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Sakura Wars: The Revival of a Romantic Cherry Blossom Legend

It’s the dawn of a new era as a new group of warriors take up the banner of Sakura Wars. But why exactly is this such a big deal? Let’s talk about that.

 

Sakura Wars

The Sakura Wars franchise is one that’s very personal to me. Specifically, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. A game that I’ve mentioned in one of my earliest articles. Primarily because it’s a game that helped me through a particularly rough time in my life, so, with the impending release of the newest game in the franchise for the PlayStation 4. You can bet I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release. Thankfully, the good folks at SEGA of America invited us down to look at the game. And I have several thoughts. So much, in fact, we’re going to be running content about Sakura Wars all week.

That’s right; I’ll be detailing several pieces about the game and its various systems. Today, however, we’re going to tackle one of the most important topics, both for potential new players who are curious about the game and for die-hard fans of this historic franchise. What ties to the previous games does this one have, and do you need to be a franchise expert to enjoy it?

First off, let me state that you need no knowledge of the previous Sakura Wars games or anime to enjoy this title. I’ll address the concerns you die-hard fans may have in a moment, but for now, let’s focus on why this was done.

 

Honoring the Legacy of the Past While Starting Fresh Isn’t Easy

 

Sakura Wars | So Long, My Love Cast

The cast of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. A game that came out either 10 or 15 years ago depending on where you live.

Keep in mind that Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love came out in 2005 for Japan and 2010 for the US. Yes, that’s fifteen and ten years, respectively. Also, keep in mind that we never got Sakura Wars 1-4 (So Long, My Love is actually Sakura Wars V in Japan) As such, many gamers probably have no idea anything that’s happened in this series. This was a problem actually faced by Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers by Bandai Namco when it came out. Despite having a summary to catch people up, it still was kinda confusing (and that’s before you get to its awkward translation.) So, SEGA decided to take another route here.

Instead, Sakura Wars (or as it’s known in Japan Shin Sakura Wars) is a “soft-reboot” of the franchise. But what does that mean? In short, while this takes place in the same world as the previous five mainline games, this game is intended to stand on its own for a couple of reasons.

Sakura Wars | Project X Zone 2 Cast

The Sakura Wars cast in Project ✕ Zone 2 alongside the legendary Segata Sanshiro. He once flirted with Sakura Shinguji, you know.

First off, this takes place several years after the events of So Long, My Love (and Project ✕ Zone if you want to consider that cannon). All the previous teams we knew are sadly gone, and the Imperial Combat Revue has fallen on hard times. To the point where the new group of girls who form it is about to be disbanded if things don’t change. Which makes it a good point to bring new players in. We have a new cast, a new threat, and new mysteries. The possible trouble with this method comes from older fans like me.

Now, I am by no means a Sakura Wars expert. My involvement with this franchise starts and ends with So Long, My Love. However, that game does mean something to me. Those characters and their story do hold a place in my heart. So, pretending those events never happened is the greatest fear of a fan like me. Sure, we don’t need to reference them constantly. But, we should acknowledge them. So, what approach did SEGA take here?

 

A New Chapter, a New Cast, a New Beginning

 

Sakura Wars | (Shin) Sakura Wars Cast

The cast of the newest game in the franchise, which is known as Shin Sakura Wars in Japan. From left to right: Azami Mochizuki, Clarissa Snowflake, Sakura Amamiya, Seijuro Kamiyama, Hatsuho Shinonome, and Anastasia Palma

Sadly, I can’t give a concrete answer to that. SEGA’s PR stressed to me that this game should be taken on its own. While there are some links to the past, they are not the focus. And to be fair, they really can’t answer that question without possibly spoiling bits of the game. So, what am I hoping for then? Well, this is all speculation, but here’s how I would have handled this situation. Have the current crew learn about the exploits and sacrifices of the previous teams throughout the story.

We don’t need to make the old teams the focus. That’s not my point. But we should honor and respect the triumphs and struggles those teams went through. The biggest fear for any fan is that those stories ‘won’t matter.’ That they’ll be swept under the rug, which should never be the case. Do I think that’s the approach SEGA is taking here? I certainly hope not.

 

Subtle Links to the Past

 

Sakura Wars | Sumire

Sumire Kanzaki from both Sakura Wars 1-4 and her appearance in the newest title, which takes place several years later.

There are some strong connections to the previous games, such as Sumire Kanzaki, who was part of the Imperial Combat Revue from Sakura Wars 1. So, the old games aren’t entirely forgotten. Really though, this is SEGA’s perfect chance to teach Western players about the franchise and drum up interest in an HD collection of the previous games or something along those lines. However, no matter what SEGA’s plans are, they still need to make sure this game is good above all else. So, how are they accomplishing that?

Well, come back tomorrow where we’ll delve into what a Sakura Wars game entails as a whole. And be sure to keep tuned-in all this week where we’ll dive into some Sakura  Wars staples such as the LIPS system, the dating sim elements, and of course, the combat system.

See you then!

Benny Carrillo
A gamer since the days of the NES and SNES and a reporter since 2015. This hat-wearing otaku loves niche Japanese games, but has a soft spot for visual novels, Super Robot Wars, Mega Man, yuri, and Nepgear. Benny has covered E3 and Anime Expo since 2015 and served as Operation Rainfall’s Visual Novel Manager. Now, this seasoned reporter spends his days trying to clear his epic backlog in between writing analytical articles and reviews.

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