Review – Sakura Wars (PS4)

Mechs and steampunk are a surprisingly good combination

Surely not many of you have heard about the Sakura Wars brand. There is nothing strange about this. The series, despite the fact that Japan has had triumphs since 1996, is not very popular in the West. It is worth mentioning that currently we can only receive two productions taking place in this universe, where we will see English subtitles. The first was Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, released in 2005, which fans could play on PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii. The second, however, is the subject of today’s review, i.e. Sakura Wars (in Japan, with the name New Sakura Wars). So it’s time to see what the steampunk mechs have to offer

The latest installment of this multi-year cycle is referred to as a “soft reboot”, which may be an incentive for players who have never had contact with the brand. Personally, I think that such a procedure is a good move on Sega’s part, because old veterans will be able to enjoy the references to older scenes, while new people will be able to get acquainted with this intriguing vision of the Taishō period. In terms of the plot, we can say that the creators like to draw inspiration from many genres of manga and anime. Here we will find threads that will be figured out in no time by fans of such genres as: moss, harem or comedy. Despite the fact that the story about the adventures of Sejiorou Kamiyama and the Flower Division is a huge cluster of plates, everything is given to us in such a form that with each subsequent hour we are more and more drawn into the presented world.

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Of course, history will not move forward without proper gameplay. Here, the creators decided to improve their work from three components (if we count a card mini-game, then four). We have here a combination of an action game, a dating simulator and a classic visual novelty. If anyone thinks that the first aspect will be the most impressive, I have to correct him as soon as possible. Our main task in order to learn about the next story elements will be to talk to the characters, deepen their relationships with them and perform simple tasks for them.

The latter are not too complicated, because they focus either on traveling to a specific place in order to collect an item or obtaining information in a limited time. Despite the fact that the conversation is 80% fun, the dialogue system itself is not too overwhelming. During the key parts of the conversation, we have a choice of three paths towards which we can push the conversation. Add to that the fact that one option totally does not fit the context and we end up with only two sentences that will push the plot forward. From myself I will add that if we get to know the characters at the same time, we will conduct all the conversations on the proverbial autopilot, without thinking about what issue we should choose …

The second aspect of the game, the dating simulator, suffers from a mediocre dialogue system. This is because we can either be the perfect man towards our companions or the worst man on earth. We do not have any intermediate options, which in my opinion would add variety to many dialogues. Fortunately, the female characters were well written, even though you can clearly see many clichés on which they were built. We have a childhood friend, a tough girl who hides her delicate interior or a person with a mysterious past. Of course, it is worth being in the best possible relationship with each of them, because the greater the level of sympathy, the better our companions cope on the battlefield.

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And here we come to the element of fun with the smallest volume, i.e. getting into our mech. At the heart of this, you can see the inspiration of Dynasty Warriors, as countless battalions of demons will appear before our heroes. The creators, however, did not want anyone to stay stuck in these stages for a long time and you can actually go through the whole thing with your eyes closed. The best tactic is to dodge to slow down the time and charge the special attack bar.

Thanks to it, we will be able to send a whole host of enemies into nothingness, and most of the bosses (except the last one) will fall at our feet after performing two special actions. Thus, despite all the layers of effectiveness, the combat segments do not captivate you. We can of course extend the time we spend at the controls of the mech thanks to training missions, but here we will repeat the levels we have already seen, which gives us a fantastic recipe for getting bored quickly. It is also worth mentioning that there is no such thing as a difficulty level in the game, which can certainly discourage players from expecting a challenge from the game.

However, what positively struck me while playing this production is the audiovisual setting. Character and mech models are first class. Personally, as a fan of the history of big robots, I was in awe of their design. Due to the fact that the presented world belongs to the steampunk trend, our units are powered by steam. During the cutscenes, we see how the steam nozzles from large pipes, and how the individual elements of our tool to fight demons work. The design itself is also so original that the local mechs cannot be confused with any other brand.

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Due to the fact that the locations we visit are relatively closed, the creators did not regret the nice-looking interiors and urban areas. However, what drives all the fun are the voices of the characters and the music. As befits Japanese voice actors, we feel that each voice fits the character perfectly. Add to that the music that works perfectly in all scenes from dramatic to comedy and we get a production that can safely be considered long and good anime (this fact also emphasizes the division of the game into episodes).

Personally, I’m surprised by Sakura Wars. At the beginning of my fun, I thought that the production would quickly get boring to me by playing on popular patterns. However, the farther into the forest, the more I wanted to see where the story would turn, because of our group of main characters. If Sega continues to develop the brand, I hope that in the next installment the two biggest sins of the production discussed today will be corrected, i.e. too simple combat system and dialogues, which in the long run do not offer us too much room to show off. However, if we now turn a blind eye to these shortcomings, we will still get a production that can attract us to the TV screen for a few pleasant evenings.