Sakura Wars is maybe probably the most anime sport that I’ve ever performed. There are loads of video games on the market primarily based on standard anime, sure, however in terms of feeling such as you’re an lively a part of an ongoing, episodic journey crammed with quirky characters, dramatic motion, and satisfying melodrama, Sakura Wars has all the pieces else beat. Its construction, charming solid, and whirlwind story assist set it other than different colourful anime-impressed adventures, and, very similar to the characters whose tales it tells, it manages to beat lots of its flaws to develop into a satisfying expertise in the long run.
For the uninitiated, all the idea of Sakura Wars is quite offbeat. This specific sport is a semi-reboot of a protracted-working Japanese sport collection of the identical identify, set in an alternate 1940s Japan the place steam know-how rapidly surpassed electrical energy and historical past took a really completely different path. The world’s nations, quite than combating one another in World Wars, took arms in opposition to demonic invaders with armies of steam-powered combating robots known as Spiricle Strikers. Oh sure, and these armies additionally function semi-covertly as theatre troupes whose members consisted principally of younger ladies.
It’s so much to absorb, and it is compounded by the truth that just one different Sakura Wars sport has made the voyage Westward, although some associated media (like anime and manga diversifications) have seen launch right here. Still, in case you’re coming in completely blind to the Sakura Wars idea and mythos, you may end up quite confused, significantly when references to earlier titles crop up.
Sakura Wars does discover a solution to attempt to ease you into issues, nevertheless. You take the position of Seijuro, a disgraced army veteran who has been shuffled off to handle the Combat Revue of the Tokyo Imperial Theatre… a crew consisting of principally inexperienced greenhorns who cannot act or combat their approach out of a moist paper bag. They’re so dangerous that they can not even correctly defend Tokyo from the demonic forces which have begun to ramp up assaults as soon as once more. On high of that, there is a huge worldwide match among the many fight revues of different main cities taking place, and all the dropping groups can be compelled to disband. And so you need to flip issues round for the Imperial Combat Revue–and destroy the demons and perhaps discover romance within the course of.
Sakura Wars presents its story in an episodic format, full with handy “intermissions” at key factors in every episode and “coming-up-next” model previews as soon as one of many mini-sagas wraps up. Each of the sport’s 9 episodes include sequences that blend story and character interplay to go together with motion portions–though, in many of the episodes, the previous takes appreciable priority over the latter, as you spend time connecting with the ragtag crew of the Imperial Theatre and the Combat Revue.
It’s in these story-heavy parts that the wonder and creativeness of each the sport’s distinctive setting–an anachronistic, steampunk early-20th-century Tokyo–and its creative imaginative and prescient handle to essentially shine. While there aren’t many areas in Sakura Wars, all of them really feel distinct and full of life, giving the impression of a well-recognized but unusual place faraway from time. The character designs add to the sport’s distinct temper, too; moreover the younger ladies of the Imperial Combat Revue, you additionally encounter fighters from London, Shanghai, and Germany, every with their very own character quirks and an interesting visible model that evokes the imagery of their respective nations.
You spend most of your time with the ladies of the Imperial Theatre, although, guiding them by the varied challenges and conditions all through the story. The 5 important Combat Revue fighters are Amamiya Sakura, an optimistic lady-subsequent-door sort and Seijuro’s childhood pal; Shinonome Hatsuho, a tomboyish shrine maiden with a violent aspect; Clarissa Snowflake, a shy bookworm with loads of secrets and techniques; Mochizuki Azami, a bizarre lady with ninja coaching and a candy tooth; and Anastasia Palma, a chilly, sultry girl whose performing expertise are recognized worldwide. Other theatre crewmembers, like director Sumire, theatre retailer operator Komachi, and obnoxious mechanic Reiji additionally assist your crew from behind the scenes, however these core 5 are the place many of the focus of the story and your interactions lie.
Each of those 5 ladies are distinct in each appears to be like and character, and their visible designs (offered by Bleach manga creator Tite Kubo) are superbly rendered and nicely-animated all through, although typically the movement seize can really feel slightly overdone. The Japanese voice performing (there may be, sadly, no English dub) additionally brings out the expressiveness of Sakura Wars’ character dialogue. Seeing and listening to Clarissa getting flustered since you discovered her embarrassing story drafts or Sakura lastly opening up about a few of her painful previous experiences makes for some nice, memorable moments.
