The Tokyo Imperial Theatre has fallen on hard times in the decade after The Great War, with the International Combat Revue Flower Division losing its old luster. The names of yore have apparently not returned from the battlefield, and their shadows hang over the new members who need to live up to the same name. What exactly happened during the time that’s passed? We’ll be finding out in this soft reboot of the Sakura Wars series, simply called Sakura Wars in English.
The theater building itself is pretty opulent, but its lack of equipment, funds and low audience numbers have made it a laughing stock with the current cast struggling with insufficient instruction and support. This new generation has promise, sure, but they’ll somehow have to balance their acting and their combat skills if they are to live up to, if not outshine, their predecessors with the threat of a demonic invasion on the horizon…
Those already familiar with the Sakura War series would roughly know what to expect, but for the uninitiated, it’s a blend of RPG, Dating Sim and Visual Novel, with a splash of combat with the mecha – or Spiricle Armour as they’re known in-universe – duking it out. In a change from its predecessors, it’s no longer a turn-based combat style, employing instead a more active, real time battle system in a 3D plane. The combat may almost come off as an afterthought to those who much prefer the action, as it comes towards the end of a Chapter.
Whatever it is, should you get this rebirth of sorts for the Sakura Wars series? Let’s get into it.
Seijuro jumps into action
In an alternate universe Tokyo in the year 1940, ex-navy captain Seijuro Kamiyama is brought in to lead the Flower Division, a squad of women tasked to defend Japan’s capital. With the exception of the combat segments – upon which you can control the other pilots – you’ll be controlling Seijuro only as the protagonist and player viewpoint. You’d be spending plenty of time moving from act to act in this “drama”, as you build up relationships among your peers in the Flower Division.
You’ll have plenty of down time to explore this Tokyo, so enjoy the scenery and breaks in between the chapters. It’s not an exceptionally long game, taking up even less time if you really wanted to rush through. Depending on how long you take, it’ll be about 15 to 16 hours for you to complete the game, with Eight chapters in total:
- Chapter 1 – Winds of Change
- Chapter 2 – A Handful of Bliss
- Chapter 3 – The Festival of Peace
- Chapter 4 – Behind the Mask
- Chapter 5 – Fallen Petals
- Chapter 6 – Gone with the Stars
- Chapter 7 – A Flower’s Fate
- Final Chapter – Passing the Torch
Why don’t we get to know the main cast of the reboot? Meet Sakura Amamiya, Hatsuho Shinonome, Azami Mochizuki, Anastasia Palma, and Claris of this iteration of the Flower Division. Sumire Kanzaki is the only one of the original cast who returns to the game, with the rest making cameos in bromides.
This stage rookie joined the Flower Division in hopes of following the footsteps of her idol, Sakura Shinguji. She hopes that both sides of the organization – the combat unit defending Tokyo and the Revue to raise the spirits of the people – will finally be able to return to their glory days.
This lass’ looks have attracted many a visitor to her ancestral Shinonome shrine. She loves the people of the city, and their festivals! She may look rough, but you can count on her to be your true friend.
A sweet girl from Luxembourg, her thirst for knowledge has her devour books on every topic imaginable. Full name, Clarissa Snowflake, she hails from a noble family in her home country and inheriting the magic of libromancy.
A descendent of the Mochizuki ninja clan, this prodigy is incredible in martial arts, combat and weapons handling even at her young age. With the strict training she has undergone throughout her life, she staunchly believes in her 108 Village Rules as passed down by her clan, something she strives to obey at every second. You can even hear about those rules if you ask her in her chapter.
A starlet hailing from Greece, she recently transferred to the Tokyo branch after spending time in the various revues worldwide. A top class singer and actress, she possesses the charisma and confidence for every role on stage, from handsome, male roles to a dazzling goddess.
All’s fair in love and war
Gameplay is separated into two distinct parts:
- Adventure Mode
- Here, you’ll see the RPG-like dialogue and social interactions
- Battle Mode
- Exactly as it says, you’ll be battling in your personal Spiricle Armour against the demon attacks
The game focuses much more on the Adventure part rather than the Battle part, which is give or take a 70:30 ratio. It’s not something unfamiliar to existing fans of the series, so this explanation is more for the benefit of people newer to the franchise.
The story will revolve almost entirely around the Flower Division, with the dating sim elements interspersed throughout. Just chat up your favourite whenever you can and you’d probably be just fine on their route. Up to 3 to 4 dialogue options will be available to you during your conversations, and naturally, you’d want to pick the best one to secure your favourite girl!
You’ll come across side missions – like say, finding a certain person – which aren’t difficult at all. Run around the Grand Imperial Theater for a bit and it might just resolve without too much effort. In the dialogue options, the “wrong” choices can bring about quite hilarious reactions, but the tone could be a little inconsistent depending on how you feel about it. You’ll be given a smartphone – of a sort – from Sumire early in the game, so you don’t need to worry too much about navigating through the areas, or your missions.
The phone also serves as a place where you can start up Koi-koi Wars – hanafuda, in other words – with the members of the Flower Division, and the rest of them who hang around. Other characters may also contact Seijuro to meet up or send mail through your phone too. Seijuro can feel like your typical shounen protagonist, occasionally broody or being the funny guy and having Freudian slips. You can take along the members of the Flower Division with you on the missions, and show your cool heroic self in front of them to woo them further.
That’s about the gist of the Adventure part, so here’s the Battle part. It may not be the bulk of the game, but when it does come, enjoy it! With the Spiricle Armour – everyone has their own, and handily colour coded – you slash around reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors to take down your foes, with a sprinkling of platforming. Controls are pretty simple, with your basic button mash combos and the ability to unleash Special Attacks. You can also Dash and Dodge with the R1 and R2 buttons. If you’re low on HP, you can smash breakable items to obtain gems to restore HP. There are no skill trees to worry about, or any specific upgrades or levels you need to invest in. Once the Flower Division gets together, there’s no demon they can’t take down!
The Armours all have their own strengths according to their pilot, like how Claris specializes in using magic to defeat demons, while Seijuro is the most balanced of the squad can will perform sufficiently in any combat situation. It’s a shame that camera movement in battle can be quite janky, especially when minions start crowding the screen. Speaking from experience, motion sickness is unfortunately, also a thing depending on your sensitivity.
There’s nothing much to complain about the presentation itself, with Kubo Tite’s designs translating well into the 3D models of the main squad, the music is pretty great especially the reprise of the original theme song of back then; fans who have been aching for a Sakura Wars game to come westwards are unlikely to complain about these aspects.
The newest anime acts as a sequel to this game, introducing more characters to the cast, so you’d definitely want to play this title first before then.
Whoever you chose to end up with, it will be a pretty enjoyable ride. Sakura Wars leans more into the visual novel parts rather than its combat, so if you like the character interactions, then you can pick up this title. The story is easy to follow, and the soft reboot would definitely appeal to long time fans, and is satisfactory if you’re newer.
|Carried by great characters||Dialogue heavy if you’re more into combat|
|Great visuals, 2D art translate well into 3D||Camera gets janky|
|Easy combat controls|