- Main article: Gameplay in the Sakura Taisen series
Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die is set in Tokyo during a fictionalized version of the Taishō period, with players taking the role of Ichiro Ogami and the all-female "Flower Division" of the Imperial Assault Force. Dubbed a "dramatic adventure" game and taking place across multiple episodes, the gameplay segments incorporate tactical role-playing, dating sim and visual novel elements.Gameplay is divided between periods where Ogami navigates the Imperial Theater and interacts with various characters, and combat sequences governed by a turn-based battle system upon a tilted grid-based battlefield.
During the social sections between battles, Ogami navigates the theater. During interactions with both the Flower Division and supporting characters within the Imperial Assault Force, conversations relies on the series' LIPS (Live & Interactive Picture System) system, in this game dubbed "Double LIPS". When faced with critical choices in the course of a conversation, dialogue options are displayed with a time limit for the player to select a response. Depending on the type of response, the character may respond positively or negatively, impacting their relationship with Ogami and future interactions. The strength of each character's bond with Ogami is represented by a bar below the dialogue box. In addition to normal LIPS segments, Ogami can engage in conversations with multiple characters, the result of which also impacts character relationships, and new responses appearing mid-conversation depending on earlier choices. Other actions within LIPS include holding the cursor over parts of a character's portrait to trigger internal monologues and varying responses from the characters.Each main heroine has different personality quirks that must be taken into consideration while talking with them.
During combat segments, the Flower Division fight using machines called Koubu. Each unit has their own turn, with each turn allowing two actions. These actions include "Attack", "Defend", "Move", "Deathblow" (a critical strike that kills an enemy in one hit), Charge (store energy for a more powerful action during the next turn), and Heal (which restores health points to a chosen unit). Different units specialize in different skills, such as support actions, melee attacks, or distance attacks—along with their range of movement, each unit also has an independent range in which they can perform actions. Each unit's critical strike is accompanied by a dedicated cinematic. The player can also issue Commands in battle to make the Flower Division take specific battle formations, and two units can pair up for a powerful attack on a single enemy. Actions taken during LIPS sequences with members of the Flower Division directly impact battles; skillful performances during LIPS segments raise a character's Motivation, granting status increases and improving combat ability.
- Main article: List of Sakura Taisen 2 episodes
Sakura Wars 2 takes place in Tokyo two years after the events of Sakura Taisen. Having returned from training overseas, Imperial Japanese Army Ensign Ichiro Ogami reunites with his companions in the Imperial Assault Force's Flower Division, a section of the Imperial Army who use their spiritual power to defend Tokyo from supernatural threats while also performing as a theater troop. Soon after Ogami's return, the Flower Division are confronted by a group of black magicians dubbed the Black Demons, led by their earlier nemesis Aoi Satan. Satan is revealed to be Shinnosuke Yamazaki, a former comrade of Imperial Assault Force commander Ikki Yoneda from earlier conflicts with demons who was presumed killed but in fact corrupted by evil forces. The group defeat Yamazaki, who is then killed by the Black Demons' true leader, a masked man dubbed the Demon King. The Flower Division recruit two new members during their fight—the aristocratic Japanese-Italian Orihime Soletta, and the emotionally-distant Reni Milchstrasse.
During their continued efforts against the Black Demons, Yoneda is shot by a sniper and incapacitated. While he recuperates, Yoneda' place is filled by Kaede Fujieda, sister of Sakura Wars protagonist Ayame Fujieda. With its position weakened, the Imperial Assault Force come under political pressure from a military faction opposed to their existence. The faction is led by Keigo Kyogoku, a former Imperial Army officer turned formidable and callous politician. Kyogoku is revealed as the secret leader of the Black Demons, and the Flower Division are forced into hiding when Kyogoku launches a military coup d'état against Tokyo's government and the group's theater base.
As the Imperial Assault Force continue to fight against the Black Demons, they learn that Kyogoku has orchestrated events to reactivate a dormant magical weapon and rule as Japan's emperor. The Flower Division, supported by Yoneda and Kaede leading the remains of the Imperial Assault Force, launch an assault on the weapon. Sakura faces off against the Demon King himself—his defeat reveals him to be Sakura's resurrected father Kazuma Shinguji. The combined power of Sakura and Ichigo disables the weapon, and the Imperial Assault Force then destroy Kyogoku. Following a promotion to Lieutenant in honour of his actions, Ogami is sent overseas to train a new Assault Force.
- Original Work - Oji Hiroi
- Screenplay - Satoru Akahori
- Original characters - Kosuke Fujishima
- Character Design - Hidenori Matsubara
- Composer - Kohei Tanaka
- Geki! Teikokukagekidan (Kai) OP
- Performed by: Chisa Yokoyama and Teikoku Kagekidan; Composed by: Kohei Tanaka; Lyrics by: Oji Hiroi; Arranged by: Masami Kishimura
- Performed by: Chisa Yokoyama and Teikoku Kagekidan; Composed by: Kohei Tanaka; Lyrics by: Oji Hiroi; Arranged by: Takayuki Negishi
Sakura Wars 2 was first announced in October 1997. The game was released for the Sega Saturn on April 4, 1998. A later port for the Dreamcast released on September 21, 2000. It was later ported to Microsoft Windows personal computers (PC). It was released for Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows ME systems on March 1, 2001; and for Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000 and Windows XP on March 20, 2003. Due to the game's size, these versions were released on multiple CD-ROMs. The CD-ROM version was localized and released in Russia on December 24, 2008. A DVD-ROM version was released for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista on January 25, 2007. It was ported with the original game to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and released on March 9, 2006. Wider localization efforts for the series were prevented due to Sega's uncertainty as to whether the game's blend of genres would find a profitable audience outside Japan. An attempt to localize the game's PSP port by an unspecified company were halted when Sony refused to approve the project.
During its first week on sale, Sakura Wars 2 sold over 355,000 units, selling through nearly 70% of its shipments. Its total sales during 1999 reached over 509,000 units, going on to become the fifth best-selling Saturn title of all time in Japan. During its first week on sale, the Dreamcast port sold over 63,000 units, selling through nearly 70% of its shipments. As of 2004, the port has sold just over 90,000 units. As of 2008, Sakura Wars 2 is the best-selling video game in the Sakura Wars series.
Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave the game a score of 33/40, with the title generally receiving praise for its polished mechanics and storyline despite a lack of innovation.RPGFan felt that Sakura Wars 2 surpassed the original in terms of gameplay polish and story, praising the revamped character design while noting lagging during gameplay. At the 1998 Animation Kobe event, Sakura Wars 2 was awarded in the "Packaged Work" category alongside the original video animation (OVA) series Sakura Wars: The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms.
An OVA series titled Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms was released between 1999 and 2000, produced by Radix Ace Entertainment and supervised by Red Company. Set during the ending of Sakura Wars 2 when Ogami prepares to leave for Paris, the six-episode OVA tells side stories about the Flower Division during the events of both Sakura Wars and Sakura Wars 2.
Sakura Wars 2 was the last entry in the series developed for the Saturn, as the next entry—Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning?—was developed for the Dreamcast, releasing in 2001. Ogami's foreign travels portrayed in Sakura Wars 3 were intended to continue into the next entry, but due to the discontinuation of the Dreamcast, the concept was reworked and Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens released in 2002 as the culmination of the series on Sega consoles. The original plans for Sakura Wars 4 were carried over to the next entry for the PlayStation 2, released overseas as Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love.
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