There are many different game genres out there that I enjoy. Sega decided to take a few of the best ones and stick them together in this action-adventure title, Sakura Wars. It is a title that not only has these two wonderful genres, but it adds in anime elements and even dating sim options throughout the entirety of it.
Sakura Wars quickly caught my attention with previews of the combat system, it pulled me in with the music, and it kept me going with its in-depth story. I will preface this by saying I have never played a game of this type before, nor did I play any other game in this series. That being said, the story of Sakura Wars picks up ten years after the events of the last game and it does a good job of filling in the blanks for you.
You are Captain Seijuro Kamiyama and the protagonist of the game. He is new to Tokyo and the Imperial Combat Revue(ICR). The ICR is a group that fights against demons in Tokyo, and is stationed inside of an old theater. They are a secret group and are only funded through the stage shows and plays that they put on within the theater. There are different groups within the ICR that handle different situations, such as the Flower Division which fights demons, and others that handle finances and taking care of secret projects.
Early on in Sakura Wars you meet your team and are put right to work figuring out how to put on a good show as well as getting to know one another. You’ll find yourself reading a lot of subtitles, which is a bit of let down for me. I know there are groups that like listening to the original audio and can keep up with subtitling, but I found it extremely hard to keep up sometimes. The subtitling just continued to play through at a predetermined pace and it is easy to miss pieces of the story. In fact, some of the beginning chapters have you running around the theater and talking to people for hours with only a little combat here and there for some raids. Once you get further into the story the talking and combat is evened out, but the beginning few hours require some patience to get through.
Normally this isn’t the type of thing that I like to see in a game that I am playing, as since I’m playing a game I’d want a bit more input and action. The story picks up and you are thrust into more battle in the last few chapters of the game than the entire first of half the game as a whole. It took me roughly twenty-five hours to beat the main story, without completing every side task or playing too much of the in-game card game, Koi-Koi.
There are plenty of side options to partake in to be sure. Some of these options will make the characters mad, and some will make them laugh. It is all in how you choose to play them out. In fact, some choices lead you to better character trust while in the one-on-one chats. There are conversations that can lead to further character development with your team, which is part of the dating sim options I spoke of earlier. You can talk to every member of the team, and based on your decisions in the conversation could lead to something more than friendship.
Specifically, there is a mode called Tete-Ta-Tete. In this mode, you are face to face with one character in a private setting, and this is set up by your conversational choices earlier in the game. While in this mode you can interact with things in the room as well as taking special notice to things about the other character, like their hair clip, or how they look. It lets you get closer to your team, in more ways than one. More than a friend, someone who might be considered the second half of your couple.
Another way to pass the time and break up the monotony is through Koi-Koi. This is a card game where you have to earn points by combining other cards into groups. Each set of ribbons, animals, and other types of cards earn varying levels of points. Your goal is to get the most points or a Yaka. A Yaka is a win but you will also get the option to choose Koi-Koi which allows you to continue the game in order to get more points. It is pretty fun for what it is, but it definitely isn’t Triple Triad ( a card game from a Final Fantasy title, very fun and addictive as well).
Finally, the combat portion of the game is well done. It is an action-based combat system with light and heavy attacks. Thrown together into combos these attacks will help you do more damage to the demon warriors. With this system, you can also dodge quickly and use a burst mode (basically running in the mech suit) to move quickly from area to area. If you time your dodges correctly, then time slows down for a few seconds. It is in these times that you will want to do as much damage as you can to your enemies. I really enjoyed the combat and I never felt like it was too overly hard. It flowed very quickly from attack to attack, and your flurries can be interrupted if an enemy hits you mid-attack. All of the enemies have predetermined timing for their attacks and that gives you a chance to memorize them and dodge them before they can hit you.
For a series that hasn’t had any new releases in a long time, this one from Sega really hits the mark for me. It is a game with evolving character arcs through talking and dating sim elements, which make your characters grow closer to one another. You will find yourself growing more attached to certain characters as you play through their stories and make you really connect with the game. The music in Sakura Wars is very well done and plays very well into the mood of the title. All in all, Sakura Wars is worthy of a play through if you've been itching for another great anime game in your library.Full Disclosure - This copy was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.