Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love – First Impressions Of Gemini Sunrise

By Ishaan . January 11, 2010 . 4:56pm


I’ve only played about two hours of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love so far and I haven’t fought a single battle yet, but I wanted to post my early impressions of the game anyway. Normally, this would be an odd choice, as a Japanese RPG’s battle system is what usually makes or breaks the experience, but Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love isn’t quite a regular JRPG.


Is there a story?


Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love takes place in an alternate 1920s New York. You play as Shinjiro Taiga, a newly-appointed member of the New York Combat Revue, a law enforcement task force of sorts that pilot mechs and protect the city. Initially a part of its Japanese division, Shinjiro is sent to lead the squad in New York.


Upon arriving there, he finds out that there’s more to the Combat Revue than meets the eye. The squad is comprised entirely of entertainers who perform in "Little Lip" theatre productions, which is a front meant to divert attention from their secret identities. Regardless of which is more important, both "careers" are carried out with a fiery passion, and Shinjiro quickly learns he’ll need to pull up his socks or risk being sent back to Japan if he fails to impress his new squadmates. Oh, somewhere amidst all this is an evil overlord planning to take over the city and you pilot aforementioned giant mechs in SRPG battles.


What makes it unique?


If you’ve been following the game, you’ve probably seen the term "visual novel RPG" tossed around a lot, and two hours into it, that’s exactly how I would describe the experience myself. In its first two hours, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love relies solely on character interaction and dialogue choices to keep the player entertained, and it works like a charm. If you’ve played visual novels before, you know exactly the kind of feeling I’m talking about — you don’t need any more incentive than to simply step into the shoes of the protagonist and experience a regular day in his life to keep pushing forward. There’s always something happening… always a new event or character or location being introduced to catch your interest… which offsets the need for battles almost entirely.


But even in its visual novel segments, Sakura Wars does a few interesting things I haven’t seen before. Breaking up the dialogue is the series’ unique take on dialogue choices, known as the LIPS (Live & Interactive Picture System). Basically, each time a dialogue choice appears, a metre will start to fill around the menu, and you’ll have a limited amount of time to choose from the list of statements you can reply with. You also have the option of not replying at all by letting the metre fill completely. This is interesting because it feels like it makes you roleplay your character more "instinctively" and closer to your own personality than you would if you had the luxury of mulling over each choice. I often found myself making decisions that weren’t the most "efficient" but were the ones I would have made were I in a similar situation myself.




Sometimes, the extent to which the metre is filled will affect the aggressiveness or enthusiasm of your reply, which adds another layer to the LIPS. These are called "Analog LIPS" according to NIS America’s site for the game, and are yet another way that can change a character’s perception of you. In the long run, these LIPS decisions change the course of the story. There are also LIPS quicktime events involving context-specific motions that you’ll need to perform with your two analogue sticks to mimic actions like, say, screwing something in place.


The other aspect of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love‘s visual novel segments is a mix of Persona and Phoenix Wright. You can run around in the environment just like the newer Persona games, and when the need arises, guide a cursor around the screen to "click" on different things and people to examine them. Even here, there are some pleasant surprises to be found, such as the time a certain female character caught me staring at her chest area specifically and called me out on it. The point-and-click elements along with the LIPS are what make the game feel like an evolved visual novel.




Like all visual novel-esque games, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love lives and dies by its characters, all of which are crazy (in a good way), just as you’d expect of any game NIS America license. Here’s a few characters I’ve met in the opening that stood out:


1. Mr. Sunnyside – Your commander and a rather eccentric chap whose early queries of the Japanese protagonist include asking if you’re familiar with "harakiri" and telling you how it’s "not an option in America." He likes feeding pigeons, using random Japanese words to impress you, and being overly eccentric.


2. Captain Ratchet Altair – It’s a lady, in case you can’t tell. She’s the captain of your squad: the STAR team. One could file her under the "intelligent beauty" stereotype, except she pilots a giant mech, which makes her excellent “waifu” material. (She really does look quite pretty, though, even by intelligent beauty standards.)


3. Gemini Sunrise – A cowgirl from Texas that wants to be a samurai. No, seriously. She also has some of the best lines in the game, and is the girl 80% of you will want to choose as your partner. Watch out, though, because she keeps a horse in her apartment.


4. Cherry Cocker – A flirty bartender in a maid outfit. You should listen to her talk about rugged, stubbly men. Of course, none of those traits describe you, which means you’ll have to work for her affections.


5. Anri Yoshino – The possibly underage one. She runs a shop at the Little Lip theatre and is Cherry’s assistant in the STAR recon division. She thinks you’re a pedophile, which is always a great way to make friends.


