Wii role-playing game Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love has been pencilled in for a European release in April by publishers NIS America. It will mark the first time that the Sega-developed RPG series has been seen outside of Japan. Part of the reason for that may be the insane/intriguing mix of genres - Sakura Wars mixes robots, strategy RPGs and dating sims.
No, that wasn't a typo. Sakura Wars really does mix giant transforming robot-based combat with relationship building sections that bear resemblance to the dating sim genre. You are Shinjiro Taiga, a master swordsman who manages to end up in charge of the mech-commanding New York Assault Force, a team brought together to battle a demonic presence that is hanging over New York City. If that's not enough, though, you've also got to lead the team's Broadway musical efforts whenever they're not fighting. Confused yet? It's also set in an alternative version of 1928 where, it seems, Transformers are a reality and can freely switch between being standard 'big robots' and planes.
Gameplay is divided into a few sections. You chat to people and improve your relationships, you can wander freely around the city to seek out new adventures, or just shop if you'd rather do that, and then there's the all-important combat, which takes place both on land and in air. How you speak and interact with the other characters will determine how they will treat you during the game. When in battle, for example, a character you have been unnecessarily cruel to - and let's face it, there's always one - may begin to ignore your orders in revenge. Somebody who you've taken a shine to, though, may go out of their way to help out.
Despite all the storyline craziness, something clearly works. Sakura Wars (or Sakura Taisen in Japan) is generally regarded as one of the best RPG series about; all four previous entries into the series were voted into Famitsu's Top 100 Games of All Time poll in the past. Perhaps one of the big hooks of the franchise is that the story alters according to what you do, with multiple endings to be found, rather than forcing players along a rigid storyline as in many other RPGs. It could be that the combat is just more interesting, binning off single-action turn-based combat and letting players mix and match movement, offence and defence for as long as their energy bars last. Maybe throwing further interactivity and relationships that actually affect gameplay into proceedings has made it more intriguing than many other series on the market.
At this point, we don't know exactly where most of the series' appeal lies. We're looking forward to finding out, though, when Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is released for Wii across Europe on 2nd April 2010. We've added a batch of screenshots to the album below.
Have you played any of the Sakura Wars/Sakura Taisen titles before? Are you anticipating Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love?