Sakura Wars (PlayStation 4) Preview

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 21.04.2020

Review for Sakura Wars on PlayStation 4

Sakura Wars is a renowned series, with a thick history of both anime and video games - stretching back into the '90s, with the first game on the Sega Saturn. Published by SEGA, the series was mostly Japan exclusive, with only one previous entry making it to Europe and North America, chiefly, Sakura Wars: So Long, my Love for the Nintendo Wii and PS2. This new entry is SEGA soft rebooting the franchise with a new setting and characters, but not without having a space in the overall canon timeline.

Revealed in 2018 as 'New Sakura Wars' and following its Japanese release in late 2019, this reboot is finally coming to the West at the end of this month. It is written and directed by some returning series veterans but is very much its own thing, with a new style, and a completely overhauled system. Upon booting it up, players will be treated to screeching trumpets heralding the, actually incredible, introductory tune and animation. It does its part to set the tone: colourful, light, pretty, and most of all a very '90s feeling. To be brutally honest, it blew all expectations out of the water right from the word 'go!'

Screenshot for Sakura Wars on PlayStation 4

It opens with the arrival of main character, Seijuro Kamiyama, flouting the new character designs by Tite Kubo, the artist of long running manga series Bleach, which are absolutely great, lending the series a unique flavour. He has travelled to the Ginza area of Tokyo (the city's most expensive district) for a new military position after being discharged from his previous job. In this opening, players get a flavour of the new visuals and music, which are simply sublime.

The music, in particular, seems to be channelling the '40s, and somehow being absolutely full of depth like the music in Gravity Rush (Daze in Japan), and the station design is flaunting some truly beautiful art direction and lighting. It may sound like a lot of praise for just the intro, but luckily this quality absolutely lasts as the game moves on. Every area is unique and bright with just an absolutely fantastic detail and consistency.

Screenshot for Sakura Wars on PlayStation 4

Gameplay is split into two distinct parts: Adventure, in which the player can interact with the wider cast and build bonds, while moving through the story of the Imperial Theatre, and Combat scenes in which one can pilot a mech suit through dungeon style levels, while - as you probably guessed - moving the story forwards. The combat is a hack 'n' slash affair that offers a fair amount of challenge and is far from the slog that are Mugen-style games like Dynasty Warriors. Each dungeon/dark realm has a unique look and feel, and provides a variety of enemy types, sadly most of which seem to repeat in each area, although this is still early in the game. There are special attacks and team attacks, as well as a unique moral system that both ties into combat performance, and into the adventure mode. It feels like a missed opportunity to have a strategic combat system, however.

Screenshot for Sakura Wars on PlayStation 4

Adventure mode is by far the focus and highlights, as here you essentially manage the team as you run the Imperial Theatre, and build bonds with the other characters. For example when talking to Sakura Amamiya, it's possible to choose dialogue options that lead to the player learning about her link to the previous series protagonist Sakura Shinguji. It's the drama between characters as they struggle with personal dilemmas, try to balance finances and the relationship building between them and Kamiyama that keeps it all flowing and really should invest most players. Each of the girls in the team fill certain archetypes - for example there is a ditzy one, then the bookworm, and so on - each of them are super endearing, and the designs mostly stand out alongside the great voice work. Getting to know them and see their reactions to the dialogue options is 90% of the fun to be had in this mode!

In order to keep this succinct, time to move onto the couple of downsides. While the in-game visuals are super consistent, detailed and interesting, there seems to be a disconnect between them and the anime style cut-scenes, and it may have been to the game's benefit to focus purely on the in-game visuals and cut-scenes (which apparently run using the Yakuza systems). The other one is the pacing of the story. To begin with, it's slow and meticulous, but quite quickly this begins jumping time, and it feels like some more of the time should have been shown even just with simple dialogue like "You can do it" or "If we work together we can do this," and it creates a little disconnect that is distracting. Overall, though, there isn't much to complain about at all.

Screenshot for Sakura Wars on PlayStation 4

Final Thoughts

So far Sakura Wars is an absolute blast. For fans and newbies alike there is something here. At its heart it is a JRPG with a focus on character and dialogue. Its combat is not the deepest, but is more than serviceable, and mostly enjoyable, even with some light platforming mechanics. It will be incredibly interesting to see where the story goes after these opening chapters, and how much the combat and difficulty might change, as well as how Kamiyama will get along with the other team members. Watch this space!

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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