Title: Sakura Wars
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Available On: PlayStation 4
Official Site: Sakura Wars
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Where to Buy it: PlayStation Store, local retailers
Demon-fighting mechs? Check. An impressive anime opening and rocking theme? Check. Cute girls and chuckle-worthy dialogue? Check. Sakura Wars really does have something to delight any gamer and anime fan, and this reboot is a great jumping-off point for curious fans. What this game lacks in-depth, it definitely makes up for with character and enthusiasm.
There are many layers at work in Sakura Wars. On the surface, it might appear as a mech-fighting experience; Sakura Wars is largely more of a visual novel/dating sim. While the overall premise revolves around demon-fighting mechs, running the cover operation of The Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division is a bigger part of the gameplay. Check out the short synopsis:
The Imperial Combat Revue takes the stage as Tokyo’s defense force against a demon threat in this extravagant adventure. Soldiers in wartime, but theater performers in peacetime, the Revue’s Flower Division is not living up to their legacy and is at risk of being shut down. As newly appointed captain Seijuro Kamiyama, it’s up to you to turn the team around.
With any sort of dating sim, there are two very important elements: dialogue and characters. Luckily, Sakura Wars exceeds in both. It’s rich with tropes: the aspiring hero, the bookworm, the quiet yet creepy one, the star, etc. With that being said, in this case, the characters don’t necessarily feel like their tropes.
The characters are designed with more depth, which makes it genuinely interesting getting to know each of them. And the best way to get to know them is through well-written dialogue. Witty, fun, and full of misunderstandings, the dialogue is great for keeping players on their toes.
With games like Sakura Wars, the animation plays a huge role in its success, and the artistic team nailed it. From the awesome anime opening to the everyday moments between characters, the detailed designs and use of color add a whimsical pop to this experience. We were lucky enough to receive codes for extra costume bundles, and they are super fun and well designed. Most importantly, the demon-fighting mechs are super cool.
While this might be more of a personal complaint, I do wish there were more fighting sequences. The battle systems are rather simple and easy to understand, but they don’t need to be anything more when the player uses them so little. But with such cool mech designs, it almost feels like a missed opportunity not to use them with a more developed battle system. That being said, for it being what it is, the hack-and-slash gameplay is still a blast- I just hoped for more!
With that being said, there are other downsides to Sakura Wars, and they mostly revolve around polish issues. The voice actors are outstanding, and I wish they would have used them more. Cutscenes will suddenly go from voices lines to almost total silence and subtitles. Often times, these transitions are somewhat jarring, and the silence goes on for much too long. During these same dialogue scenes, sometimes the characters will jester wildly or make facial expressions that don’t match the conversation or the tone of the moment. Especially without voiced lines, these moments can be kind of confusing and take the player out of the moment.
All in all, Sakura Wars does a great job of ushering fans into an already established franchise. This experience isn’t a remake or remaster; it’s a fresh reboot with a new story to tell. With franchises like this, sometimes it’s difficult to find a starting off point. And while you might come for the demon-fighting mechs, you’ll definitely stay for the whimsical characters, witty dialogue, colorful art style, and diverse gameplay. Sakura Wars is not without its flaws, but it’ll be interesting to see where the franchise will go from here!
If the game isn’t enough for you, episodes of Sakura Wars the Animation are streaming on Funimation Now!
Verdict: Sakura Wars is a fun romp with witty dialogue, interesting characters, detailed art style, and fun, hack-and-slash, Ninja Gaiden-esque gameplay. It’s a rather fantastic blend of JRPG, dating sim, and mech extravaganza, which does a great job of ushering new fans into an already popular franchise. While there are obvious tropes at play, that doesn’t make these characters any less fun or entertaining, and developing unique relationships with each one adds an interesting level of gameplay to the experience. However, a lack of polish, tight environments, and borderline-creepy interactions take this experience down a notch.
- Cool characters and good writing
- Sweet animations and art styles
- Rocking anime opening
- Not enough mech-fighting gameplay
- Lack of polish in sound design
- Out-of-place character interactions