More Reviews
REVIEWS Grim Fandango Remastered Review
This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Funk of Titans Review
It’s always particularly tough to find the funk of a game when it already doesn’t have much rhythm.
More Previews
PREVIEWS The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preview
CD Projekt RED delivered hands-on of their latest installment of their HBO-like fantasy RPG. How does the monster-hunting mutant fare this go around?
Release Dates
Release date: 02/01/15

DEAD OR ALIVE 5 Last Round
Release date: 02/17/15

Release date: 02/24/15

LATEST FEATURES 5 Best Zelda Games of All Time
Nintendo's epic adventure series has seen many entries over the years. Here are the very best of the bunch.

Blades of Steel, NHL 94, More 90's Hockey - Old Games With Grandpa Heath
If Captain Comic were picking players for a pickup hockey game, who would be his first choice? Probably Cliff Ronning.
MOST POPULAR FEATURES PlayStation Downloads January & February 2015 - Monopoly, January's Free PS+ Games
Have you been playing online with your PlayStation devices? Make sure to get these free games for the month of January in our weekly update feature.

Read More Member Blogs
Finally Broke My Crowdfunding Rule
By oblivion437
Posted on 01/12/15
I've had a long-standing rule to avoid getting involved in any sort of crowdfunded activities.  I didn't donate to Shadowrun or Wasteland, but I did buy and enjoy both of them (I'm plugging both of those games right now, just so you know they're good).  I haven't...

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love Review

Chris_Hudak By:
GENRE Strategy 
DEVELOPER Idea Factory 
T Contains Fantasy Violence, Language, Sexual Themes

What do these ratings mean?

Ai Love New York.

There's a scene in the brilliant Age of Sail movie Master and Commander in which a young midshipman, aboard a Royal Navy frigate, ponders his admiration of two very different elders—a thin, bookish naturalist, and a beefy, rough-and-tumble ship captain. The boy muses: “Perhaps I could combine them, to be a sort of... fighting naturalist.” And sometimes it works - you jam together two or three things that aren't usually combined, and what you get works... however odd it might appear to those who haven't seen its like before.

click to enlargeSakura Wars: So Long, My Love—the first of the Sakura Wars titles to be released outside Japan—is a bit like that. Is it an animé-flavored, dialogue-intensive, strictly-PS2-clunky-walkaround-like-it's-the-first-Resident-Evil exploration game? Yes, indeed. Does it offer a brand of gridless, action-gauge-based combat roughly comparable to that found in Valkyria Chronicles... except in Crunchy, Japanese Cosplay/Bipedal Mech Mode, instead of Pastel Parallel-History, Pseudo-European Post-Steampunk? Sure it does—at least, in the final third of each game-chapter (more on this below). Does it have 'dating-sim lite' elements, wherein players are obliged to—carefully and at their peril—feel out conversationally a cross-cultural bevy of attractive but easily-excitable females of questionable stability? Hel-LO? Japan?

Yes, Sakura Wars: So Long My Love has all of this—and lest you question the capacity of the Japanese to out-weird you at every turn, they're going to throw in an ultra-secret, demon-fighting, global covert agency that keeps its workaday cover by putting on evening Broadway stage productions... complete with musical numbers to watch and enjoy.

The time is 1928, the place New York City. It seems that demonic beings are threatening the Big Apple; a special assault force equipped for their exorcism has been cobbled together, and young, decidedly-green adviser Shinji has been dispatched from Japan to deal with the operation in New York (which he has never visited before). Imagine his surprise when he learns that—in addition to heading up an elite, all-female group of mech pilots to combat the aforementioned demonic beings—he must also help out with the aforementioned stage productions, juggle the emotions and affections of a gaggle of fairly wiggy American girls (plus one Japanese), and simultaneously learn to cope with his new Japanese-transplant, urban life in the City That Never Sleeps, Even When Robo-Demons Are Attacking It.

click to enlargeEach of the game's eight chapters is subdivided into three main modes of play: Interactive, for characters to 'mingle' and advance the main story—this is also where you'll see how your Broadway stage shows and interpersonal relationships are doing; Adventure, to meet new characters, visit new neighborhoods (downtown hotel/shopping districts, Harlem, etc.), and investigate mysteries; and Battle, to combat enemy forces both on land and aerial environments (the players' mechs can also transform into air-combat configurations).

