- Main article: Gameplay in the Sakura Taisen series
Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning? is set in Paris during a fictionalized version of the 1920s, with players taking the role of Ichiro Ogami and the all-female "Paris Division" of the Paris 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 adventure segments where Ogami explores Montmartre, and combat sequences governed by a turn-based battle system across a three-dimensional (3D) area allowing full range of movement.
During the adventure segments, Ogami navigates Montmartre and the Paris Division's base at the club Le Chatte Noir starting from his apartment. During these sequences, when talking with both members of the Paris Division and supporting characters within the Paris Assault Force, conversations rely on the LIPS (Live & Interactive Picture System) system. 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 react positively or negatively, impacting their relationship and future interactions with Ogami. 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. The version used in Sakura Wars 3 is dubbed "Analog LIPS"; certain choices allow for use of the analog stick to adjust the intensity of a single answer, which can in turn elicit further variation from characters. An additional "dinner mode" has Ogami taking dinner with the other protagonists, with whom Ogami initiates a conversation with and how that conversation develops affecting later interactions. A version of this mode, dubbed "Elegant Day in Paris", is dedicated solely to navigation and LIPS-based interactions.
During combat segments, the Paris Division fights monsters in the streets of Paris using machines called Koubu. Battles take place within 3D arenas, where each unit has a full range of movement, with their distance limited by an Action Point meter: the battle system is dubbed "ARMS" (Active & Realtime Machine System). 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. Actions taken during LIPS sequences with members of the Flower Division directly impact battles; skillful performances during LIPS segments raises a character's Motivation, granting status increases and improving combat ability. LIPS interactions can also unlock Combination and Coalesce attacks, where two characters perform a joint attack to deal high damage to a single enemy.
Minigames can be played during adventure segments, with each minigame being themed around one of the main characters; these include a top-down arcade-style shooter, a chess-style tactical game, score-based games where Ogami must hit targets, and a simulation where Ogami and another character pick locks within a time limit. A dedicated casino allows Ogami to play poker, blackjack, and on a slot machine. When in his apartment, Ogami can access a device called the Kimenotron, allowing audio communication with characters from earlier Sakura Wars games. A portable version of this called the Mobile Kimenotron is also available for players who connected the Dreamcast console's VMU, which relays text messages at random intervals.
- Main article: List of Sakura Taisen 3 episodes
Sakura Wars 3 opens in Paris in 1926. Imperial Japanese Army Lieutenant Ichiro Ogami arrives to train a new fighting unit established by the government to combat supernatural threats. Dubbed the "Paris Assault Force" and modelled on Ogami's original group from Tokyo, the all-female group maintains its cover as a cabaret act at the nightclub Les Chatte Noir. Their main fighting unit is called the Paris Division, its members acting as both caberet stars and magically-imbued warriors able to pilot Koubu mecha. Its initial members are clumsy nun Erica Fontaine, and cold French noble Glycine Bleumer. In his efforts to build the group, Ogami helps recruit three more members—Coquelicot, a Vietnamese traveling circus performer; French-Japanese widow Hanabi Kitaoji; and Romanian master thief Lobelia Carlini.
As the Paris Division grows, Paris is attacked by a group of black magicians dubbed the Phantoms of Paris, many of whom torment members of the unit in attempts to break them. The Paris Phantoms are revealed to be controlled by the clown Salut; the last of an ethnic group who communed with Paris' dead and were hunted to near-extinction, Salut intends to use the Great Oak Tree, a god-like being which guards Paris, to resurrect his people using Paris' population as sacrifices. Using their united spiritual power, the Paris Division are able to defeat Salut, restoring Paris and the Great Oak Tree.
