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LONG BLOG

Wii Reviews: Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love

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For those reading one of my Wii review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

The Wii is often mocked for its game library, yet, it actually has a solid list of exclusives that are unavailable anywehere else. Though only Nintendo games were avilable where I am from, I was always intrested on other games. Hence, I decided to play the top 50 Wii games as chose by Gamesradar in this list:

http://www.gamesradar.com/best-wii-games-all-time/

I decided to go back and play those 5o games and review them, atl least those that intrest me and those that I hae not played before. Origianlly, I post most of my stuff in a football forum "Goallegacy" which is the first online community I have ever joined. Which is the best place for a football fan (the REAL football, not handegg) to hang out in the internet.

Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Gamesradar list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

46- Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love:
Year: 2010.
Genre: SRPG/ Dating Sim.
Publisher: NIS America.
Developer: Sega, Idea Factory. 

 

First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

For those unfamiliar with this game's path to localization, it isn't much different than the multitude of games developed by Sega that never sees a western release. Originally developed in 2005 for the PS2, Sakura Wars only managed to release over the sea in 2010 on the Wii.

To be fair, this is one game that Sega might have been justified in their reluctance to localize. Most obviously, there are hundreds of lines to translate and voice act. In addition, this is one game style that Sega were not sure would find its audience in the West, especially since its part of an established series in Japan.

While this game can be considered a solid SRPG, it is defined by its Dating Sim gameplay and anime tropes. This already puts it in a niche within an niche in the west, and this is a game that doesn't try to go beyond its audience, for good and bad.

"The peace of New York rests in your shoulders"

The setup to the story should be familiar to anyone who ever watched Saturday night cartoons or shows like the Power Rangers. Shinjiro Taiga, your semi-avatar, is a young Japanese military graduate who is transferred to the New York department of a force that battles demon deities. Of course, it makes sense in the game's world that you almost immediately become the captain of squad and find yourself in the middle of great demon's resurrection.

Did I mention that you pilot mechs to defeat those demons and their demon robots.

As the captain of Star Division, you are expected to defend New York from all evil. But first, you must prove to be a worthy captain for your team. Which, because this is a dating sim, is composed of a varied cast of females.

In fact, the aforementioned resurrection of the big bad thankfully takes a backseat to the individual stories of the characters and only act as a catalyst for the plot. It is these stories and the resulting relationships between the characters that aim to differentiate Sakura Wars from the Power Rangers crowd.

Unfortunately, I simply did not find the characters any more interesting than the plot. Depending on your Anime mileage and your resistance to tropes and cliches, you might find something different in the characters. Of course, there is the annoying child character, but there is also the aloof smart girl, the sickly super nice girl, and other archetypes. Rarely did a story development ever grab my attention. Sometimes, plot development is just insulting; there is this storyline where a crippled girl manages to walk again because of the power of positivity.

Mostly, I think this is due to our own boring Avatar. True, we actually control the choices in a conversation, but they are all choices coming from a dull person.

Positively, Sakura Wars tries to use the New York setting well. Star Division are a Broadway-show as a side-gig, and New York despite being squeaky clean still manages to rub some soul into the game. Even if the game does try to beat the "soul of Harlem" into our head.

Cliched Story: -4
Uninteresting Characters: -4

One of the few moments where Rosalita is not super annoying


"Find a way to make your mark"

As a game with Dating Sim elements, interaction with other characters is all part of the gameplay, and governing that gameplay is the LIPS system. I already forgot the full name which was forced into that acronym.

Doing well in the Dating Sim aspect of the game is important for two main reasons. First, you want to end the game with your girl of choice. Second, building up relationships is the only way to level up everyone's mechs (which is a really cool twist).

The LIPS system is brilliant at what it does; creating tension and investment to the game's conversations. The most basic LIPS give you a limited time to make a choice, with silence being a valid option.

Other types of LIPS ask you to make a sequence of choices instead of one, which are rare. The second most common type ask you to input a series of commands to simulate an action your character should be doing in the story.

Unfortunately, in these command LIPS, the game's origin in the PS2 is clear. While you should be asked to manipulate two Analog sticks; in the Wii you are asked to use the D-Pad in the Wiimote instead of the second analog. This makes some sequences more difficult than they should be, which is why I recommend using a Wii Controller Pro or something like it.

Generally, the LIPS system is a great way of adding investment into the story sections of the game (which is about 70%). However, a great interaction tool can do very little when the interactions themselves are not all that great.