It’s in these story-heavy parts that the wonder and creativeness of each the sport’s distinctive setting–an anachronistic, steampunk early-20th-century Tokyo–and its creative imaginative and prescient handle to essentially shine.
Character-to-character interplay is the meat of most of Sakura Wars’ gameplay. During conversations, you will typically be introduced with a alternative of dialogue choices, however there is a twist–these interactions are timed, and taking too lengthy to seek out the fitting phrases (or saying one thing dumb with out considering) can have an effect on the belief different characters have in you. Has Seijuro discovered himself in an ungainly state of affairs by stumbling into the dressing room at a nasty time? You’d higher provide you with clarification, stat! And in case you attempt to be a creepy weirdo, you are going to flip off the ladies you combat beside actually quick, so you need to discover ways to deal with every particular person character nicely.
Once you attain a sure level of belief with the principle 5 ladies fighters, you can begin to pursue a extra intimate relationship. You could also be provided an opportunity to speak and work together one-on-one in a primary-individual, personal setting the place she’ll begin to disclose extra private emotions and worries, full with sparkly auras, blushing cheeks, and faces typically coming very, very shut collectively. It’s over-the-high in one of the best form of approach.
Eventually, nevertheless, you’ll attain factors in every chapter the place fight must happen–either by a portal opening to the demon realm, a random small-scale demonic invasion, or a showcase duel in opposition to one of many different world Combat Revues. The bonds you’ve gotten constructed by the story come into play right here, because the morale of the crew immediately impacts the combating prowess of all the person members by way of harm dealt and obtained.
That needs to be a cool little bonus, however sadly, Sakura Wars’ motion fight is not something to jot down house about. It’s not a depressing expertise, nevertheless it’s not a very thrilling one, both. Taking management of one of many Spiricle Strikers (normally with a CPU-managed companion at your aspect), you blow by waves of enemies with preset assault combo variations, often dodging with exact timing to enter a sluggish-movement counterattack mode or initiating a superpowered ability when a particular gauge is full. It’s normal stuff in case you’ve performed 3D motion video games, and it controls and flows nicely sufficient, however there’s additionally nothing noteworthy about it. It’s additionally very straightforward in case you’re skilled with motion video games; few of the encounters put up an actual risk except for battles the place you are compelled to combat solo, and even these aren’t that difficult. The largest annoyance in fight sequences usually includes random platforming sequences, which might drag the sport down much more in the event that they weren’t pretty uncommon.
Ultimately, fight looks like one thing of an afterthought–less of an important sport element and extra of a approach for the characters to get into conditions the place they’ll ship riveting speeches in regards to the energy of friendship and believing in your self to beat enemies. Combat (and the story beats it delivers) works nicely as a part of the general over-the-high melodrama the sport’s going for, nevertheless it’s not significantly enjoyable to really play these parts of the sport.
Ultimately, fight looks like one thing of an afterthought–less of an important sport element and extra of a approach for the characters to get into conditions the place they’ll ship riveting speeches in regards to the energy of friendship and believing in your self to beat enemies.
The story’s twists and turns culminate in a giant climax, and whereas there are plot holes and “surprises” seen coming from a mile away, it does not matter as a result of it is simply so darn entertaining to see this loopy factor unfurl. At about 15 to 20 hours for a primary playthrough, Sakura Wars is transient, however there is a honest quantity of replayability available in redoing sure scenes with completely different outcomes, discovering alternatives for interactions you could have initially missed, or making an attempt to bond with completely different characters. I loved replaying the sport to woo a brand new paramour, although there aren’t extra substantial New Game+ choices like superior issue ranges for fight sequences.
My time enjoying Sakura Wars mirrored the best way the Combat Revue grew and altered by the sport. Much like Seijuro seeing his crew for the primary time, I used to be skeptical that Sakura Wars may adequately pull off what it got down to do. But as I saved enjoying and the ladies grew into their roles, I started to heat to it. By the time the curtain fell, I used to be cheering for the crew simply as onerous as everybody in-sport was. The flaws of Sakura Wars are apparent, although a powerful concentrate on melodrama and spectacle makes it so much simpler to gloss over the sport’s weak factors. There’s nothing on the market fairly like Sakura Wars, and in case you follow them, there is a good likelihood this solid of oddballs will worm their approach into your coronary heart too.