Alongside these events, Ogami experiences Parisian city life and culture while training the group to function with the same ability as the Imperial Assault Force's Flower Division alongside their roles as cabaret performers at Les Chatte Noir. During his interactions with each member, he has the option of pursuing a romance with them. The flow of events is broken slightly when the Flower Division arrives in Paris during summer holidays, and demonstrates their comradeship and unity to the Paris group during a dance competition. Following Salu's defeat, Ogami decides that the group is able to fend for itself and sets off on his travels once again. The final scenes alter depending on whether Ogami pursued a romance with a member of the Paris Division.
Sakura Wars 3 was announced in October 1999 as part of the "Sakura Wars 2000" project, being announced alongside the first game's anime series adaptation, the OVA series Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms, and Sakura Wars: The Movie. The game was released on March 22, 2001. Multiple downloadable audio dramas were released over the Dreamcast's SegaNet internet network between March 2 and December 14, 2001. Broadcasts ended on March 20, 2002.
The game was later ported to Microsoft Windows personal computers (PC). It was released for Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP and Windows 2000 on March 25, 2004. Due to the game's size, these versions were released on multiple CD-ROMs. A DVD-ROM version was released for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista on January 25, 2007. The game was also ported to PlayStation 2. While mostly identical to the Dreamcast original, gameplay was adjusted to fit the console's Dualshock controller, Dreamcast-exclusive functions were reworked for the PlayStation 2 hardware, and all fifteen audio dramas were included behind a password system. The PlayStation 2 port was released on February 24, 2005. As with most of the Sakura Wars series, the game never saw a release outside Japan. Wider localization efforts were prevented due to Sega's uncertainty as to whether the game's blend of genres would find a profitable audience outside Japan.
In its week of release, Sakura Wars 3 sold over 216,000 units, selling through over 70% of its initial shipments. It has sold over 304,000 units in Japan as of 2004, becoming the seventh best-selling Dreamcast title of all time in the region. The PlayStation 2 port sold over 51,500 units during 2005. As of 2008, Sakura Wars 3 was ranked as the third best-selling title in the Sakura Wars series. Japanese magazine Famitsu gave the game a score of 34/40, earning the "Gold" ranking in their weekly Hall of Fame.
The RPGFan reviewer cited the redesigned battle system as their favorite part of the game, with praise going to the real-time action and strategic options. The character designs, music and voice acting were also praised. Their main criticism was against the story, which was called out as unoriginal. Jenni Lada, writing for TechnologyTell, gave praise to every aspect of the game from its graphics and story to gamplay and music, calling the game "a wonderful entry in the series".
- Main article: Sakura Taisen 4
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 Paris Assault Group were later featured in the 2004 spin-off title Sakura Wars Story: Mysterious Paris for the PlayStation 2. The cast of Sakura Wars 3 was featured as characters in the 2008 Dungeon crawl spin-off Dramatic Dungeon: Sakura Wars — Because You Were There for the Nintendo DS. The use of "Neo CGI" in Sakura Wars 3 would inspire its development staff to surpass it when developing the CANVAS engine of Valkyria Chronicles for the PlayStation 3.
Two OVA series were created based around the Paris Assault Force. The first three-episode series, Sakura Taisen: Ecole de Paris, was released between March and August 2003. Produced by Radix Ace Entertainment and Overworks, with script by Kawasaki and music by Tanaka, the stories focused on the Paris Assault Force and members of the Paris Division before and during the early events of Sakura Wars 3. The second three-episode series, Sakura Taisen: Le Nouveau Paris, was released between October 2004 and March 2005. Again produced by Radix Ace Entertainment, the story focused on the Paris Division's exploits following the end of Sakura Wars 3.
In a Famitsu reader vote for the top 100 Japanese games of all time in 2006, Sakura Wars 3 was ranked in eighteenth place, being the second most popular in the series up to that point. In 2016, Sakura Wars 3 was voted as the third most memorable Dreamcast game in a later Famitsu reader poll. Erica Fontaine was later included as a playable character in the 2012 Nintendo 3DS crossover title Project X Zone and its Project X Zone 2, representing Sakura Wars 3 alongside characters from the original Sakura Wars and the fifth game Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love.
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