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Backlog Review: Sakura Wars: So Long My Love

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I am honestly not too familiar with
this week’s game,
Sakura Wars: So Long My
Love
. Besides liking the title, I know very little of the franchise this
game is from. I know it is popular in Japan because, despite this being the
only Western release of the franchise, it had an anime series, manga, and additional
games that were released in Japan. I do
remember seeing previews for the English version of one of the anime series
that was released by A.D.Visions, but that was it. After doing some research,
it seems like an interesting franchise that combines tactical RPG gameplay with
dating sim elements. Even if the anime and games are filled with what we would
call anime tropes, I do like some of the characters and the robot designs. The
series is apparently so popular that some of the characters appeared in the
crossover RPG
Project X Zone for the
3DS. This game though,
Sakura Wars: So
Long My Love
will be my first step into this popular franchise. Let’s see
what happens!

The story revolves
around Shinjiro Taiga, voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch. He is sent to New York City
in the 1920s by his uncle to help lead the New York Combat Revue. When he gets
there, he meets a pretty quirky cast of characters. The New York Combat Revue
includes Gemini Sunrise, voiced by Laura Bailey, Cherion Archer, voiced by Erin
Fitzgerald, Diana Caprice, voiced by Karen Strassman, Rosarita Aries, voiced by
Melissa Fahn, and Subaru Kujo, voiced by Kate Higgins. They are all led by
Ratchet Altair, voiced by Julie Ann Taylor, and Michael Sunnyside, voiced by
Dave Wittenberg. While disguised as stage performers for a place called Little
Lip Theater, the New York Combat Revue fights the evils of the night and giant
robots when they appear. Will Shinjiro Taiga become a good leader? Will he gain
the trust of his fellow allies in battle? You will just have to play to find
out. Anyway, the story has a lot of charm to it, even if it is basically an
interactive anime. I like some of the characters and even some of the villains.
I guess the only problem I have with the story is that they make Shinjiro Taiga
sort of a male version of a Mary Sue kind of character, but other than that, it’s
a solid story with only a few minor issues.

Sakura Wars: So Long My Love is pretty
unique for an RPG. It has a mix of tactical RPG mechanics and a dating
simulator. Most of the time, you will be looking at still shots of rooms and
areas, and talking to different teammates. You need to make sure your bonds
with them are strong, since your relationship with them will affect how they do
in combat. The city the game takes place in is very small, and only has a few
areas to explore, so if you want to find side quests or characters to talk to,
you have to find them yourself. The combat itself is rather interesting. It is
basically what would later be used in SEGA’s other popular RPG,
Valkyria Chronicles. By the end of the
game’s eight chapters, you will be able to control six characters who each
individually pilot a mech.

The gameplay in combat is basically a turn-based tactics
game. Each character you control has a health bar, stamina bar, and what is
essentially a magic bar. You will move your character around and fight enemies,
and then take on a huge boss. Any action that you do whether it is moving, fighting,
healing, pulling off joint attacks, or a hyper-move, will drain that stamina
bar. If you have a good bond with the female characters, sometimes random
things will happen, like one ally will help you defend against an attack or
make a joint attack even stronger. There is a good amount of strategy and
difficulty, since you want to keep your bonds strong so they do well in battle.
The game isn’t really long, at about 25 or so hours. There are multiple endings,
so there is replay value, but do you really want to go through the game more
than once? Well, I will give my thoughts about that in a second.

Graphically, it
isn’t bad looking, but it could have been better for a game released in 2007
for the PlayStation 2 and Wii. I mean, this game was announced in 2002, and to
be honest, it looks like a game released in 2002. Then again, some of the robot
designs are cool, and the anime cutscenes look good. Some of the still frames
could be better looking also instead of looking so blurry. The music isn’t bad;
I like some of the tunes that play throughout the game, and grew fond of the
opening theme. The voice cast is also pretty decent. You have a lot of famous
anime voice actors like Johnny Yong Bosch, Laura Bailey who is appearing everywhere
I look nowadays (maybe it’s because I bashed
Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel so much), and some other pretty
well known voice actresses. A lot of them have also appeared in famous RPGs
like Enteral Sonata and animes like Bleach. The music was composed by Kohei
Tanaka who has done works on anime, video games, movies, and the Japanese
Tokusatsu series. It’s a decent overall presentation package.

I am going to be blunt;
there are a few things wrong with this game. I know I haven’t been subtle about
it. The game has a bit of an issue, balancing the “dating simulator” elements
with the tactical RPG gameplay. You don’t really get into the tactical RPG
gameplay until the end of each chapter. This means for about two out of the
three hours, each chapter has you looking at still frames of areas you can go
to with one or more characters that you talk to and hopefully don’t piss off. It
doesn’t help that the still frames look fuzzy, and the overall city you travel
through is really lifeless. I guess for a game that came out in 2007 for the PlayStation
2 (in its last years of being the main console) and for the Wii, you would
think they would know how to make a bunch of moving people on screen. If Yakuza
1
and 2 can have a bunch of people moving on screen, then this game should do
it as well. I also didn’t find the need to play more than one chapter at a time
due to how much emphasis is on the story and not the gameplay. I might like
focus on characters and story, but you have to balance it out with gameplay or
else some gamers might find games like this boring.

Final Verdict: A Flawed, but interesting RPG/Dating Sim

I had a hard time
summarizing this game. I like a lot of things that it does, but I also hate a
lot of the design choices used in this game that brought down the experience. I
would say check it out because it is the only game in the Sakura Wars franchise
to actually come over here in the states, but you wouldn’t really miss much if
you didn’t rent it or buy it. For the most part, check it out if you like RPGs
with dating sim elements like
Thousand Arms
for the PlayStation 1, but if you prefer more meat to the overall game with
story and gameplay being more balanced, skip it. I feel badly for the score I
am giving it because there is an audience for this game series, and like I
said, I do like a lot of things that this game does. If they were to ever make
a sequel, they would have to do something to bring it to the RPG market. No
still frames, no low level graphics, more RPG gameplay, and more everything. I
do hope we see another game in the series because it is a fun series and one
worth checking out if you have the time.

No
ChannelImages
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Our Verdict
Sakura Wars: So Long My Love
Good characters, fun combat, multiple endings,
gameplay and story are not balanced out, average graphics for the PlayStation 2 and Wii, blurry screens, and a lifeless city.

Cameron Ward
Hello Gamnesia! My name is Cameron Ward, but you can call me camseyeview. I have been gaming since the mid 90’s and I still enthusiastically play video games today! I have been writing reviews for about 5 years now and have recently made a website called camseyeview.biz for my reviews and other special feature articles on gaming. I love many varieties of game genres, but I am mostly a Nintendo and Sony fan. However, I do enjoy Microsoft games also. Got a question to ask me? Have a video game to recommend for a game review? An upcoming game or game developer you want me to do a Thoughts On um, on? Ask away!

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