It's Taisho 20th Year, 10 years since the capital fended off a large scale invasion from Koumas. Now marine Sejiro Kamiyama has been re-assigned to the Imperial Theatre Troupe to help reinforce their military strength. As he arrives as his new place of assignment the Imperial Theatre, he is reunited with Sakura, a childhood friend he hadn't met for 10 years.
However, the former well-known Imperial Troupe was a thing of the past with little team spirit. No one goes to their shows and because of that they hardly have budget to maintain their Koubu mechas. It was now up to Sejiro to fix things before the team gets disbanded. As the team work to strengthen their bonds a high class Kouma appears repeatedly, suggesting another large scale attack from them.
This is my first Sakura Wars game and was interested in this because I heard a lot of good things about the previous series. The game is mainly a "dating sim" where you basically have a harem to interact with. However, unlike the traditional dating sim or visual novel, this game is split into a dating sim part and also ARPG style mech battles.
For most of the game you'll be chatting to the girls, with only a few seconds to make dialogue choices that will determine whether you get on their good side or not. You actually don't even have to try as most of the girls just throw themselves at you or, you get on their good side as part of the main story anyway. You can flirt as much as you want without consequences unlike the other RPGs with romancing elements. As with harem games the ending is the girl you end up getting closest to although in this case, you get to pick who to be with at the end.
There's a lot of loading while zoning between areas which can easily be avoided with quick travel.
Mecha battles are extremely simple. Feels like the Musou Warrior games except even simpler as you can't even lock on which makes fighting aerial enemies a problem. Camera is slow so turning it round to face the enemy is a pain too. Fortunately the battles are very easy. Most of the time it's just a matter of saving up your skill gauge and unleashing them on the boss.
There's no levelling up system, no customisation at all so not much depth other than a bit of platform jumping. Well, kind of no levelling up system... Instead you chat with characters and increase your trust similar to Persona games. You can also have romantic moments where you can spend over half an hour just chatting to a girl alone and get intimate. Unlike Persona, it doesn't actually take that long to get to that stage of trust funnily enough. It's quite awkward since the game switches to first person view and get a little intimate.
There's a mini game called "Koikoi" which proved to be a nice intro into the world of Hanafuda Japanese playing cards if you've never played it (Nintendo started out as a Hanafuda company). It's quite fun if you can remember the different hands you can have.
The graphics engine feels well polished with everything looking smooth and clean balanced just right between a realistic and Anime look. Character expressions and motions look natural and smooth. You even get a lot of bromide photos of them too. Anime cutscenes are quite good quality too which is probably why the game's getting its own adaptation too. In fact, each chapter is presented like an Anime episode complete with previews at the end. Despite the modern day mix of quality real time 3D and 2D Anime cutscenes, it still goes back to the traditional visual novel event illustrations which aren't quite as good quality.
Some of the visuals just remind me of Persona 5 such as the loading screens when transitioning between places which is probably unsurprising since Sega owns Atlus now. Crowds are lively and don't look like zombies. You notice models and animations being re-used but very oddly and they don't get in the way as you navigate around the place.
It's a harem game so it's full of girls with male oriented fan service. Character designs are done by Taito Kubo best known for Bleach so you'll recognise them from their bustiness right away. Interestingly enough, Soejima from Atlus did the design for Sakura's master, Hakushu Murasame which I actually thought looked like Lightning from FFXIII...
There's been a lot of bad reviews and one of the bad points was little voice acting despite the cast of top voice actors. I think it's not as bad as reviews say just that the voice acting stops quite unexpectedly sometimes. As with some JRPGs only the main scenes are voiced mostly and maybe the first few lines of some side quests.
Despite all the criticism I quite enjoyed this short game. It could do with a a better control system and fast travel but it's very aesthetically pleasing. If you're looking for an easy harem dating sim with some ARPG battles mixed in then you'll probably enjoy this.
v1.01 patch for the Japanese game added lock-on target and save any time support.
- Great visuals and presentation.
- Very dull, simplistic combat.
- Slow camera,
no lock on.
- Too many loading screens with no quick travel.
- Not all dialogue is voiced?
Platinum Trophy Tips
It's not a difficult platinum trophy, just time consuming and you'll need to play through the game twice at least.
There are two good guides (Japanese) on where to find all the bromides and when. Collecting them all is the hardest part for the "Bromide Master" trophy really. Some you can only get via the Battle Bot sim. During the second playthrough the locations are highlighted on the map but you can still miss some that can only be obtained during or after side missions.
And don't underestimate the "Showtime" trophy where everyone must appear on the Intermission status screen. You will have to do all side quests and answer or pick the correct choices to get on everyone's good side.
Team attacks can only be performed when the characters are in top condition signified by a twinkle to them on the interlude stage screen. You must then perform the team attack during the story before you can use them during the Battle Bot sim for that particular playthrough only. Note you can also use a team attack then restart a battle. That will count too but you most likely won't need to do this as S-ranking all the Battle Bot sim missions for the "Battle Botanist" trophy will net you the team attack trophies for each character.
For Clarissa's team attack "A Tale of Two Readers" trophy you'll probably want a guide to get on her good side as you have few opportunities to do so other than going for her ending.
For the Hanafuda "Koi-Koi Wars Champion" trophy, you'll need some patience while you grind points and keep trying until you get good decks to beat everyone. A deck guide might help.