As you can probably tell, so far, I’m really enjoying this game. You can look forward to impressions of the combat — this is a strategy RPG — in the near future.


Food for thought:


1. The English voice-acting isn’t as consistent as it was in Mana Khemia 2. Still, certain characters in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love are really well done.


2. This is a NIS America localization through and through. At one point, Gemini exclaims, "Now is your chance for a rare stake in my rare steak. Get it?!"


3. Shinjiro probably has the most petnames of any videogame character to date. Shin, Shinster, Shiny…the list goes on.

  • nyobzoo

    can’t wait for this, getting it for my PS2

  • can’t wait for this, getting it for my PS3

  • Divals

    I just placed my preorder through Rosenqueen :3 I love the extra stuff you can get by ordering through them… not so much the shipping costs x.x

    • I’d order form Rosenqueen more if they didn’t charge you before theme ships. If they could operate their pre-orders like Amazon, they’d get more of my business.

      • Divals

        I actually rather like that, because I’m very bad at keeping on top of my finances and would probably forget by the time it shipped that money was supposed to come out :P

      • dv8shun

        When was the last time you ordered from them? I think they changed their policies to only charge when they ship.

  • nyoron

    Ooh a Sakura Wars article, I am compelled to post. To prepare for this release I decided to play 1 through 4 with the help of the awesome translation guides on gamefaqs. Almost done with 2. Anticipation still rising!

    • I’m doing the same. I don’t think I’ll be finished with 2 in time, though.

  • Strike_Man

    I agree, on BOTH of your points.

    I can’t wait to play this title, and hope it does well enough (for a niche game like this, of course) for someone to consider localizing the other games in the series sometime in the future.

  • Strike_Man


    That was supposed to be a reply to Divals.

    • Divals

      Replies are overrated :D

  • Hraesvelgr

    Personally, I think the characters and setting are usually what makes or breaks a JRPG… probably why I can’t stand games that heavily focus on their battle systems and little else, a la SO4.

    I’m not really that interested in this, to be honest. As much as I loathe NISA, I might have picked it up if it was being released at a better time, but as it stands, there are just too many games being released from now until the end of March (and beyond, really). It’s going to be tough enough grabbing the games I really want, even without “sorta want” games or “might buy if there’s nothing else” games.

    • Xien12

      You don’t have to play it if you don’t want to. V’s considered one of the weakest in the series. Still great nonetheless.

  • is there progressive scan or widescreen support or both?

    • Don’t quote me on this, but I think there’s built-in widescreen support. We were messing around with the PS2 version on our PS3 at work, and it scaled perfectly through the PS3. It looked sharper, and none of the characters or anything seemed stretched, despite setting the display to wide… or… whatever.

      • arcane93

        “I think there’s built-in widescreen support”Here’s my problem with this — why are we getting no definitive specs for the two versions? No offense meant at all, Nicky (I certainly don’t blame you personally for the lack of communication from NIS), but “don’t quote me on this” speculation isn’t really helpful.All else being equal, I’d prefer to have the Japanese voice-overs, so I’d probably go for the PS2 version. But is all else equal? It’s not clear.Does the PS2 version support 16:9 and/or progressive scan? Does the Wii version support 16:9 and/or 480p? Does the Wii version do anything special with the controls, or does it just map the wiimote and nunchuck to act like a gamepad? What other differences (besides the language track), if any, are there between the two?I don’t know about everyone else, but personally I’d like to know these things before I make a decision regarding which I purchase. And I’d really like to know them *now*, so that I can make my purchase while extras like the art book are still available. What does it take to get a little solid information around here?

        • I’ll repeat what I usually do, but to make it “solid” I won’t qualify anything with “I think” or “I guess.”

          PS2: widescreen, no progressive (scales fine using backwards-compatible PS3, though)
          Wii: widescreen, 480p… sure, why not. Cables are cables. It doesn’t shut the tv off or explode.
          “map [controllers] to act like a gamepad”? I don’t quite understand… would you rather them be mapped to act like a toothbrush? Buttons are buttons and they perform the appropriate actions when pressed. You can also use the Wii remote to point at things when you’re asked to examine people or places.

          Language tracks aside, no difference. If you’re using basic PS2 setup vs. basic Wii setup, the Wii will look a tad sharper, visually.

          “what does it take to get a little solid information around here”? My prior responses were solid information, but I don’t want people bitching at NISA after a game releases saying that “so and so said it supported this” in case something happens and I end up wrong. I’m trying to cover my ass, but I’m trying to be as helpful as I can… that’s all.

          Those are my “solid” responses. Based on what I’ve seen. Not on an official spec sheet… I don’t get those.