Sakura Wars eschews the traditional, grid-based battle scheme in favor of a more fluid system based on Action Gauges. Action Gauges are composed of a certain number of bars, which can be spent (or not) to move, guard, heal, or attack. When the gauge is used up, that unit's turn is over.

In addition, the various 'mech-pilots in the squad can perform powerful cooperative combo attacks—the combined effectiveness of which depends not only on the strength of the interpersonal bonds between the various female pilots, but also on that between the pilots and Shinji himself. So it's important for Shinji to keep the, um, girl-trouble to a minimum, in order to save the entire city from being devoured in a chaotic firestorm of robo-evil. So yeah, the game's got some ultra-realistic aspects going for it, too.

Along the way, attention must be paid to the quality of the Broadway musical performances which the player must help stage and improve via scattered interactive mini-tasks, such as making sure the stage-lighting fuses don't blow out during performances. Dialogue-based inquiries of the various characters, special-encounter side quests, and a 'Cameratron' picture-taking mini-game round out the many animé-inspired, story-driving cutscenes, all of which have dual (English/Japanese) voice-overs.

click to enlargeBe aware, however, that Sakura Wars is much less a tactical combat game—by virtual volume, if you will—than it is a sort of interactive story. Players will spend a large amount of their time watching simple 2D cutscenes and making point-of-view inquiries of the various characters, occasionally making some rudimentary dialogue-tree choices to get on the various NPCs' good sides... or not.

In fact, you only really get around to the mech-based combat in the latter portion of each chapter, the battles (and satisfyingly-huge Boss-battles) therein acting as a sort of cathartic, tactical, dramatic cap-off reward for one's progression into the overall story. It's a little like chowing down through a bowlful of tasty cinnamon-flavored oatmeal to see (finally) the smiling bunny at the bottom of your bowl... except in this case, the 'bunny' is a deadly, bipedal mech armed with HE-tipped missiles and plasma-fans, and piloted by an easily-offended, cosplay-attired, mildly-psychotic animé chick with her dainty, less-than-entirely-stable finger on the button (and your tactical survival hinging on her cooperative faculties). Enjoy!

Thankfully, Sakura Wars also devotes a generous amount of its story and dialogue to humor, and even to making some genuinely insightful (and in some cases refreshingly blunt) comments on what it means to be American and what it means to be Japanese amidst preconceived notions of both... and sometimes, on how stereotypes exist for a reason.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: This is a PS2-gen game through and through, and it unapologetically looks and feels like it. The vast-majority abundance of minimally-animated character-portrait conversations, the wordy mid-fight orations, the clunky mechanics of walking/running around various New York neighborhoods—if you're a next-gen visuals/presentation snob, all these things will probably make your head want to go all Scanners on you. But for players of a more old-school bent who like to steep themselves in the story and the character interaction, Sakura Wars is an unusual Neopolitan ice-cream serving of animé presentation, quirky Japanese-brand interpersonal humor, and a little old-fashioned mech-butt kicking for good measure.
B- Revolution report card
  • Unique tri-style mash-up of genres
  • Animé movie-scenes in dual voice-overs
  • Character-bond 'branching', multiple endings
  • Pokes fun at ethnic stereotypes
  • +/- Mech combat, only in chapter-end spurts
  • +/- Female scheme a little too much like reality
  • Long patches of "hit the button to continue"
  • PS2 game largely looks like one
  • Dialogue can sometimes d-r-a-g on
    Reviews by other members
    No member reviews for the game.

More from the Game Revolution Network

comments powered by Disqus


More information about Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
Also known as: Sakura Wars So Long My Love