Sakura Taisen is a Strategy RPG that features a unique sim-based story system. An in-depth storyline exists, much like in any other RPG; however, the player's destiny in the game is not predetermined. Character interaction plays a major role. The player's interaction with the game dramatically influences the storyline and the ending, as the player nurtures relationships between certain characters, their performance in battle will also improve and the strength of their attacks soars. This means that the game's social elements are closely tied to the battle system. Sakura Wars carved out a whole new genre for itself, it's the first in gaming history to combine elements of dating simulation and strategy.
The story is told in an episodic format, each with its own eyecatches and next episode previews, emulating the feeling of watching anime. Eyecatches provide the player with the only way to properly track and save his/her progress, and are often used to indicate a switch between the game's two main gameplay modes, though this is not always the case.
Adventure mode allows the player to control Ichiro Ogami. By visiting certain locations within a building or a city, he may interact with various characters by a system known as the Live Interactive Picture System (LIPS). LIPS presents the player with options to choose from during conversations, where choices made, including not having made a decision at all, adds or deducts "trust points" from the characters involved. These points have various effects throughout the game, including shaping Ogami's relationship with the rest of the cast and, ultimately, deciding the ending scene of the game.
In Sakura Wars, the battle mode gameplay is similar to that of tactical role-playing game. The player gives commands to all attack squad members piloting a spirit armor in a square-based grid. Commands are arranged in groups, and only two commands from different groups can be issued for each turn.
A character's trust points also affect her status during battle. A unit performs better if the pilot has a higher trust rating for the squad leader and performs worse if the pilot has a low trust for the squad leader.
If an attack squad member's unit is destroyed in battle, she is removed from the battlefield, and the player loses trust points with her. If Ogami's unit is destroyed, or if the player fails to meet the given requirements, the game is over.
A Long DayEdit
Before the main menu is shown, the game searches for a system file. If found, the player is asked to load the file; else, he is prompted to create one. Although optional, system files can be loaded into succeeding games in the series for continuity purposes. They also compile various events encountered by the player, such as movie files and mini-games, and provides access to this collection in a mode known as "A Long Day".
The mode appears on the main menu after the player saves into the system file for the first time. It allows the player to browse through the different items the system file has collected by visiting various locations in a limited area, similar to adventure mode, with each place having a particular use.
- Main article: List of Sakura Taisen episodes
Ichiro Ogami, having just been informed that he will be taking command of the secret corps known as the Imperial Assault Force (帝国華撃団 Teikoku Kagekidan), Flower Division (花組 Hanagumi), arrives in Teito (Imperial Capital Tokyo) and is taken to the Imperial Theater by Sakura Shinguji, who is herself new to the team. Ogami is greatly surprised to find that he has been posted to a theater, and doubly so when he's informed that he'll be filling the vital role of clipping tickets of patrons as they come in. Fortunately for his patience, it doesn't take long for the city to come under attack by evil forces, and he's quickly informed of his real role and given a quick course on operating the Koubu. Combat ensues, but he is able to push them back, with the aid of the Flower Division members.
Shortly after, Kohran Li arrives from the Hanayashiki branch of the Imperial Assault Force, where she's been working on the development of the Koubu. Ohgami is also introduced to Ayame Fujieda, a woman of surpassing beauty and an air of serenity, and who incidentally happens to be the Vice Commander of the Flower Division. Ogami winds up mooning over Ayame a bit, making Sakura instantly jealous. A battle at Teito Tower is won, thanks to timely fire support from the Flower Division's flying battleship, the Shougei-Maru.
The next episode focuses on Maria Tachibana, who is having trouble with Ogami's leadership, which she sees as irresolute and reckless. Kanna Kirishima returns from her martial arts training, displaying incredible strength and an even more incredible appetite. In a battle against the Hive of Darkness (黒之巣会 Kuronosu-kai) member Jade Setsuna (蒼き刹那 Aoki Setsuna), a young child is threatened, and either Ogami or Sakura is severely injured protecting him. Either way, Ogami is treated to a severe tongue-lashing by Maria. Before the matter is resolved, Setsuna appears to Maria, threatening to reveal her past as "Kazuar", and Maria pursues him. (Naturally, this past is promptly revealed to Ogami and the others.) The Flower Division tracks down Maria's Koubu, which she has abandoned, and follows a signal from her uniform's tracking device to where she has been captured by Setsuna. The following battle takes care of Setsuna.