          • arcane93

            “You can also use the Wii remote to point at things when you’re asked to examine people or places.”

            No need for the snark, that’s what I was asking about (and I think the intent of the query was pretty clear) — whether it uses any of the pointing/motion capabilities of the wiimote or whether it just treats it like a gamepad with the stick, d-pad, and buttons mapped to functions similar to the PS2 controller.

            Like I said, my comments about the lack of information weren’t directed at you (and because of that, I’m not sure why you seem to be taking it so personally) — what you’re sharing is certainly appreciated, and I don’t fault you for not having all information, not being certain about everything, or wanting to cover yourself since you’re not speaking “officially”. But NIS, as a corporate entity that is hoping we’ll buy its games, ought to be a little more directly forthcoming with information.

            Anyway, thanks for the additional info. Since it sounds like the other differences aren’t dramatic, I guess I’ll probably go with the PS2 version.

          • No problem. Glad it could help! I didn’t take it personally… I just haven’t really gotten to channel my cynicism much lately. Hopefully you found it mildly humorous… that’s kind of how I’ve been talking lately, but yeah. Anyway, cool!

          • Oh wow, you guys had pointer functionality worked in? I wasn’t expecting that. Quick question: How do you make up for the right analog stick on the Wii during some of the LIPS?

          • Hrm, I suppose it depends if you’re right or left-handed… people tell me I hold the wiimote and nunchuck backwards since I’m a southpaw. But, if you’re using the classic controller, ta-da! You’ve got both sticks.

            If you’re using the nunchuck, unfortunately you’ve gotta use the +control pad on the wiimote. I’m trying to use semi-formal terminology… either way, it works fine, it just feels a little awkward to me to have an analog on one thumb and a d-pad thingy on the other.

          • @NickyD:
            So are we to assume that the Classic Controller is supported? I don’t think it’s been brought up before.

  • Devonian

    Since this seems like as good a deal as any: what’s the deal with Subaru? The official site’s being awful weird about using gendered pronouns to describe them…

    • I still can’t tell. She…refers to herself as a woman…at least so far…but at one point, she’s all “Gender does not matter to Subaru” soooo yea…

      • Xien12

        She’s a woman. The old European Hoshigumi was made up of all women, after all.

  • “The English voice-acting isn’t as consistent”
    Please elaborate.

    • I don’t like every single voice actor the way I did in Mana Khemia 2. Some are better than others in Sakura Wars, whereas there was consistent level of expression and convincing dialogue in MK2. That isn’t to say the voice-acting sucks though…it’s still pretty good.

  • anbu

    so far so good. looks like i dont have to feel bad about the $61 i paid for. hope theres no game breaking bugs.

    • Watch there be game-breaking bugs.

      Off topic, is anyone else having trouble staying logged in to Disqus after making one comment or is it just me?

      • Xien12

        It would suck if the screen froze all of a sudden while you were reading the text and couldn’t get past it.

  • 311


  • lostinblue

    “English voice-acting isn’t as consistent”

    Just the luck for Wii owners.

  • AQuatermain

    What is the visual aspect of the Wii version compared to the PS2? Do the same performance?

  • Nothing wrong with trying to replicate bad Japanese puns. I hate it when there’s no attempt to replicate jokes so you get a character saying a normal sentence that’s inexplicably following by that wind blowing noise and character moaning about how bad that sentence was.

    Not interested in getting the Wii version so I’ll have to import the PS2 one, the question is, is it cheaper/easier to mod my PAL PS2 or just buy a US one…

    • What kind of PS2 you got?

      • Slimline one. Can’t solder but I’ve been looking at the solderless chips (gonna cost about £40-£50). The Japanese version of this is dual layer so disc swapping is a no-go

        • Disc swapping won’t work? Augh~ Now I’m in your boat : P

  • Slashlen

    Sounds great. I got it preordered, although when I’ll have time to play it is another question. March is going to be busy.

  • Nekobo

    Pre-ordered! Looking forward to this more than FFXIII. Between this and Yakuza 3, it’s going to be a busy month.

  • mauru

    The underage one is not Anri Yoshino is Rosarita Aries.

    • Xien12

      Anri’s not even a winnable character. Also, she’s 17. In today’s standards she is underage so he’s not entirely incorrect. In any case, ‘loli’ would be a better term when referring to Rikaritta as she’s the resident Token Loli in this chapter.

  • sd28

    The English voice-acting isn’t as consistent as it was in Mana Khemia 2.

    yep not buying it now

  • Joanna

    this game sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve heard of it before, but now I’ll have to at least give it a look.

  • My first impressions of Gemini Sunrise were Laura Bailey. I don’t need any more incentive than that.

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