When you are a ninety’s kid and you head down to the store to pick up Sega’s latest title, the image that pops up in your mind is that of Sonic the Hedgehog. Something similar happened to me, but I had to come to terms with the fact that Sega has moved way past its origins.
Those who have followed the modern-day Sega will know that Sakura Wars is not a new title in Sega’s game lineup. Sega has been producing this game under the same badge for quite a while now, but not a lot of them made it across the sea and into the west. Hence, if you are playing this title for the first time, you will need a little background to the story.
Sakura Wars is a multi-genre game series, and its latest version was released on 28th April 2020. Sakura Wars takes place in Japan’s city of Tokyo, but in an alternative reality. In this particular reality, steam technology has excelled way more than the electric one, and villains are putting the world at danger with their army of steam-controlled robots. Other than that, the game is set in the 1940s.
But the question arises that who are you and where do you step in? You are Seijuro, and you are a failed military personal. To make up to your failures, you have been put in charge of a Combat Revenue of the Tokyo Imperial Theatre. Being in charge of a Combat Revenue does not seem like a punishment until you realize that the people in your crew are capable of losing to a dummy in a head-on combat. The embarrassment does not end here, Tokyo Imperial Theatre is present in the Flower Division, the father organization you are working for. So macho, huh?
As soon as you come across your raison d’etre, you will know that the game is not just combat-focused, and your enemies would be the least of your worries. It is, after all, a dating sim genre game as well.
A major part of your game would be spent trying to flirt with the girls of your Flower Division organization. You will also get a chance to explore the city in between the battles, but that would mostly be dependent on the girl that you decide to take on during the gameplay. However, if you are not comfortable around girls, the situation won’t last long. The total game has about 15 hours of gameplay to it, given that you plan your moves in the right direction. Approaching a girl is not usually the difficult part. Why would it be difficult to approach a girl when Flower Division is flooded with them! The difficulty arises when you are given three possible replies and they are extremely vague. You have to sit back on your couch and scratch your head for the next five minutes to make sense out of them. And once you settle for that perfect reply, you will realize what a jerk your character is as he blurts it out without any emotions. The delivery matters people, it really matters! Another thing that you should keep in your mind before you settle for a reply is that the women you are replying to will be a huge support in the upcoming battles and if you decide to piss them off you might end up spoiling your gameplay.
Human interactions are a very crucial part of the game. As you proceed further into the game, you realize that it’s not just Seijuro, but the whole lineup of characters is bonkers. At a moment the girls would be bashing you for your idiocy, and at another, they will be cheering for you and your battles. Once you have played it all well, you will start developing closer relationships with the woman of your choice. There will be private settings with more personal conversations, though you have to keep choosing the right replies for getting and staying up there. There is a bit of action to the game as well, and as sad this may sound for all you Casanovas out there, at some point in time you will have to let go of your emotions and set foot into the battlefield.
The battles are not something Sega decided to put their effort in. This can be proven by the fact that once you start playing the game, it will take you about 90 minutes of gameplay and woman rejections to make it into the first battlefield. The drawback is that the battles are not even that challenging. The steam robots might project a scary image in your mind, but in reality, they are rather…cute. Slashing your sword through the enemy projects a flash through the trajectory of the sword. There is nothing new about this effect, and you would see it in most of the Japanese combat games. What else is obvious in other Japanese combat games? It’s the characteristic of your enemy to go bouncing off the walls of the battlefield as you strike them.
As far as defeating the steam robots is concerned, there are a few specific controls reserved for the battle, but I will suggest you tap away on some controls for a while and they will put down the enemy for you.
I found it rather dull that you cannot upgrade your robot during the entire gameplay, even after winning the battles. There are no new weapons you can unlock, neither are there any new combos. It’s just a simple fight throughout the game. This can get boring and lame, hence combat is not something you should be hyped up about. It just feels like an eleventh-hour addition to the game.
Visuals are something that adds a bit of interest to the game. The game is inspired by anime and most of the characters you will face during the game, including Seijuro, look like an anime character. The game is not divided into levels, but it is divided into chapters. There also aren’t any cutscenes in the entire gameplay, there are full-blown movie scenes. As you slide in the game disk, you will feel as if you are watching an anime. Even the end of the chapters provides a proper closing like that of an anime.
I don’t mean to associate any colors with any genders, I mean hey, I am a guy who likes to wear pink shirts, but the game has a lot of that feminine vibe to it and maybe it was meant to be that way. For an instance, the robots you will lead into the battle will be pink most of the time. Most of the characters that you will come across in the game will be women. Well, I get that it’s a dating sim game, but the games usually have a bit of emotion to them. This game might have those emotions, but all of the voice-overs are in Japanese without any option to turn them over to English. And the expressions are not good enough to convey the signals. You do not play through these scenes with emotions and you are just tapping away at your controller to get to the battle part. No wonder the previous games of the series never made it to the English-speaking countries.
Another issue that I found with the game was that the developers tried mixing a lot of genres in a single title and could not even pull a single one perfectly. The game is not the best combat game, it is not the best dating sim game, and it is not the best role-playing game either. However, it is one of the only few games available at the moment that have all three genres in them.
Plus, who puts a sword in the claws of a robot and takes them to a street fight? Anyways, the developers have gone an extra mile to respect the cultures of different regions. If you tackle a robot from a particular region, it will have traits from that region as well.
I won’t end this on a bad opinion regarding the game. The game is made for people who have a thing for anime, and well, diversity? It’s basically an anime movie that’s controlled by you!