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Sakura Wars: Into a Sakura Colored Future?

After a week of introspection, comparison, and explanation, it’s time to ask the all-important question. Does this soft-reboot of the Sakura Wars franchise seem like a perfect romance? Or could this be a sorrowful parting of ways?

 

Sakura Wars Part 5 - Featured Image

Hey, Poor Players! Welcome to the finale of our week-long coverage regarding Sakura Wars for the PlayStation 4! All week has led up to this point. What exactly are my thoughts on the demo I saw, and do I dare hazard a guess as to what kind of future the franchise might have? Well, as we’ve done all week, let’s start with some definitions.

  • Sakura Wars – The excellent franchise I’ve spent all week writing about.
  • So Long, My Love – Sakura Wars V. A game that’s left quite an impact on me despite being the only one released here in the West.
  • (Shin) Sakura Wars The game these articles are written about! It’s already out in Japan and will be releasing next month in the West. Its name can be translated as New Sakura Wars.

Also, since this is our final part, here are the links to everything else we’ve discussed this week.

That said, let’s start this off with what’s exactly the point of doing five articles instead of a straightforward demo write up was. (Shin) Sakura Wars is an important title not just for the franchise, but for myself as well.

 

These Sakura-Clad Heroes Will Never Be Forgotten

 

Sakua Wars | Heroines 1-5

The adventures of Gemini Sunrise, Erica Fontaine, and Sakura Shinguji did happen, and they do matter. We wouldn’t be here discussing all this if they didn’t. Even SEGA realizes how important these characters are to their company’s history, hence, why this new game bares the Sakura Wars name.

To say Sakura Wars means something to me is an understatement. Despite only having played So Long, My Love its impact is apparent. Heck, if that game didn’t leave an impression on me, I wouldn’t have written over 6000+ words over five parts about its sequel. Which, mind you, I’ve only spent about an hour with. But, that’s the power this franchise has. And it’s exactly the legacy that (Shin) Sakura Wars has to live to up to.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. Yes, (Shin) Sakura Wars may be its own game and may represent a new start to the franchise. But, it’s invoking the Sakura Wars name. And that is intentional on SEGA’s part. You can’t utilize the name of a beloved series without invoking some emotion, and they know that.

Sakura Wars | So Long, My Love Cast

For me, these characters are Sakura Wars. Mainly due to the fact that the other games have never been localized. It’s a situation I’m sure some people who pick up (Shin) Sakura Wars will find themselves in as well regarding that cast. Hopefully, though, that’ll one day be rectified, and we can see those classic games localized.

Whether it was done as a way to continue to stories in that universe, or for something as simple as name recognition remains to be seen. History will be the final judge as to whether (Shin) Sakura Wars succeeds in sparking a new era for the franchise or serves as just another stopping point. My hope personally is that this game does work out. And even if we never get a collection of the older games, at the least, we could get new stories. Either with the New Imperial Combat Revue or with some of the older cast. There’s a lot of storytelling potential there. As for (Shin) Sakura Wars itself?

 

The Good, The Bad, and the New Sakura Wars

 

As you can tell, I have conflicting feelings about this one. There are times it so perfectly captures the feel of  So Long, My Love, and I feel like I’m meeting an old friend again. And then other times where I wonder what the developers were thinking. And all of this mind you is from a demo. That means my thoughts here should be taken with a grain of salt. Mainly because we don’t know if what SEGA showed me was emblematic of the whole game or just an oddity. We’ll have to see when the game launches on April 28th. But here’s where I stand at the moment.

Sakura Wars | Nope, this is perfect

Actually, Kamiyami, its moments like these that are perfect. While I applaud the developers for trying something new with the cinematic approach, I find myself more drawn in by these much simpler Bromide scenes.

In terms of narration, while I do care about these characters, I don’t connect with them as much as the So Long, My Love cast. The reason for that, though, is that I’m constantly distracted by both the lack of anything to do and the lack of voice acting at times. To be fair, I’d say at least half the demo is voiced, and the important parts are. The problem is that watching characters interact and look like they’re talking and emoting with no vocals is just… disconcerting at times. This game will probably spawn some fan-dubs among Let’s Players and Streamers to help compensate for that. It’s not all bad, though.

