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Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (Wii) Review

Review for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

PlayStation 2 screenshots used; Wii shots unavailable.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is the fifth game in the long-running Japanese videogame and animé franchise Sakura Taisen. It's also the first to get a localisation in both the US and Europe, released on PlayStation 2 and Wii last year. The previous instalments are sadly still only available in Japan, but have amassed quite a following. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a seemingly obscure game, but is it one worth checking out? Read on to find out.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love - the whole series, in fact - is very unique, especially for anyone outside of Japan. It is a mix of strategy-RPG, visual novel and dating sim. That said, anyone looking for a 'hardcore' strategy-RPG will almost certainly end up disappointed with Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love because that's not where its strengths and charm lie. It’s a very story driven game, so most of the time you'll simply be following the plot and making choices that will, hopefully positively, affect your relationships with the different girls in the game. The battles are simply a welcome change of pace - they're nothing overly special, but that's not what they're supposed to be. Don't expect Fire Emblem levels of combat.

The game takes place during the year 1928 in an alternate universe which is similar to the real world but far more advanced. You take control of a 19 year old Japanese naval officer, Shinjiro Taiga, who departs to New York to join the New York Combat Revue Star Division; an organisation devoted to protecting the city of New York while simultaneously keeping the spirits of its residents up by performing theatre musicals. Things start out calm, with only occasional attacks on the city from hostile robots that can be easily dealt with, but it slowly becomes apparent that there's something much bigger than that. Without any detail, anyone who is familiar with JRPGs should know just what to expect when the words "ancient evil" are uttered. However, that's not to say that it's yet again a clichéd JRPG story, because the interaction with the characters you meet along the way is what makes up the best part of the story and the game as whole.

Throughout Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love you'll have to get along with the girls you meet by making the right choices and slowly understanding and unveiling their real personalities. These choices are made through timed LIPS - the Live and Interactive Picture System. There exist four forms of LIPS to interact with other characters or deal with situations. First, you have your basic LIPS, where you are presented with one to three choices of what to say or do. Secondly, there are analogue LIPS where you can raise an action gauge, ranging from 0 - 100%, up or down depending on the situation. How high or low you raise it affects how you perform an action, or what you’ll actually do. Then there are Stick LIPS which require you to rotate the analogue sticks in a given way to carry out actions like repairing items, or even simply making coffee, the outcome affecting how well Shinjiro does in the task. There's one very annoying thing about Stick LIPS. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo doesn’t have two analogue sticks, so you have to use the D-pad instead; fine for directional input, but when you're required to do circular motion inputs within a time limit then it gets really hard. A Classic Controller Pro is almost required to do well in all of these parts. However, you still need to use the Wii Remote for the fourth type of LIPS, Click LIPS, where you simply need to point and click on things on the screen that you want to interact with or look at. You better watch out where you are clicking when looking at a girl though, as that could have some very unfortunate results for you...

Screenshot for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

LIPS make up a large part of the game and influence your relationships with the various girls on your team. Doing well on a task set by a girl, or saying the things they want you to say, will net you trust points, indicated by a little tune that plays every time your relationship with that particular girl improves. However, you can also get negative trust points by screwing up, being a jerk or simply not saying what the girl wanted. Don’t worry about messing up your game, though, as there is a handy 'Discontinue' feature that, unlike in most other games, lets you reset and start from that point again as many times as you want. Getting to understand the girls' personalities to earn more trust points is key here because those are ultimately what affect your overall performance in the various battle sequences. These usually occur at the end of each chapter and consist of a couple of sections, facing off against minions before a boss.

Yes, you just read right. You don't to need kill enemies for experience points or anything like that in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. The better you get along with the girls, the stronger you'll be in battle. Make the right choices and you'll soon find yourself kicking ass during combat, along with your female team members. You fight inside mechanised two-legged suits called STARS. Everything is turn-based, but it's not quite as simple as selecting your action and your target. You get a set amount of action points every turn (depending on your accumulated trust points) that you can use to move around, piece together normal combos, special attacks or Joint attacks, where you team up with one of your teammates and perform a strong attack. It should be noted that these Joint attacks become stronger each time your relationship level with that particular girl increases, so it’s in your best interest to work on those. Then you have your basic stats such as HP, SP (Special Points), Attack, Defence and Speed; the standard stuff. However, it should be noted that there are no items or anything like that in this game, so to recover HP or SP you have to use up action points to heal or charge your SP.

Screenshot for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

You can also choose between three strategies for your team to follow: 'Shin', 'Gi' or 'Tai'. Shin is offensive, increasing your attack but removing your ability to heal. Gi is flexible and improves your speed while still allowing healing and special attacks. Tai is defensive, but your special attacks can't be used any more. These strategies can be changed whenever it is your main character’s turn, as much as you like, but have to be stuck with for a round before the opportunity to change comes up again. Using the correct strategy in the correct situation can make battles so much easier and quicker for you but you should never get cocky, even though the fights are generally on the easy side given that you're not a total jerk to the girls. You also have two other commands during combat, "Help Me!" and "Protect!”. Both of these commands improve the relationship with the girl you use them on, so you might want to use them in each battle even if you don't need to.

Graphically, it should be noted that Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a port of a PlayStation 2 game, and that's just how it looks. The dialogue scenes consist of animé pictures of the people you are talking to and a little circle in the dialogue box that shows Shinjiro's reactions. This is preferable, as the 3D models aren't overly pretty, though in the midst of battle they do the job while over the top special attacks - some even lasting up to a minute - spiral around, as expected from this genre. These are often insane, with so many effects that it's apparently too much for the game to handle, sometimes causing everything to slow down to an extremely low frame rate. These are really only for some major boss special attacks though and you can skip the entire animation once you've seen it at least once so it's not a game-breaker. There are also a good amount of CG movies that are top notch animé quality and leave you with a desire for more.

