What They Say:
The stage is set in a steampunk version of 1940s Imperial Tokyo. Only a short while ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed the Imperial Combat Revue of Tokyo, the capital’s global defense force stationed at the Imperial Theater. Now home to the Flower Division, an inept rookie squad who also strives to impart hope on the citizenry with their theatrical talents, the theater has fallen on hard times and risks closure. It’s up to Seijuro Kamiyama as the captain of the new Tokyo revue to lead his squad and restore the Imperial Combat Revue and the theater back to their former glory! With the help of the revue’s five colorful performers, he must rise to the challenge of competing in the Combat Revue World Games, protecting the inhabitants of Tokyo and getting the theater back on track.
After 19 years out of action, Sakura Wars has returned! With the last mainline game being back in 2005, Sega certainly waited long enough, but finally, a new game is upon us. Sakura Wars is a game set in a steampunk 1940s Japan, where demons have invaded and the only thing standing in their way is the international Combat Revues, special groups who arm themselves in steam-powered mechas to protect the innocent from demons. Our plot follows main character Seijuro Kamiyama as he becomes the new captain of the Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division, a group consisting of Sakura Amamiya, Hatsuho Shinonome, Azami Mochizuki, Anastasia Palma, and Claris. Seijuro, as the new captain attempts to bring the Flower Division out of the rut its’ fallen into, restore the theater and the division and prove the revue’s worth at the massive International Combat Revue Games, all while protecting Tokyo from the demons that seek to invade.
The game brings back many mechanics that fans loved in previous games. The LIPS dialogue system has come back, helping you form closer bonds with the members of your division and ensuring they work together even better in combat. Dialogue sometimes gets presented in the form of several choices or will give one choice with a meter to indicate the intensity of the dialogue. This can change how characters feel and interact with one another, and brings the player a real investment in the characters. This also brings back the sort of visual novel style aspect of having most of the game be through character interaction and dialogue, as in Sakura Wars 1-3, but actually expands on it with exploration. Seijuro can walk around and explore the environment, talking to npcs or members of the Imperial Combat Revue’s divisions. In doing so, we can learn more about the division and do secondary tasks to help grow relationships. This carries over to combat, where the level of trust determines where allies will be during the fight, and speaking of that, let’s jump into combat!
Combat has definitely changed from the games of old! Rather than the tactical, overhead turn based combat the series became known for, now players suit up in the battle mechs and take the fight to the demons in a hack and slash style reminiscent of games like God of War. There are two attacks, a strong attack and a light attack, and learning to chain these leads to combos. The game also has a meter under the player’s healthbar, which lets a special attack unique to each character be used when full. Enemies come in 3 forms: ground fodder, air fodder, and a stronger variety which requires more thought. Some enemies may require you dodge, and if done just right, the game slows down time in a way very much like Bayonetta‘s “witch time”. Utilizing these well and in concert with allies is necessary to progress and will be absolutely required in the boss fights the game has. It may not be the same system that got the series known in Japan, but it’s still a great fit for the game.
When talking about a game like this, you can’t forget about the design, either! The game looks very anime in looks, which includes the character design- and that’s not a coincidence. Not only has the series gotten so popular in places due to animation, but the characters and a few guest designs, were done by none other than Tite Kubo, Yukiko Horiguchi, BUNBUN, and Fumikane Shimada. With all these big names in manga and anime, it’s no wonder the game looks as good as it does. The characters have been brought to like this way wonderfully, and the locations and background designs are simply amazing. At the same time as the presentation moves forward, it keeps in mind the familiar style of the older games, a trait shared with the setting in general. One of the biggest design choices that helped the game be such a hit in Japan was it’s return to what the director called a more innocent time in Japan’s history before World War II. It kept issues of the time in mind for sure but many clicked with this idea. That has definitely carried over to the newest iteration. We’ve retain the feel of the world of the original games, but we’ve also moved forward both mechanicwise and design wise. Everything is both old and new at the same time. It’s a wonderful blend not many games have.
There are 3 different versions of the game to get all with different additions. The Physical Launch Edition gives you Reversible cover art, Sticker set featuring the main cast, and Theater Costume Bundle. The Digital Standard Edition comes with an Imperial Combat Revue PS4 Dynamic Theme and Neko Ears Add-on Bundle and finally, theDigital Deluxe Edition nets you the Legacy of Love Add-on Bundle: a pack of costumes and background music (BGM) paying tribute to:
- The Flower Division of the Imperial Combat Revue (Sakura Wars (1996), Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die)
- The Flower Division of the Paris Combat Revue (Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning?)
- The Star Division of the New York Combat Revue (Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love)
Charming Accessories Add-on Bundle, which includes
- Glasses Bundle
- Dog Tail Accessory Bundle
- Angel Accessory Bundle
and the Swimsuit DLC. They certainly don’t lack for add ons!
It’s rare that a game both embraces past and future and does it well. Sakura Wars manages to do it, and do it spectacularly. Though a few mechanics and playstyles may have changed, the core of what made this series so popular remains as visible as ever. The game presents some of the most well done story telling in recent times, and manages to get the player immersed not just in the world, but in the relationships with other characters. It very much reminds on of the visual novel elements of previous entries. The gameplay, the visuals, the characters, and all the little details in the game just make it an absolutely charming experience, and since it’s mostly a story driven experience, it’s clear they went above and beyond with this title. I cannot recommend this game enough. Whether it’s the feel, the designs, the characters, or the gameplay, there’s just so much amazing in this game.
Developer: Sega CS2 R&D
Released By: Sega
Platforms: Playstation 4
Release Date: Asia: December 12 2019, Worldwide: April 28, 2020