Sakura Wars Interview – Bringing the Series West and What the Future Holds
Sega seems to be eager to bring the IPs west, which hasn’t always been the case. However, to jump-start their new initiative, the developer rebooted a series that western players may or may not be familiar with.
Sakura Wars is an adventure RPG series where players create relationships with various companions while also controlling mechs to fight creatures. It’s through this narrative that players feel a connection to the cast and their respective mission.
With Sakura Wars available now on PlayStation 4, we had the chance to interview director Tetsuya Ootsubo about the newest Sakura Wars title as well as the future of the series in the west.
Azario Lopez: The Sakura Wars series focuses heavily on character growth and relationships since its first entry, did this make it tough for the team to imagine a sort of reboot for the series with the release of Sakura Wars? And looking back at the release, do you feel like it is a high starting point for new fans?
Tetsuya Ootsubo: The series had been dormant for over 10 years, so we faced a challenge in planning what a reboot would look like even right from the beginning of development. Ultimately, in branding it as a new series, we strove to make the game accessible and fun to brand-new players, while at the same time planting connections to the older games everywhere for the benefit of longtime fans.
AL: Was Sakura Wars initially planned for a western release when development began or did this come later on?
TO: We did plan on a Western release from the get-go, but details like the release date and localization schedule were finalized later on.
AL: Seeing how many titles weren’t localized, are there plans internally to return to the earlier entries for a possible remaster or remake? Do you have a favorite entry of the series that you’d like to see re-released?
TO: Regarding remasters and/or remakes, it’s true that the older titles can’t be played on modern equipment, so if there is sufficient demand for it, we are open to the idea of revisiting the earlier games.
Personally, my pick for a rerelease would be Sakura Taisen 3. I was actually on the development team for that one, so it has particular sentimental value to me.
AL: You made a choice to make Sakura Wars an action RPG instead of a tactical RPG. While both genres work for the series, would you consider returning to the series’ tactical RPG roots?
TO: We did switch up the combat style to make it action-based this time around, but the tactical RPG genre is clearly still quite popular! We’re continuing to research what our next steps should be in order to give fans the best possible experience.
AL: The bonds between characters are a substantial focus in Sakura Wars. Seijuro can interact with members of the Combat Revue as well as NPCs. Why is it important for the series to have these relationships, and was it challenging to include them without overshadowing the various missions that the group faces?
TO: Even back to the very first game in the series, Sakura Wars has never been about a solo protagonist taking action and building his strength, but rather about nurturing bonds with your companions through the protagonist, growing and ultimately triumphing together as a team. Because of this, the relationships are one of the game’s most important elements.
When developing the game’s storyline, we knew that depicting the bonds between team members would have to be part and parcel with the rest of the story. Because these relationships are so vital, we made it a goal to explore the relationships with each character in turn as you progress through the main story.
AL: A handful of great character designers worked on this title. How did you coordinate this collaboration without making each character look completely different from one another?
TO: When we asked each of the designers to handle a portion of our cast, we didn’t get too hung up on the other designers’ styles, asking instead that each designer bring their individual quirks to the characters.
After this, in order to unite those diverse designs under one game world, we enlisted animator Masashi Kudo to sculpt the 3D character models based on each designer’s concept art. Because of this common thread, we were ultimately able to keep a certain level of consistency in the game.
AL: Can we expect to see more Sakura Wars in the future?
TO: The development team is also eager to continue the series, so we are doing everything in our power to make that a reality. We sincerely hope for your support in the future.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to say to Sakura Wars fans?
TO: Up until now, the Sakura Wars series hasn’t had much of an active presence in the West. And yet, despite that, there are still dedicated fans all across the globe, which is why we’re thrilled that we could deliver a localized version of the newest game to these fans. This game is a proper sequel set in the same chronology as the previous games, but even if it’s your first exposure to the series, we think you’ll have a really fun time, especially if you have any interest in Japanese anime culture, or even if you merely had your curiosity piqued by the unique, exciting period setting of Taisho-era Japan.
Sakura Wars is available now on PlayStation 4. Be sure to check out our review of the game.
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