There is effort put into this. For as much as I don’t like the new cinematic style, that takes a lot of work. Sticking the older VN style of narration would have so much easier to do. And while I think it would lead to a better game, I do respect the development team’s efforts to try something new. And the same can be said of the combat.

Sakura Wars | Dynasty Warriors x Sakura Wars Please!

If there’s one take away from this demo for me, it’s that I really want a Warriors ✕ Sakura Wars collaboration now. Think about how awesome it’d be to see all the previous casts teaming up ala Hyrule Warriors or Dynasty Warriors Gundam!

While the shift from turn-based strategy to real-time action may disappoint some fans, I think this is the element that could work out the best. Yes, I’m working with minimal exposure to the combat (about 15 minutes tops), but I did enjoy it. I could actually see SEGA maybe pulling a Dynasty Warriors at some point and doing a crossover with all the Sakura Wars characters in a hack-and-slash title. Or, perhaps just call in Koei Tecmo to help them out on that. There is no substitute for Omega Force, after all. As for the Sakura Wars legacy?

Well, I think this is more the beginning more than anything else. This game will add to that legacy. And I think the days of the old cast aren’t numbered. Heck, I’m just waiting for them to be included in a proper Super Robot Wars games. They’ve already been in Project ✕ Zone, and Mashin Hero Wataru (who shares the same creator as Sakura Wars, Ouji Hiroi) was in Super Robot Wars X. So, it’s not an impossibility. I think Sakura Wars will be just fine no matter what happens with (Shin) Sakura Wars. But, should you immediately grab this game? That’s a bit harder to answer.

 

Hope for the Future, With Room for Improvement

 

Sakura Wars | Opening Mechs

I think (Shin) Sakura Wars is a game you should keep an eye on. But, just taper your expectations a bit. This isn’t the Sakura Wars of old anymore. Some people will really enjoy the new choices, while I personally find it to be disengaging. On the plus side, the mechs still look amazing.

For one, this is not a proper review—just an opinion based on an hour of gameplay. So, first, off I’d say to wait for a review. Hey Poor Player will have one! In fact, our own Editor-in-Chief, Francis DiPeriso will most likely be tackling that. So, you’ll be able to get some fresh perspective on the game. That said, what I can recommend is that you taper your expectations of (Shin) Sakura Wars.

Due to the different direction the developers took, this is not the same game as So Long, My Love. The point of these articles was more to show where the franchise has come and use it to explain why I feel the way I do about the demo. Heck, this is technically a game aimed at a new type of Sakura Wars fan. Because SEGA knows the old fans are going to buy this. Even me, as someone who has pretty much abandoned the PlayStation. Yes, I want to play this game so much that I am going to buy a physical copy for my PS4. But wanting something to be good, doesn’t mean it is good.

Sakura Wars | So Long, My Love Take a Bow

With So Long, My Love’s US 10th anniversary occurring on March 30, I still find it amazing how much this game has stayed with me, after all, that time. And all because I took a chance on something most people back then said would never work—namely a console-released VN-esque game.

And that’s the hardest part about all this. I don’t have the utmost confidence this will be the stellar game I know it can be. Hence, maybe it’s not meant for me. But, I still can’t bring myself to call this game “bad.” It has flaws sure, but there is genuine effort and love put into it. Even I can tell that with my limited exposure to it. So, I’m going to hope for the best, but expect something average. Kind of a complex conclusion, but that’s my feelings on this in a nutshell. It’s all over the place, but I can’t help but admire it all the same.

Sakura Wars for the PlayStation 4 will launch on April 28th. Keep it tuned here to Hey Poor Player for our review of this new chapter in the Sakura Wars franchise. To our friends at SEGA, I wish to extend my thanks for allowing me to visit their HQ to try out the demo. To our EIC, Francis, for assisting in getting this monster of a project out in a timely manner. And to you, dear reader, who has lasted through all my ramblings. I offer my deepest gratitude. It’s thanks to your support that I’m able to write these types of articles.

That all said until we meet again!

Sakura Wars | (Shin) Sakura Wars Cast

If there’s one thing I hope you’ve gotten out of all this dear reader, it’s that I hope you learned something. More than anything, this was an exercise in trying to raise some awareness about a fantastic hidden-gem of a franchise. Whether you dive into this newest iteration, track down some of the older games, or even watch the anime, I hope that you yourself find something that speaks to you as this franchise has to me.

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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