Screenshot for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The soundtrack of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is excellent and perfectly captures the emotion of each scene or the personality of each character that has his/her own theme, even stirring players in certain points of the story. During battles you'll hear some great relatively fast-paced tracks that get you really motivated, while walking around the city is supported by mellow music. About 20 - 25% of the dialogue features brilliant English voice acting, usually the main story conversations or other important moments, while the rest remains unvoiced. The voices fit the characters perfectly, convey lots of different emotions and are just well done in general. It’s exactly how voice acting in video games should sound like. The PS2 release came with two discs, one featuring the original Japanese voices, but with such brilliant English voice work I wasn't longing for the original dubs at all.

Summing up, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a very entertaining experience that combines elements of a strategy RPG, dating sim and visual novel. The characters all have very well put together background stories and character development and combat is a fun change of pace during the usual conversations and watching the story unfold. The graphics are very good and should please any fan of animé/manga, and the English voicework is downright fantastic. This is a game very well worth checking out for any fellow otaku, though if you're not fond of the dating sim and visual novel genres, it's unlikely that the strategy RPG elements alone will make up for the inclusion of these genres' elements.

Screenshot for Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

For the most part, you spend your time talking to many different, very interesting characters and improving your relationships with them. The occasional strategy-RPG styled battle sequence provides a nice change of pace, despite it being much less complex than its counterpart.

Graphics

It’s a port of a very pretty PlayStation 2 game with beautiful animé character art and cutscenes. The 3D-rendered battle sequences aren’t as impressive but still manage to look fairly good. Special attacks look great, but some of the bigger ones used by bosses can cause a lot of slowdown.

Sound

A top-notch soundtrack that manages to enhance any situation, no matter its mood or setting. The fantastic English voice acting succeeds in bringing the characters to life and never feels out of place or forced. Combine these two aspects and you get what is probably the strongest point of this game.

Value

A normal playthrough lasts for about 20 hours, divided into eight chapters. You’ll be playing this game for up to 60 - 70 hours if you want to get and see everything, though. There are six possible endings in total, a ton of unlockable CG scenes, pictures and much more. You can have a look at everything once you've completed the game to see if you're still missing something, which makes going back to it much easier.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

The Sakura Wars series’ debut in the Western world proves to be one that’s well worth checking out, especially for gamers who are interested in these types of things. If you are one of said gamers, make sure that you don’t overlook this game. There might be another entry in the series sometime in the future and it would be a shame if this was the only instalment to receive a localisation. All in all, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a worthy addition to Wii’s library.

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05.10.2011

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Developer

SEGA

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (3 Votes)

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

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Hm, I was looking forward to this game for awhile some years ago but then it just sort of dropped off my radar. I'll have to look into picking it up, it sounds really interesting, and apparently it's pretty good.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I started playing it, but then I lost interest completely personally, because after two hours spent talking to all sorts of people, I still hadn't seen any battle XD. Maybe I should have dug a bit more into it, but unless I find it for really cheap, I think I'll skip this one. Not exactly my type of game.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

The game takes place during the year 1928 in an alternate universe which is similar to the real world but far more advanced.

So it's a futuristic version of the past? Smilie

The Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo doesn’t have two analogue sticks, so you have to use the D-pad instead; fine for directional input, but when you're required to do circular motion inputs within a time limit then it gets really hard. A Classic Controller Pro is almost required to do well in all of these parts.

Is there Cube controller support?

This is preferable, as the 3D models aren't overly pretty, though in the midst of battle they do the job while over the top special attacks - some even lasting up to a minute - spiral around, as expected from this genre. These are often insane, with so many effects that it's apparently too much for the game to handle, sometimes causing everything to slow down to an extremely low frame rate.

So the Wii can't handle a PS2 port!? Smilie

Now on twitter, predicting celebrity death headlines! @thedaytheydie
Staff Member

@Kafei: Well, I could imagine that even if you got to the first battle, you wouldn't have found that alone worth the time to actually get there because that's not what this game does best. It seems you're the type of player I described in my last paragraph. Smilie

@Cheesing it up: Yeah, you could say that, though not everything is all that advanced. The things that are though, are far ahead of our current technology or in some cases, reality. Smilie

There's no Cube controller support, probably because they used the Wii IR pointer for some things and they didn't want to bother changing anything for that. Just a guess on my part though.

Oh, I never even mentioned the Wii in the part about the slowdown. Smilie Frame rate drops can be caused by a game itself as well, or rather its engine, and that's what seems to be the case here.

 

Cheers. Too bad about the lack of Cube controller support, but it can't be helped.

Frame rate drops can be caused by a game itself as well, or rather its engine, and that's what seems to be the case here.

True, I guess it's not really a failing of the Wii per se, but it's still pretty shocking, even if it doesn't really ruin the game in any way.

Now on twitter, predicting celebrity death headlines! @thedaytheydie
Senior ModeratorStaff MemberOur member of the week

Finally got around to reading this, SirLink, and have to say it was a great review. Don't have the time to invest in a game like this now, but if I was younger and saw this for cheap I'd certainly give it a go, as I'm open to just about anything. Based on this positive review, it sounds like it'd be well worth picking up if you're into this kind of thing.

( Edited 30.10.2011 22:20 by Azuardo )

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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