If there’s one thing that SEGA’s latest entry to the Sakura Wars franchise has done right, is that it’s hard to distinguish whether we’re still playing a game, watching an anime or should I dare say it, living a life in the real world. Maybe it’s the character’s expressive range of movement throughout the game’s many chapters or the splendid voice acting that comes along with it but if there’s one thing that really made me love the game is how you’re faced with making timely decisions that decides how characters in the game react to what you say or do. While it isn’t exactly an entirely new concept, the idea introduces a bit more impact with varying consequences.
To explain this further, one of my favourite instances in the game is when you try to act all anime with the cast providing a reply that you’ll win the tournament with teamwork and synergy which is obviously far from realistic considering you’ve only just started working in the Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division at that point. I end up getting a reality check that everything you see and hear from an anime doesn’t particularly work in this game. So for someone that has barely any real life knowledge when it comes to conversations, my years of training with anime-like responses hold no merit here. You always have to really think of your actions and even though the bath scenes look really tempting from the other side of the door, you really shouldn’t enter for your own good.
But as far as the game’s story goes, the game does provide a lot of heartfelt moments to make each of the main conquerable heroines shine in their own right while still basking the supporting roles in the limelight every now and then. Though if there is one thing that really breaks up my immersion, is each chapter ends with a preview of what would happen on the next. If it’s a show or an anime, normally, I would’ve just changed channels or close the app to keep the suspense going. It doesn’t come off as a huge deal breaker but I do feel somewhat spoiled in a sense and it makes the game go back into the realms of being anime-like than a world you’d want to be fully immersed in.
And before we continue, let me just give you a bit of context. You’ll be taking the role of Seijuro Kamiyama, a Navy Captain that gets reassigned into the Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division. A team of female Spiricle Striker pilots in charge of keeping the peace of Tokyo against the demons that wish to plague the world. But unlike the “normal” military factions we know, the Imperial Combat Revue is housed inside the Imperial Theatre where the heroines also hold stage plays where they are obviously bad at just like how terrible they are at protecting the peace. So it’s up to Kamiyama to band this group of ragtag individuals before they get disbanded.
But while Seijuro isn’t fighting demons in the frontlines, he or should I say you, will be taking on the role of talking to women in true visual novel fashion, taking timed quests, collecting picture cards or being ordered around for just about anything. And this is where most of your time gets invested in to… while it does have the button-mashy musou-style action combat and an average amount of platforming every now and then, they all feel like an afterthought to climatically end a chapter and most of it is barred with even more dialogue forcing you to stay at a standstill while the characters engage in “meaningful” conversations more often than not. I get that there should be some sort of conversation as you progress throughout the map but can we at least walk and talk at the same time? No? Okay.
It also doesn’t help that some greater demons… you know, the boss of the whole area can die in just about a single special attack if not two making the entire run so anti-climactic as you reach the end of like a five to ten minute sprint. Other than that, the game does have its fair share of Koi-Koi Wars. A card game separate from the main debacle that is its combat. This lets you fight characters present in the game with Hanafuda cards as you try to collect suits of cards in the field to gain points with the goal of depleting your opponent’s points to win the match. A nice change of pace but that’s all there is to it.
But since Sakura Wars is firmly a dating sim/visual novel first, combat second, it makes a bit of sense that its combat takes a bit of a backseat. However, it also doesn’t excuse itself for being basically average in every aspect when other similar gal games like the Persona series has both great stories and engaging combat mechanics. So if the mecha combat is what drew you into the game, I only hope you like dating fictional anime girls as well.
And visually, the game does deliver some great and beautifully-crafted characters and an impressive world filled with steampunk machinations and cultural mash-ups. Each of the main heroines has some pretty distinguished characteristics from the tomboyish Hatsuho, the maiden-like Sakura or the cool beauty that is Anastasia. But easily one of my favorites would have to be Claris that looks so elegant while engrossed in her books and then there’s Azami in her mix of a ninja and maid outfit that just looks silly everytime she leaps out of the screen. The character animations and action cutscenes are also something the game has done great. There’s a huge range of movement that they never feel stiff or somewhat overused and repetitive. Although sometimes it does dip into the over exaggerated. And let me just add that when it does take the over exaggerated moves in play, there’s a lot of times where it isn’t voiced which makes me lose how to properly express that thought.
In a nutshell, Sakura Wars delivers what it was hoping to achieve. Giving an engaging story that you can feel invested to even amidst the casual panty humour where most of anime’s main protagonists fall into. You can play out the good guy act or be a jerk at times and while it does have its consequences, just having the option to play one or the other just gives the game a bit more to look forward to as you replay the story and conquer the other heroines to satisfy your thirsts. The combat is a bit too simple and anti-climactic, but they are few and far in between. If you’re driven by story-heavy games this is a good place to start your over-the-top anime romp.
Sakura Wars is available on the PlayStation 4
To purchase the game head here – https://games.sega.com/sakurawars/lang/en/
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The stage is set in a steampunk version of 1940s Imperial Tokyo. Only a short while ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed the Imperial Combat Revue of Tokyo, the capital’s global defense force stationed at the Imperial Theater. Now home to the Flower Division, an inept rookie squad who also strives to impart hope on the citizenry with their theatrical talents, the theater has fallen on hard times and risks closure. It’s up to Seijuro Kamiyama as the captain of the new Tokyo revue to lead his squad and restore the Imperial Combat Revue and the theater back to their former glory! With the help of the revue's five colorful performers, he must rise to the challenge of competing in the Combat Revue World Games, protecting the inhabitants of Tokyo and getting the theater back on track.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 49.99