The Sakura Wars series has a long history in Japan, but its western presence is somewhat limited. Now, Sakura Wars is coming to PlayStation 4 as a soft reboot of the series with a few brand new faces. A lot rests on the shoulders of this title to become a hit with western audiences. Luckily for those interested, Sakura Wars is an accumulation of everything that makes this series unique, and it presents it beautifully.
After going hands-on with Sakura Wars, it was easy to see the attention to detail that Sega has put into crafting this world. I assumed the role of Seijuro Kamiyama, who has been put in charge of the Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division. His goal is to help the six members of the Flower Division improve their performance, so they stand a chance at the Combat Revue World Games. While this is going on, they’ll also have to fight against invading demons and protect the town.
Each character of the Flower Division has a distinct personality and reason for being a part of the group. During the dialogue, players make choices that weigh on their relationships. I found that my choices in the game made a significant impact on the flow of the conversation and even came up in later dialogue trees. Players also have relationships with side-characters, which affects the character’s mood during conversations.
Sakura Wars puts a lot of focus on its characters and adventure elements. Exploring the world provides you with additional side quests and things to do. The game’s pacing is set up like an anime where the entire season has a goal, but each episode tackles small obstacles that pertain to the overarching mission.
Still, players can distract themselves if they want by visiting areas and speaking with NPCs. It was told to us that throughout the game, the NPCs have smaller stories that players can discover by talking to them during each chapter. It’s an excellent way to develop the world, and I’m looking forward to witnessing some of the more zany NPC arches.
The depth that the story goes into is vast as players choose who they interact with and how they want that relationship to develop over time. Across playthroughs, players can become more romantic with characters that they become closest too. This also has an effect on the battlefield with added abilities. Relationships are affected by choices made in dialogue, but sometimes not making a choice works as well.
Understanding each of the character’s personalities will be your best bet for answering the correct choices, but sometimes the decision will impress one girl while another might not like it too much. This is a crucial feature, and the writers seemed to have crafted a story that develops from player interaction. It works surprisingly well, and I’m eager to see just how much my choices matter as the relationships with each of the characters improve.
One thing I gathered from my time with Sakura Wars is that it is a beautiful game. The character’s movements are expressive and charming. They each made an impact on me and left me wanting to learn more about their current situation. Also, the voice acting was outstanding, with many of the cast members coming from popular anime.
The battle system was something that I didn’t get to spend too much time with. While I did participate in one fight, I didn’t exactly feel comfortable with the movement or actions. This was mainly because I didn’t have enough time with the controls. Still, it looked flashy and ran smoothly, but I’d like to play more before forming an opinion.
Sakura Wars takes its time rolling out its narrative and will benefit those who reciprocate that by exploring the world and characters and not rushing through the experience. It’s bursting of charm and style, but mostly it’s the characters who carry this adventure. I’m hoping that Sakura Wars kick starts this series in the west. As of right now, I can’t wait to play again.
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