I really dig games that are unique and different from the usual gaming formulas. There is always a risk in straying from the norm to create something uncommon. It can turn out to be a complete bust. But just as much potential exists for it to be something that can be truly memorable. Sakura Wars for the Playstation 4 takes many elements that have been done in gaming time and time again but molds them into a title that stands on its own.
So what is Sakura Wars? According to its publisher, SEGA, the game takes place in a “steampunk version of 1940’s Imperial Tokyo” and centers around a combat division that is looking to protect the city’s citizens and also restore itself to its former glory. The catch is that the division is also a theatre troupe. So along with having the responsibility of vanquishing enemies as the captain of the division, it is also your job in the game to help the troupe improve as theatrical performers. It’s an interesting concept but one that has me fully on board. There have been several Sakura related games before this one but I am not familiar with any of those games. This is the first one that I’ve played.
Sakura Wars spans several genres that you will discover as you play the game. That is why it can not just be simply called an action game or a role-playing game. While it certainly has those characteristics, the title also contains visual novel, dating sim, and mini-game elements. There are also anime cutscenes that are very well done and add to the visual flair of the game. As a complete package, Sakura Wars has plenty to offer.
I’ve crossed over the 10-hour mark in the game and just taking my time exploring the game world. As the player, you control Seijuro Kamiyama, who is appointed as the new captain of the struggling Flower (combat) Division. The first several hours of the game have you becoming very familiar with the Grand Imperial Theatre (Flower Division HQ) and all of the actresses that perform within it. This helps to provide content that then makes the battle sequences more significant. It is a similar approach to the way that Persona 5 works as the development of the characters both compliments and helps give meaning to the action segments of the game. More characters and areas in Tokyo are revealed over time.
As is many times the case in games and anime where you have a male protagonist with several female supporting characters, the actresses all have different personalities. Sakura is a very determined and disciplined character, who also has a fondness for Kamiyama since they’ve known each other from childhood. Hatsuho is a very forward shrine maiden who means well but does not mince words. Claris has more of the shy and quiet type of personality with a ton of potential that tends to be hindered by a cynical outlook. Azami is the mysterious ninja girl who reminds me a lot of Fie from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. And finally, Anatasia is a star performer who is very serious about her craft and detests nonsense. The characters have all been well built from what I’ve played so far.
As someone who speaks English as his primary language, Sakura Wars would have been better served with an English language voice option. The Japanese voice/English subtitle option is serviceable as I watch plenty of anime in that fashion. But just as I prefer to watch Attack on Titan with English dubbed voiceovers, the same applies to Sakura Wars. This was a game that really could have used it. I use Persona 5 Royal as an example of a game that would have been received much differently here in the United States and other English-speaking countries if the English dubs were not present. When you play immersive games such as Persona 5 Royal and Sakura Wars, you desire to experience the story within your own language.
Speaking of audio, the music for Sakura Wars is very well done. The intro track with the trumpets is something that even sticks in my head after I play. I also feel at ease with the calming music as I walk through the Grand Imperial Theatre. The soundtrack compliments what I see on screen very well.
Those are my thoughts on the game so far. I’m not far enough into the game to give it a recommendation but from what I’ve played, Sakura Wars has been a pleasant surprise. I bought the game earlier this year because it seemed interesting. As I checked more into what the game was about and some reviews, I felt it would be worth taking a gamble on it. I’m glad I did.
If you have played Sakura Wars or any other games in the series, what are your thoughts?