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Welcome one and all, to the official thread for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, being released on the PlayStation 2 and Wii in North America on March 30th and on the Wii in Europe on April 9th. The game is being released to the English speaking territories by NISA!
Sakura Wars (known in Japan as Sakura Taisen) is a series of Strategy RPGs developed by Red Entertainment (Tengai Makyo, Thousand Arms), Overworks/Sega WOW (Skies of Arcadia, Valkyria Chronicles), and published in Japan by Sega. The series features character designs by renowned manga artist Kosuke Fujishima (Tales of Phantasia, Symphonia, the Abyss, and Vesperia), music by Kohei Tanaka (Alundra, Resonance of Fate), and story by Ohji Hiroi (Moeyo Ken).
The concept is simple at first glance: Sakura Wars is a strategy RPG with an unusual twist for building your stats. In the game, you play as the captain of a specially created unit of female solders with high levels of spiritual energy to fight the forces of evil in large, steam powered robots.
New York, 1928: Demonic beings threaten the peace of the city. To combat this threat a special mechanized combat division known as the New York Combat Revue is assembled. Our hero, Shinjiro Taiga, has been sent from Japan to act as its advisor. What he didn't realize was that he'd also be leading a band of theatrical performers by night. Now he must find a way to balance his life as military leader and musical director, all while adjusting to the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced metropolis.
(Descriptions taken from the official NISA website)
A young Navy Lt. from Japan whos to become the new captain of the New York Combat Revue, Star Division. He is talented physically and academically, and addresses every problem wholeheartedly. However, his straightforwardedness often causes problems. He has admired his uncle, Ogami Ichiro, since childhood.
A very cheerful cowgirl who tends to be a bit clumsy. Her masters last words bring her from Texas to New York with her fellow horse, Larry. Shes not yet used to life in New York, but she dreams of becoming a broadway musical star. She currently works at the theater as a cleaning girl.
Cheiron Archer (English Dub) / Sagitta Weinberg (Japanese Dub)
A strong-willed lawyer who practices out of Harlem. Shes very intelligent and is recognized for her exceptional perseverance, toughness, independence, and confidence. Her calm and analytical, yet passionate, actions are a great asset to the Star Division.
Rosarita Aries (English Dub) / Rikuritta Aries (Japanese Dub)
An energetic and upbeat little girl from Mexico. She loves to sing and dance. Wielding a gold and silver gun in each hand, she earns bounties as a renowned bounty hunter. No matter how mad she gets, a little bit of food will put a smile back on her face. She and her ferret Niccolo (Noco in the Japanese Dub) are always running around New York looking for food and bounties together.
A young doctor whose compassion is comparable to a goddess. She studied medicine at Boston University before getting sent to New York as a doctor in training. Shes physically feeble and has to use a wheelchair. She loves to spend time reading with birds in the warm sun. The only vegetarian in the Star Division.
Her (?) true identity is completely unknown. However, Subaru is definitely from a noble Japanese family and excels at Noh and other traditional Japanese dances. She (?) is also a genius and it shows in her (?) graceful and elegant performances. Subaru, like Ratchet, used to be a member of the European Star Division.
Captain of the Star Division and Broadways number one star. Originally the Europe Fighting Troupe captain, she was transferred to Tokyos Flower Division. There she learned the importance of trust among all team members from Ogami and the rest of the Division. After demonstrating her leadership abilites, she was chosen to lead New Yorks Star Division.
The commander of the New York Combat Revue and the owner of the Littlelip Theater. He is one of the wealthiest men in the world, even owning a mansion in the middle of Central Park. He thinks about things based on what people want, not what is good or bad.
Cherry Cocker (English Dub) / Plum Spaniel (Japanese Dub)
She rollerskates all around the Littlelip Theater, delivering drinks as a waitress. The fresh juice she prepares is tasty and healthy to boot. She has a great figure and an angelic smile. There are plenty of men after her heart. When an emergency arises, she supports the Star Division with another Rainbow Division member, Anri.
The vendor at the shop inside Littlelip Theater. She also creates all of the stage costumes for the Star Division. Shes extremely shy around most guys, but is very aggressive when dealing with Shinjiro. Her grandparents immigrated from Japan. As a member of the Rainbow Division, it is her duty to support the Star Division with Cherry/Plum in an emergency.
Mr. Wong is Sunnysides assistant and the manager of the STAR maintenance team. Hes an expert in Eastern medicine, including acupuncture, herbal remedies, and qigong. He plays a great role in the research and development of STAR weapons.
