Initially conceived again in 1996 as a approach to provide an RPG franchise on the Sega Mega Drive, the unique Sakura Wars sequence was a mixture of visible novel, relationship sim and round-based technique fight. It follows an all-female theatre troupe based mostly at Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre, placing on exhibits because the Flower Troupe to maintain the spirits of the populace excessive, whereas additionally performing because the Imperial Fight Revue, a paramilitary operation tasked with defending the capital from monsters. To take action, they use mechs referred to as Kobu, powered by the power of their spirit.
With its anime stylings and a forged of lovable protagonists, the franchise grew to become a wild hit in Japan earlier than its destiny was sealed together with the Dreamcast. The west solely noticed the localisation of the final Sakura Wars sport, Sakura Wars: So Lengthy, My Love, its New York setting and all-new forged thought-about a very good entry level right into a sequence typically deemed to be too Japanese.
This new Sakura Wars constitutes a tender reboot, set a decade after the occasions of the originals and utilizing established gameplay however that includes a very new forged. You’re taking the position of Navy ensign Seijuro Kamiyama, who turns into the Flower Troupe’s new captain. It is your job to assist restore the Imperial Theatre to glory and hold Tokyo secure. To be able to make a gaggle of ladies into an actual crew, it is advisable to get to know them, assist them overcome private struggles and realise their true potential.
As Seijuro, you spend your time both speaking to those girls or preventing demons in musou-style motion fight. Sakura Wars’ dialogue is constructed across the sequence’ patented LIPS system: you get three dialogue decisions, however solely have a restricted period of time to choose a solution. The dialogue choices themselves are recognisable when you’ve ever performed one other sport with dialogue selection – you might have a very good possibility, a cautious possibility and a sleazy, impulsive one. There’s additionally ‘analogue LIPS’, a dialog possibility the place what Sejiuro says is predetermined, and also you solely choose the depth with which you need to say it.
Identical to in a visible novel, the solutions you choose decide the opposite character’s opinion of you. Every of the ladies conform to established character varieties – the bookish one, the short-tempered one and so forth – and also you get to know them higher the extra you discuss to every of them. If you happen to achieve a personality’s belief, you’ll be able to set off a ‘belief occasion’. On this occasion, which makes use of first individual POV, one of many girls can have a private chat with you that can finish in some PG-13 touching. These conditions will be intentionally naff – one character simply needs to practise a romantic scene in a play – however they’re, and that is essential, totally consensual and don’t cut back the younger girls solely to their our bodies, even whereas ogling is unquestionably happening. Context and nuance are essential right here.
Motion fight is new for the sequence, and a step away from Sakura Wars’ extra typical Fireplace Emblem-esque turn-based technique. You’ll be able to freely transfer your Kobu round, use gentle and powerful assaults, and unleash a particular assault as soon as a spirit level meter has stuffed. Each in fight and in dialog, your actions affect your crew’s opinion of you. Preventing shortly with out getting hit raises crew morale, which in flip has an impact on assault and defence. Making the ladies such as you outdoors of fight additionally determines your beginning morale.
The story of the brand new Sakura Wars is shortly advised: the outdated Fight Revue, together with groups from different nations that appeared in earlier Sakura Wars entries, died in a grand battle to seal away the highly effective Archdemon, saving the world from sure destruction. After all it seems that the Archdemon risk continues to be very actual, and divulges itself simply when the Flower Troupe is taking part within the Fight Revue World Video games, a public battle occasion figuring out the popularity of a number of worldwide fight troupes, as a result of clearly saving the capital in opposition to monsters is not sufficient already.
Sakura Wars is firmly relationship sim/visible novel first, fight second, because it belongs to a style of video games referred to as ‘gal video games’ – relationship sims for heterosexual males. The participant controls a male protagonist in a setting the place they’re virtually solely surrounded by younger, lovely girls, and gamers might ‘choose’ their favorite. In Japan, gal video games are a part of the mainstream, a lot in order that relationship sim parts are a pure a part of many video games you understand – take the Fireplace Emblem or Persona franchises for instance. Whereas there are lots of gal video games that take relationship to misogynistic, demeaning extremes and borderline unlawful territory (I drew the road at Tokyo Mirage Periods, for promoting typically misogynistic and borderline unlawful practices in an actual trade), Sakura Wars stays above board.
Sakura Wars does commonly dip into bouts of panty humour, having you discover girls’s underwear or ‘ending up’ in a girls’s lavatory for comedic impact. This form of humour may be immature to western audiences, nevertheless it’s a results of a tradition that treats our bodies in a really completely different method. I am unable to chuckle about it, however I perceive why it exists. I am cut up on the borderline creepy dialogue choices, which embrace asking for a kiss or making sexually ambiguous jokes.
It is essential that, in contrast to different video games which paint you because the hero it doesn’t matter what you say, these choices are all the time penalised – you are explicitly inspired to be a very good individual, and that expectation entails giving gamers an choice to be unhealthy. I do nevertheless have to level out that the creepy choices are all the time performed off for laughs, which is fairly jarring contemplating the general respectful tone.
Sakura Wars’ actual power lies within the ardour with which it delivers its story. Designed like a TV anime, full with episode previews and title playing cards for ‘advert breaks’, it focuses on a unique member of your troupe with every chapter, whereas additionally driving the general story ahead.
The plot does not even remotely make sense and I did not thoughts within the slightest. Nothing concerning the sport is wise, it even spoils its personal plot a number of instances with ‘intelligent’ foreshadowing and likes to repair drawback utilizing deus ex machina. “How is that this doable?” a personality says at one level a few shocking twist of their favour, solely to obtain the reply “I do not know, however it’s!”… Okay!
The plot is foolish and the fight’s easy, however I beloved spending time with the principle characters and seeing what they need to say and the way they react to the more and more high-stakes plot developments. And boy, do they react. There are life and loss of life conditions, fisticuffs, and battles set to the triumphant title theme whereas characters uncover their true power due to the facility for friendship. The eagerness all however incinerates your display. What’s to not love? It could not make sense, however every episode has a transparent dramatic arc that resolves satisfyingly.
Additionally, Sakura Wars simply seems to be persistently nice: every scene is introduced from a number of digicam angles and almost-static photos and anime sequences provide additional visible selection. The completely different environments, whereas little greater than fairly backgrounds for conversations, are detailed and the design of every primary character is memorable. I do miss the immediately recognisable type by Kosuke Fujishima, who has designed the characters for earlier instalments -here, mangaka Tite Kubo of Bleach fame takes over. The designs of the brand new mechs nevertheless is a brand new favorite of mine, every coming with their very own specialty like an enormous hammer or an ice pistol. The demons do not actually get an opportunity to face out in battle – when you look intently you’ll be able to see them stumble and fall overdramatically like kaiju in outdated Japanese monster movies. Every thing about Sakura Wars is as excessive as an outdated monster movie, nevertheless it’s that very cheesiness that had me enraptured.
They do not make ’em like Sakura Wars anymore, most likely with good purpose, however this new incarnation, just like the outdated video games, is earnest, unapologetic anime nonsense and need fulfilment at its finest.