Recently we were lucky enough to receive a review code for Sakura Wars. This action role-playing game is based in an alternate Earth where steampunk has taken centre stage and demons roam the Earth. In this fictionalised version of 1940’s Tokyo, you take control of Seijuro Kamiyama as he tries to bring glory back to the Imperial Combat Revue.
This group of warriors/civil servants/actors are trying to regain their status after having fallen into debt and despair after a major event debilitated the team years previous.
Now with a world tournament coming up and demons on the rise the Imperial Combat Revue look to you to save the day. Along the way there will be betrayals, plays, opportunity after opportunity to romance 95% of the cast of the game and some combat with some demons.
Sakura Wars and the many avenues of romance
In Sakura Wars the name of the game is to help the Imperial Combat Revue rise up through the ranks of the other combat revues to once again be the best in the world. You are told the way to do this is to make the team better actors as well as better fighters. Now when I first saw this I thought that I’d be playing a sim kind of game. I’d be managing funds to get better actors, building sets and then we’d be going out to fight demons. This sounded quite novel and interesting.
Instead what I got was a dating sim gaming. Seijuro is basically the lead of a HAREM ANIME!! What is a harem anime you may be asking? Well, it’s an anime where the lead protagonist (usually male) is surrounded by female protagonists who all fall in love with him for reasons. My first brush with this genre was with Tenchi Muyo! Even as a young teen I found it odd.
Now with Sakura Wars there is a gameplay mechanic called LIPS where you basically are given intimate moments between you and the various women of the Imperial Combat Revue. During these scenes you make them feel better by complimenting them and flirting with them. This usually leads to various moments of will they, won’t they between Seiju and his team. Now if you do the right thing and say the right words you will hear a noise meaning you did good or you did bad. What this means gameplay-wise is that you’ll be in better sync with your team. Honestly, though I didn’t notice any difference when there was combat.
We weren’t stronger or weaker depending on my actions towards the team which can range from charming to quite pervy. One such example is you can constantly stare at the chest of any of your leading ladies and they can call you on it.
Where is the combat in the Imperial Combat Revue?
To break up the multitude of tête-à-tête Sakura Wars does have a combat section. Basically you are thrust into a dungeon with two mechs that the team utilise to fight demons. You make your way from one end of the tunnel to the next battling wave after wave of demons until you fight a bigger demon boss.
Honestly this was fun at the beginning until I realised there is no customisation within this section of the game either. I have a whole roster of mechs and yet I can’t outfit them with new weaponry or paint jobs. This was a wasted opportunity and I was deeply disappointed. Also, the designs of the demons are fairly basic and the dungeons look the same the whole way through the game.
There is also the World Tournament which factors in at a certain point of the story. Here you take on the other Combat Revues from Shanghai, London and Berlin:
- Every match is a three-on-three team battle spread across three rounds.
- You’ll select two squad members who will fight alongside you.
- Each team scores points by defeating targets located around the tournament arena.
- These points contribute to a tug-of-war-like gauge. Win by overpowering your opponent in that gauge or by scoring the most points overall at the end of the match.
It’s a decent enough experience and I did enjoy it.
What is there left in this world of actors and monsters?
For all my issues with Sakura Wars I couldn’t stop playing it. One such positive is the art style of beloved mangaka Tite Kubo who many will know is the creator of Bleach. His style of artwork shines in Sakura Wars. Not only that the graphics are top-notch especially when they are accompanied by fully animated cutscenes.
Then there is the cast of the Imperial Combat Revue. Within the Flower Division alone you have:
Sakura – Our leading lady. Somewhat of a dolt but a well-meaning individual with a strong heart.
Hatsuho – A headstrong and confident young woman with a blunt but charming attitude.
Claris – The bookworm of the group who hides behind her tomes but has a dark secret hiding within the pages.
Azami – A child shinobi who recites the doctrine of shinobi to you every time you chat.
Anastasia – A potent and strong-willed woman who commands every room she enters.
In the time you have with these characters you understand them and their world views and that is a massive compliment to the characterisation within Sakura Wars. I only wish that more development had gone into the gameplay to reflect the world and its characters.
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