LIPS System: +4
Needs Pro-Controller Support: -2

This guys has as many migrains as you think he would


"Fly for me, whose time is nearing its end"

The battles in Sakura Wars might be the less heralded aspect of the game, but they are actually quite good.

Think of these battles in the same way as grid-based SRPGs without the grid. Movement is in a 3D environment, but otherwise its similar in many ways. Each character get a turn based on their speed stat, which means ally turns will be separated by faster enemy turns and so on. In their turn, each character has a number of movement points, which they can use to move and attack as they see fit.

Surprisingly, there is a multitude of actions available for use. Other than movement or attack, the mechs can use points to pull-out a defensive barrier or charge up their special gauge. This gauge allows each unit to heal itself, joint attack with other units, or use its super move. Hence, managing your points is essential to maximize your effectiveness. You can unleash a 5-hit combo to try and destroy an enemy unit, but if you fail you already lost the units necessary to shield yourself. Each unit has a unique attack range, with some being able to hit foes from far away, and others managing to sweep multiple enemies in one hit.

Additionally, there are flight mod battles which shake things up fairly well. Its not a dramatic change other than in scenery; as the game still uses the same movement points system. However, it does change the way you think about spacing and distance.

With a solid gameplay system in place, Sakura Wars does well in greatly varying the battles themselves. From a battle that require both ground and air troops to defend your airship engines, to another that take place in top of a runaway subway train. This is a game that shakes things up regularly, and stays fresh as a result.

Great Battle System: +4
Variety in Battles: +4

Flying gives battles a larger scale


"The World Needs More Smiles"

The moment you boot the game-up in an HD television, you will notice that the game is locked in a square TV aspect-Ratio. Obviously, this would be jarring for many, but it is done to keep the anime-style drawings from stretching out into ugly messes.

All characters and backgrounds depicted in the LIPS segments are drawn in a clear cut clean style of animation that is neither unique or too redundant. With each character having a variety of different poses and facial expressions. Special props to the evil characters who are mostly well-designed, with one bad guy standing out because of the sword impaling his head. There is little animation outside of the cut-scenes which are generally short but are spread out.

In the battlefield, the mechs are designed in an oddly clunky way that is more unique and endearing than the regular Gundam rip-offs. Graphically, this is not the Wii at its best, but its passable especially regarding the boss robots who are well designed.

As for the music, it tries to convey Jazz and soul music influence, which is mostly manages to do even if the music is a little repetitive. For some reason, the music is louder than the voice acting and the settings cannot be changed to adjust that. The voice acting itself is not worth listening to though, as its rarely good, and mostly mediocre and sometimes seriously annoying. Rosalita, the child character, is the worst offender with what is possibly the most terrible Mexican rendition of a child's accent ever.

Generally, you can say that Sakura Wars does well in its presentation. However, given that Star Division are supposed to be a Broadway group, the game seriously loses and opportunity by not leveraging that. In some scenes, there should be singing and music worthy of Broadway (or worthy of pretending to be Broadway) but there is only silence. I don't know if that is the case of not translating the original Japanese or it simply wasn't there to begin with. Maybe its actually a blessing in disguise, as I would hate to see the VAs over-dramatize their lines or fall flat as they usually do.

One tune that always perked me up is the main theme, which I grew to really like as the game went on. It did the job of providing a memorable tune to this team of Power Rangers, as well as underscore any rallying moment in a battle. Whenever the song started, I felt extra compelled to kick the big bad in the rear.

Ok Graphics: +3
Aspect Ratio Locked: -3
Good Music: +3
Bad VA: -2
Awesome Main Theme: +2

With sword skills like that, why would she need a mech?


In Conclusion:

Sakura Wars is made for a specific crowd, and it doesn't aim further than that crowd. For those who are resistant to anime tropes or simply did not encounter them enough, they will find that there is a very solid SRPG within this Dating Sim game. Unfortunately, for those who might not be part of Sakura Wars niche, the great battle system cannot justify the 70% of mundane Dating Sim aspects.

That being said, I don't regret playing this game. It had really good battles. As for the story, in the end, despite not caring for the majority of the characters and story. I cared enough about one character to ensure she doesn't end up with my unfathomably boring Avatar.