Iris, by bullying Ohgami into agreeing to taking her out on a date in celebration of her birthday, manages to break up some private time between Sakura and Ogami. The date proceeds well, until the two go to see a scary movie, at which point Iris panics. Her spiritual powers go out of control and a massive earthquake levels the theater. After being scolded, a despondent Iris barricades herself in her room, and none of the Flower Division's members are able to convince her to come out. She eventually flees the Imperial Theatre by commandeering her new Koubu and returns to the park where the date took place coincidentally, just in time for an attack by Rasetsu. Ogami and Sakura recover Iris, once she's calmed down somewhat, and the Flower Division finishes off Rasetsu.
During the production of the play Saiyuki, Kanna and Sumire get into a fight and nearly destroy the stage. Yoneda orders those two to accompany Ogami in an investigation of an old abandoned mansion, which apparently holds the interest of the enemy. There, they discover Kanna's fear of snakes, Sumire's fear of spiders, and Crimson Miroku, who they promptly drive off with the assistance of the timely-delivered Koubu and the rest of the Flower Division.
The presentation of Saiyuki wraps up, much improved by Sumire's and Kanna's improved attitudes towards each other, and the Flower Division prepares for a party. However, Sakura's return from shopping for supplies is interrupted by a thunderstorm, and we learn that Sakura has a dire fear of thunder. Miroku, who tracked the Flower Division back to the Imperial Theater, launches an all-out assault, trapping Ohgami and Sakura in one of the underground rooms while the others are left to fend off advancing hordes of enemy steam-powered weapons. Ohgami and Sakura escape through a one-in-a-million shot with Maria's practice gun, and Sakura's great amount of spiritual power is revealed in saving them from the ensuing explosion. Miroku's mecha is destroyed, but she escapes, and the enemy completes their plan of unsealing the evil energies of Teito. The shock of the evil energies knocks Sakura into a coma.
The leader of the Hive of Darkness, Tenkai, proclaims that he wishes to re-establish the Tokugawa Shogunate, and that he will destroy Teito if it does not surrender. Kohran isolates an amazingly powerful source of evil and the Flower Division, believing it to be Tenkai's location, attacks. However, it's actually a trap set by Miroku, and they are besieged by countless numbers of the enemy. However, Sakura suddenly recovers and bails them out, and they retreat to plan a new attack. After the revelation of the back story of the Kouma War five years ago, the enemy base is identified as caverns below the Japan Bridge. Tenkai is destroyed by the combined spiritual power of the Flower Division.
For the New Year, Ogami gets to enjoy a day with the girl who likes him best, but they're interrupted by Aoi Satan, last survivor of the Hive of Darkness, and his minions, the Kouma which had been banished five years ago. The Kouma are amazingly powerful, and a short battle with a few of them is enough to nearly wreck the Flower Division's Koubu units. As an attempt to increase their strength, the Flower Division separates to engage in special training. Sumire uses her influence in society to produce the funding needed for Kohran to produce a new version of the Koubu, named the Shinbu. The Shinbu prove much more capable of attacking the Kouma, and Aoi Satan's subordinate Inoshishi is destroyed.
In the background of a comedic play starring Kohran and Iris, Ogami learns the rest of the history of the Kouma War. Yoneda also reveals to him the final trump card of humanity, the Majinki, which is three magical items capable of releasing immense spiritual power. Ayame falls under the influence of Aoi Satan and nearly strangles Ogami, but recovers at the last second, and orders Ogami to shoot her if it happens again. The Imperial Theater is again attacked by one of Aoi Satan's subordinates, Shika, who is promptly killed. However, Ayame once again turns traitor, steals the Majinki, and reveals herself as a demon in alliance with Aoi Satan.
After doing some much-needed cheering up of the rest of the Division, Ogami learns that Aoi Satan is about to use the Majinki to summon the Seima Castle from Tokyo Bay - a gigantic floating city equipped with a massive cannon that is fueled by negative human energies. However, they are forced to first deal with the final one of Aoi Satan's three henchmen, Cho, but they do not beat him in time to prevent the Seima Castle's revival.
Knowing that they don't have a chance, the Flower Division boards the Shougei-Maru and heads for the Seimajou (Seima Castle). However, Yoneda has one last trick to play, and he orders the launch of the Aerial Battleship Mikasa a steam-driven flying dreadnought over five miles long. The main cannon of the Mikasa blows away the gates of the Seima Castle, and the Flower Division infiltrates.