The owner of ROMANDO, a shop that imports Japanese goods. Hes also the captain of the Imperial Assault Force Mood Division. He lives in New York as the Japanese governments diplomat. How will he affect the story?
Unlike most RPGS where characters improve by gaining levels through experience earned in battle, in Sakura Wars your squad members improve in strength and mobility the more they like/trust you. A typical episode in Sakura Wars consists of two modes:
1) Adventure Mode: Walk through the theater/town, talking to the various characters in the story
2) Battle Mode: Get into them mechs and take down the bad guys.
The Adventure Mode is where the stat building occurs. As you walk through the theater (your base) and the town itself, youll encounter the various members of your squad doing whatever it is the story feels like having them do at that particular moment. As you talk with them, youll come across questions or situations where you have to choose how to respond. Respond correctly, and the girls trust increases. Respond poorly, and you lose trust. But even this aspect of Sakura Wars is hardly standard fare; like everything else in this series, theres a twist involved.
In most adventure games/dating sims/Elder Scrolls-style WRPGs, when the window of choices pops up, you have more than enough time to read each response, think it through, and select the best/worst/funniest choice accordingly. But that hardly seems interesting/realistic right? I mean seriously, what girls gonna stand there and wait for hours and hours for someone to respond to a simple question?
Sakura Wars utilizes a system called LIPS (Live Interactive Picture System) for your options, and these responses are timed. Usually, youre given no more than 3-5 seconds to respond. Thats 3-5 seconds to read each response, decide on the best one, and then select it. So youve got to be on your toes. Lets take a look at the following screen:
See that bar around the text window? Thats the timer, and its going to fill up fast so you better respond quickly or your character will say/do nothing instead. BUT this also brings up another interesting choice; sometimes the best course of action is to say/do nothing.
Additionally, there are times where youre given one choice, but must adjust the volume/intensity with which you state it to the appropriate level using the analogue stick.
There are also times where youre given one long time frame to go through several timed options.
In addition to choices, some test your dexterity with analogue stick prompts ala Jet Set Radio.
As you can see, its anything but cookie cutter. All of these interactive scenes in Adventure Mode serve two purposes:
1) Determine the stats of the characters in Battle Mode
2) Determine which ending youll get at the end (i.e. which girl you win with)
During breaks in the Adventure segements (or segways into the Battle Mode), you can check the status of the girls as such.
Now, you might say to yourself Well, thats easy then! Ill just make every girl trust me and theyll all kick ass in battle! Not so fast buddy! Its not that easy. All of the girls have various and sometimes conflicting personalities. Some girls are easier to please than others. And sometimes, youll converse with two conflicting girls at once, meaning youre liable to gain ones trust while simultaneously losing trust from the other. And you cant afford too many weak links when you enter Battle Mode, or you can get your ass handed to you if youre not careful. So its a giant balancing act, one thats much more addicting and interesting than it seems at first glance!
And this is just the Adventure Mode. Now lets talk about the Battle Mode! Heres a screenshot of a typical battle scene in Sakura Wars:
For those whove played Valkyria Chronicles, you might notice a couple of similarities (or at the very least, you might have read some of us mentioning them in the official VC thread). This shouldnt come as much of a surprise; this is the game Overworks developed immediately prior to Valkyria Chronicles. Unlike the grid-based competitors like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea (or the first two Sakura Wars games I might add ), this Sakura Wars title features a free roaming battle field, with the Action Bar at the bottom of the screen determining how far you can move.
The major difference is that in Sakura Wars, the bar isnt just for movement. Its also used for actions like attacking (all mapped to a specific button, as shown). Each bar is split up into a set of partitions. Move a certain distance, and one partition will be drained. Thankfully, if you havent carried out any actions, you can also return to your starting position to refill your gauge. This system requires careful management of the Action Bar. Maximize it to make battle easier. However unlike Valkyria Chronicles there are no real-time elements to the battle system; its a strictly turn-based affair.
Developed by: Sega, Red Entertainment and Overworks/SegaWOW. Wii port handled by Idea Factory.
English Localization: Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA)
Systems: PlayStation 2 and Wii in North America. Wii in Europe.
Language: English only on Wii (US and Europe). English and Japanese 2 disc Special Edition on PlayStation 2 (US only) FIRST PRESSING ONLY!! Once sold out, the Standard Edition will print and will be English only.
