confess that on first seeing the house designs, I couldn’t help be feel the variants with multiple rooms tended to feel as if their interior spaces were a little cramped and in places awkward. Some of the designs still leave me felling that way, but I confess to have changed my mind somewhat on others – the Shion, for example, with its central “courtyard” potentially offers a lot of opportunities for the imaginative interior designer.
The Sakura regions offer a mix of roads and waterways running through the regions, with the houses arranged in informal “blocks” between them such that the majority of properties either face onto either a road or waterway (and in some cases both), even if they don’t provide fully open access to due to a strip / belt of intervening protected land. The roads are similar in nature to those within the Newbrooke theme regions and cross the waterways using relatively low bridges (compared to some other bridge designs seen across Bellisseria), potentially limiting the waterways to smaller water vehicles – which as actually no bad thing; who really wants a honking great cruiser crowding its way inland?
As I noted with my preview piece, the waterways all have their own footpaths running alongside them, giving them something of a canal-like feel and offering the opportunity for waterside walks. Garden spaces both on land and on the water in places), ponds and copses help to break up the houses and provide a sense of space, while both roads and waterways have periodic rez zones for vehicles. A nice touch with some of the roads is that, rather than ending short of a waterway, they actually slope down into the water quite handy if you have an amphibious road vehicle or wish to drive your boat to the water on a trailer!
However, the most attractive parts of the Sakura theme come in the presence of Mount Soji and the Shobu community centre and surrounding gardens.
Mount Soji, seen in most of the images here, is a four-region snow-capped peak that bears something of a resemblance to Mount Fuji. It’s defined as a park, but could perhaps do with a little more flora around its lower slopes (LI allowing) – which I hope will come, as it does make for an eye-catching backdrop, one that is quite unique among the Linden Homes regions.
Shobu, meanwhile, is perhaps the most attractive community centre yet provided for a Linden Homes theme – and I’m speaking as someone who really likes the Fantasy theme community centre. It presents a marvellous mix of gardens, waterways, footpaths (complete with Torii gates), places to sit, places to meditate, water gardens and features, trees, and its own railway station (although the tracks don’t, as yet, run very far).
Within all this, the community centre itself sits as a grand, modern take on a feudal palace of old, complete with its own waterway sitting within cloister-like covered walkways. Shoji-style lanterns light the large, airy rooms inside the centre whilst stairways within either wing of the centre provide access to two rooftop spaces.
Approachable by road or water (or, eventually, I assume, rail), it’s a superbly considered design; the surrounding gardens offering an engaging series of walks. And, having been built as a part of the initial development of the theme, it very much sits at the heart of it, rather than feeling a little pushed to one side, as has been the case with the community centres for some Linden Home themes.
Taken as a whole, the Sakura theme – allowing for the caveat on room sizes in some of the designs (which in fairness applies to some of the other themes, such as Newbrooke and Victorian, IMHO) – is one of the more visually engaging and attractive Linden Home environments, particularly with this initial release built around Mount Soji and the Shobu Community Centre. So much so, that I’m actually tempted to make the jump from Newbrooke!