There, they find the three underlings of Aoi Satan once again revived, and the Flower Division girls sacrifice themselves one by one so that the rest of the group can advance. In the end, nobody is left but Ogami and whichever girl is most attracted to him. They are confronted by Ayame, who refuses to return to normal despite Ogami's entreaties, and Ogami duels her and wins. He refuses to finish her off, though, and Ayame in turn saves him from Aoi Satan's attack. Aoi Satan is destroyed, but first he activates the fearsome main cannon of the Seima Castle. Yoneda is forced to ram the Mikasa into the Seimajou to prevent the destruction of Teito.
Aoi Satan reveals his true identity - as Satan - and challenges Ogami to a final showdown. Ayame rises, and tells Ogami that her real name is Michael, the Archangel Michael and that he has to stop Satan. She revives the members of the Flower Division, and Satan is destroyed. At the end, Michael offers Satan the forgiveness of Heaven, but he refuses, promising to return one day to afflict humanity once more.
Ogami is then treated to a short epilogue and a bonus scene depending on which girl he ends up with.
Sakura Wars was first announced at a special Sega presentation in 1995 for release in April 1996. The game's unique blend of genres and styles resulted in it being labelled as a new genre dubbed "dramatic adventure" in its marketing. Because of the greatly increased amount of content—particularly the amount of voice acting Hiroi wanted to include—the release date was pushed forward several months at his insistence, and the game was expanded from a single disc to a two-disc release. In order to meet the new release date, the developers worked long hours and sometimes through the night. Several pieces of finished content needed to be cut to make the release date. Sakura Wars released on September 27, 1996. It was reprinted on June 20, 1997, and released as a budget title on February 11, 1998.
A port for the Dreamcast was released on May 25, 2000, and a version for i-mode mobile devices released on December 18, 2006. It was ported with its sequel to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and released on March 9, 2006. The game was also ported to multiple Microsoft Windows operating platforms. It released for Windows 95 and Windows 98 systems on August 18, 2000, and for Windows ME and Windows 2000 on February 20, 2003. Because of the game's size, these versions were released on multiple CD-ROMs. The CD-ROM version was translated into Russian and published there by Akella on January 11, 2006. A DVD-ROM version was released for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista on January 25, 2007.
While Hiroi wanted a Western release for the game, Sakura Wars has never been released in English regions. An attempt to localize the game's PSP port by an unspecified company ended when Sony refused to approve the project. Efforts at localizing the series were not undertaken due to Sega's uncertainty over whether the game's blend of genres would find a large enough audience outside Japan to be profitable.
PlayStation 2 remakeEdit
A remake of Sakura Wars for the PlayStation 2 titled Sakura Wars: In Hot BloodTemplate:Efn was announced in 2002 as part of the Sakura Wars World Project. Developed by Sega studio Overworks, the remake was directed by Takaharu Terada, who had been battle planner for later Sakura Wars titles. The remake originated as part of Sega's efforts to reintroduce the wider world to the Sakura Wars series. As the versions of Sakura Wars up to this point seemed old and awkward compared to its sequels, it was decided to remake Sakura Wars. New CGI segments were created, and the anime sequences redone by studio Production I.G. The subtitle was taken from a tanka featured in Midaregami, a collection of tanka by famous Japanese writer and poet Akiko Yosano. Hiroi enjoyed her work, so featured quotes from her poems as subtitles for Sakura Wars titles several times after the first game's release.
The number of graphics and artwork pieces were increased greatly, more recent and new LIPS functions were incorporated, and the ARMS (Active & Realtime Machine System) battle system introduced in later Sakura Wars titles was incorporated with new improvements including special attacks with accompanying short movies. Two additional story episodes were added. One expanded the story of one of the supporting characters, while the other connected to the next entry in the Sakura Wars series. New voice acting was recorded for the characters, with the original actresses returning; these included Tomizawa, who had previously announced her retirement from the role in the early 2000s. Terada positively noted the increased quality of voice recording compared to both the original version and the later Dreamcast titles. The music was redone by Tanaka, mainly at the insistence of the original voice cast.
Sakura Wars: In Hot Blood was released on February 22, 2003. First print editions came with a special DVD which included a documentary detailing the development process of the Sakura Wars series to that point. Mobile-based tie-in content related to the original mini-games was released later that year. The content was initially going to be accessed through a direct cable connection, but due to driver capacity issues, Hiroi used a password system instead.
|Famitsu|| 33/40 (SS)|
|RPGFan|| 97% (SS)|
Famitsu gave the original version of Sakura Wars high praise, awarding it a score of 33 points out of 40. At the first CESA Awards in 1996, Sakura Wars won Grand Award, as well as awards in the Best Director, Best Main Character and Best Supporting Character categories.