ESRB rating: T for Teen for Fantasy Violence, Language, and Sexual Themes (get your head out of the gutter, its not an icecream game!)
Price: $39.99 for the PS2 Special edition (2 disc), $29.99 for the Wii edition(1 disc) (US). £29.99 for the Wii edition (1 disc) (Europe).
ROSENQUEEN SPECIAL EDITIONS: PS2 limited $49.99 here comes with an artbook as well. Wii limited $39.99 here. Same deal, but for Wii.
Ive heard the game NISA is bringing to America/Europe is actually the 5th game in the series. Am I going to be completely confused?
With the exception of a couple of cameos in the first 15 minutes, this is a pretty self-contained game. Theres no need to worry.
Why is Europe only getting the Wii edition?
Honestly, Ive no idea. If I had to wager a guess, NISA might have had trouble getting European stores to carry a new PS2 game, or perhaps had trouble getting it rated for European release (or both). Honestly, well probably never know.
I dont like JRPGs that have light-hearted unrealistic stories, big eyed characters, peppy music, turn-based battles, and colors other than green and brown. Will Sakura Wars change my mind?
No, no it wont. However, if you do like quirky off-beat humor, lovable characters, colors, and are willing to check your disbelief at the door, its a fun and entertaining ride.
What review scores did Sakura Wars: So Long My Love get in Japan?
Famitsu: 10, 10, 9, 8 (37/40)
Deigeki: 90, 85, 85, 85
US Review Scores
The premise may be wild-eyed, but the systems that fire it are robust... Deserves the small but vociferous following it will no doubt find.
Nintendo Power said:
Certainly Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love has its issues, but it's a game unlike any I've played before, and I applaud NIS America's willingness to finally bring the long-running franchise to North America.
Official Nintendo Magazine UK said:
Flawed, but this is a unique, rewarding experience.
It's something you could easily play over and over again for a few more years. Hopefully by then, we'll be lucky enough to get a follow-up, because this really is an experience you won't get from any other game. It's also one that shouldn't be missed.
But even if you're a lapsed anime fan who's long since tossed your grainy Tenchi Muyo! VHS fansubs in the trash, don't simply dismiss this as glorified moe-infused fan service. Yes, the dialogue can be trite and vapid, but Sakura Wars goes much deeper than a simple "dating sim" -- Western gamers really haven't seen this mix of real-time, visual-novel storytelling and giant-mech strategy before. Besides, even if you're skeptical, don't you owe it to the 15-year-old version of yourself to at least give the game a shot?
Gaming Trend said:
Yes, it's campy and silly in parts, and yes, it's not something many western audiences are going to be used to. However, I feel that Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is definitely worth the look.
This is one of the few times when a game does something so different it will make or break the game entirely, but if it is your thing, it will be hard to beat when it comes to overall quality.
Sakura Wars ~So Long, My Love~ is a great game in its own right. It sports NISA's best localization to date and has truckloads of replay value to boot.
Cheat Code Central said:
The worst part about So Long My Love is that awful feeling when you realize that there are at least four other Sakura Wars games that have never come to America. I desperately need to return to the warm and happy world of Sakura, but the best I can hope for is a second (or third) playthrough that takes advantage of Sakura's branching storyline.
Gaming Nexus said:
As a final farewell to the PS2, Sakura Wars: So Long My Love contains a subtitle that really applies to the console and its fan base. This is a fitting title to finish off my PS2 collection and it's been a long ten years of good times, good games, and a lot of fond memories. It's a little bittersweet, but the PS2's time has now passed, and Sakura Wars is a fine title to provide an encore to a console that I considered done after Persona 4. The gameplay is solid, the characters are memorable, the musicals are, in a word, unforgettable. If you've got any inkling to try this game I say go for it, you will not be disappointed. And if you're on the fence about this title, give it a shot anyway. Underneath the very Japanese surface you'll find a game with plenty to offer at a budget price. It may have been a five year waiting period to get this game, but in the end the patience paid off big.
Sakura Wars is a game apart. It is a niche game within a niche genre, and is quite proud of it. The open-minded and unafraid will find a cheerful experience that is happily free of more contemporary obsessions with maturity and grit, content to be silly, fluffy, quirky and madly "anime".
Digital Chumps said:
Ultimately, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a welcomed addition to the PS2 and Wii library. Who knows why it took this long to make it to the States -- or if we'll see other localizations from other titles in the series -- but for any gamer who enjoys anime or is looking for an unusual SRPG, give Sakura Wars a serious look.