Final: 30/50

*****************************************************************

"Looking Back at Destructoid's Review:"

This game was reviewed by Josh Tolentino, who was also an editor for Dtoid's sister site, back in 06.09.2010, and he gave it an 8. As someone experienced in anime, him liking it might suggest that anime veterans can find the story enjoyable. He sums it up in a positive note: "Sakura Wars is a game apart. It is a niche game within a niche genre, and is quite proud of it. The open-minded and unafraid will find a cheerful experience that is happily free of more contemporary obsessions with maturity and grit, content to be silly, fluffy, quirky and madly "anime".

In the comment section, nearly half of the comments were spammers, but there people happy at getting the game. TheCleaningGuy cleaned up in the game quite early but didn't finish the job, yet:

"'m loving this game. I picked it up day one (due to your earlier articles), but I put it down a while back and haven't gotten back to it lately. I'll have to do that. Great review!"

In the other hand, The Silent Protagonist absolutely hated the game, as in seriously hated it:

"This is one of the most horrible games I have ever experienced. The only way I could even endure the six hours I played of it was the English dub, which took the horrible fanfic of a story and made it mildly amusing.Its one of those everything-comes-easy-to-the-hero kinds of anime tales. He saves Harlem from a rezoning project the second day off the boat, and he goes from ticket-ripper to captain of the STARs team on his first day.

And for the six hours of that rubbish I had to endure, I only got two battles from the game. Sorry, but when you market something as SRPG, there needs to be more combat than cutscenes.

Hell, this game couldn't even do the steampunk setting right. Yeah, technology advances astoundingly, but its the 1920s - where's the fashion and the big band music? The street thugs are practically ripped out of the 1980s. The broadway stuff didn't even have actual singing. Like I said - bad fan fic.

If you must buy this reeking shitpile of a game, have the dignity to buy it used. No one developer deserves to be rewarded financially for this sort of thing."

Spelunking into the comment section, we also see Jonathan Holmes, who actually liked the game and is surprised at The Silent Protagoist's reaction:

"I really like this game, which is weird, because me and The Silent Protagonist are normally perfect clones.

Maybe my DNA is fucked up or something."

Maybe that's sarcasem. Yeah, I am sure it is.

"Sales Data:"

I am generally not intrested in the sales of the games I like, and I don't measure my penis size through the sucess of games I like. However, sales data is intresting in studying market trends, people's general intrest, marketing strategy, genre effect, and other factors. Which is why I am going to check the sales data of every modern game I review (Gen 4 and beyond).

In Japan, the game managed to sell about 70K units. After localization, the game manged to sell 100K units on the Wii, and another 100K+ on the PS2.

I am not sure about you, but I think that thos extra 200K games sold are more than worth the price of localization, and Sega should see that as proof that there is a market for their game in the west. Even those that are not as well-made as Yakuza 5 (I REALLY WANT UAKUZA 5).


"Tips"

1- Use a Wii Pro Controller if you want an easier time in Command LIPS.
2- The face in the save file is that of the girl with the highest trust level.
3- Joint attacks might appear useless early on, but they are a great way of hitting multiple enemies.
4- Don't get an unit destroyed, it will affect your relationship negatively.
5- If you want to get multiple different endings on the same save-file, keep a save at Chapter 7.

"Next Game"

While I didn't necessarily like Sakura Wars that much, I am still thankful that NIS localized and released it state-wise. It was a different and unique experience that I believe could have made a much better game with better writing and story.

For the next game in the list, I am actually going back to #50 to play Ivy and the Kiwi since my sister just bought it and other games in the list from the US.

Stay Tuned


For Previous Wii game Reviews:

The List

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About Lord Spencerone of us since 5:57 PM on 01.12.2014

Hello all, I am Lord Spencer, your friendly neighborhood royalty. Yes, the ancient bloodlines are letting absolutely anyone in these days.

Being the lurker that I am, I have been following Destructoid for more than four years. Well, its 3 AM where I live now, and I just plunged in getting HUGE in the way.

Here is hoping for a fun time.

Oh yes, here is a little more info about me that is probably not as interesting as I think it is:

-I owned and played about 1000+ games.
-I owned and read about 2000+ books (I counted comic books I read as a kid so this is not as impressive as it sounds).
-I absolutely love Legos.

Out of all the games I played, I only regret playing a few. I am a big fan of gaming, and thus I really like most of what I play.

Thanks to the excellent work of community member Dango, now I have a cool infographic of my top 20 games. This list is not my final one, but what I thought off at the moment. If you notice, they are presented in chronological order:





Oh, and here is a link to my blogs:
My Blogs