Jake Alley of RPGamer was positive about the story and art design and its replay value, but found the gameplay and aspects of its menu design lacking. RPGFan was highly positive about all aspects of the title, citing the artwork and voice acting as the main draw for players.GameSpot's Peter Bartholow, reviewing the Dreamcast port, also praised the game's visuals and story, while noting a lack of real gameplay and the low degree of difficulty.
Famitsu praised In Hot Blood, with reviewers noting that it was more like an entirely new game than a standard remake.Chris Winkler of RPGFan praised the visual upgrade from earlier versions and the continued quality of the music and voice acting. He also positively noted the theme of the clash between Japan's Edo-era cultural isolation and the cosmopolitan attitude after the Meiji Restoration. He concluded the game "can only be wholeheartedly recommended" for both series' veterans and newcomers.
Upon its release in 1996, Sakura Taisen instantly became a mega hit, both critically and commercially. According to Famitsu's Top Ten Wanted list, Sakura Taisen scored second place just below Final Fantasy VII. Sakura Wars also ranked #13 place in the Famitsu's 100 All-Time Favorite Games List. Sakura Taisen won the 1997 Game of the year Semi-Grand Prix Award and the 1997 CESA Grand Prix Award and was recorded as being the game with the biggest sales as a SEGA Saturn original title.
Several staff members were highly sceptical the game would be a commercial success, but Hiroi promised Sega that the game would sell at least 200,000 units. Sakura Wars sold out in many stores within hours of its release. According to Famitsu sales data, Sakura Wars sold an estimated 205,270 units in its first week, reaching the top of the sales charts and selling through just over 57% of its stocks. It was recorded as having the most sales of a Sega original title to that point. As of 2007, Sakura Wars for the Saturn has sold 359,485 units, becoming the 13th best-selling console title in Japan. The Dreamcast port debuted with 71,123 units, selling through nearly 65% of its shipment. It eventually reached total sales of 109,686 units, becoming the 33rd best-selling game for the platform. Sakura Wars: In Hot Blood debuted with sales of 142,351 units, reaching third place on Japanese gaming charts. Despite high anticipation, the remake was outsold by Star Ocean: Till the End of Time from Enix (second) and Dynasty Warriors 4 from Koei (first). During 2003, the remake sold 235,622 units, becoming the 54th best-selling title of the year.
Sakura Wars was an unexpected success for both Red Company and Sega, prompting the companies to develop further entries in the series. It spawned three direct sequels; Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die for the Saturn, and Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning? and Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens for the Dreamcast. A fourth sequel was developed for the PlayStation 2; known as Sakura Wars V: Farewell My Lovely in Japan, it was published overseas as Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love, becoming the first entry to release outside Japan. Numerous spin-off titles covering multiple genres related to each entry have also been developed for multiple platforms.
Sakura Wars has remained popular in Japan since its release. It was rated as the 13th best game of all time in a 2006 Famitsu pole, with all the main entries then released also appearing in the list. Sakura herself was rated in 2009 by Famitsu as the 17th best Japanese video game character. Sakura Wars and its first sequel were both ranked among the ten most memorable games for the Saturn, while the Dreamcast port of Sakura Wars was also ranked among the most memorable for that platform. Characters from Sakura Wars, Sakura Wars 3 and Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love were included as playable characters in the 2012 Nintendo 3DS crossover title Project X Zone and its Project X Zone 2.
An OVA series dubbed Sakura Wars: The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms was produced and released between 1997 and 1998. Created by Animate and Radix Ace Entertainment, it told a series of stories around events mentioned in Sakura Wars as well as origin stories for the Flower Division members. An anime series of the same name was broadcast in 2000 over a six-month period. Co-produced by Red Company, Madhouse and Studio Matrix, Ryutaro Nakamura directed the anime series. While following the basic plot of Sakura Wars and preserving Hiroi's original vision, several elements such as depictions of the main antagonist's past, Sakura's childhood memories and scenes within the Flower Division before Ogami's arrival were added. A major issue was being faithful to both the video game and OVAs while keeping within the restrictions of a television format.
A manga adaptation written by Hiroi and illustrated by Ikku Masa, with cover illustrations by Fujishima, began serialization in 2002. The first series ended in December 2008, but its popularity led to a second series the following year. Originally serialized in Monthly Magazine Z until it closed down in 2008 when it shifted to other publications. The manga has been released as tankōbon since 2003 by the magazines' parent company Kodansha.
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