By Laura . April 9, 2010 . 1:00pm
The latest installment in the Sakura Wars series is game #5. In Japan, it was known as Sakura Wars V, whereas, in North America, it was localized as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, since it’s the first in the series to make it overseas. The fifth game received a Famitsu score of 10/10/9/8 and was also one of the best selling games in 2005. Being the first, it can be expected that Western reviews will seem somewhat wary of both the content and the gameplay, especially since, as stated in Ishaan’s playtest, the game is primarily a visual novel-style dating simulation with some RPG-style mecha-fighting on the side.
One of the things that westerners enjoyed was the replayability of the game; especially the multiple endings. The story was considered humorous and enjoyable, and the characters and their strong personalities fun to learn about. Reviews also stated that they enjoyed the LIPS system, especially the fact that you have a time limit within which you have to make your choices, which reminded some of Heavy Rain. To top it off, they stated that the animations were well done, the cast was well-voiced, and the music was good, although a bit repetitive.
While this was all good, there were just as many complaints. With regard to the Wii version, one of the largest points of discontent was the lack of a Japanese language track. People felt that the slapstick humor was overly abundant and the stereotypes played up — such as women with more skin showing than clothes — and mechs that were slightly outdated (although this could be a deliberate decision, as someone pointed out, for nostalgic effect). Just as many people complained that the story was vapid and transparent, although another one argued that this allowed the game to focus on the characters. One review even complained about how long it took for the game to make it stateside, citing it as the reason it seemed archaic in certain ways.
Another major point the Western reviews pointed out was the pacing of the game. The game is generally split between a scenario portion with dialogue and LIPS, and the battle portion, which is directly affected by your relationship with the heroine on your team. Since all the battles are at the end of one chapter, it seems like there’s almost too much to get through, which was a problem to one reviewer, and it really makes it seem like the save points were spread too far apart. However, to what renders this point moot is that the game gives you a suspended save option, so you can leave the game alone at any point in the narrative for a few hours (or days) to take a break.
However, the highlight of Sakura Wars, being a dating-sim at heart, is the characters. This, like all other aspects of the game, is also rather controversial. On one hand, some critics stated that he characters had strong personalities, and it was like peeling into an onion – layer after layer. They had unexpected backgrounds that were interesting and touching. On the other, the characters were conceived using stereotypical archetypes, which was rather off-putting to some. There was also the fact that most people felt that there was much too much talking. They didn’t like the feeling of sitting in front of the screen and pressing one button to advance the dialogue, which is a cultural difference that tends to be highlighted rather often. And finally, another point suggested was that, if you make a wrong choice somewhere along the line, it may come back to bite you down the road. Since your partners’ performance in battle is directly tied to how much they like you, making a wrong choice may make the battle that much harder.
Amazon.jp reviewers gave Sakura Wars V an average of 3.7 stars.
The major factor in the differences between the Japanese and Western reviews seem to be that this is the first game that has made it overseas, whereas the Japanese have Sakura Wars 1 through 4 to compare it to. Many of the comments were along the lines of, “This game fits the Sakura Wars franchise,” or “This game shouldn’t have been called Sakura Wars.” Many compared So Long, My Love to previous games, citing battle system differences as well as comparing the different characters. (By consensus, it seems that Sakura Wars 31 was a favorite, and that Ichirou Oogami from the previous Sakura Wars games was preferred to Shinjirou Taiga, the current protagonist.) Because of this pre-existing bias, there seems to be a large split between the reviews; in the case of nearly every point, there are just as many people who like it as there are that don’t.
Despite the trepidation many players seemed to have because So Long, My Love was completely separate from previous titles, in general, they were satisfied with the game. The characters were great, and even though they weren’t very likeable at first (either due to their first impression or simply because of pre-existing biases), they grew to like them over the course of the game. This held true for Shinjirou as well, whose character growth was something players greatly enjoyed. And then, there were those who felt that the current characters didn’t hold a candle to the original cast.
The battle system was also liked as much as it was disliked. The reviewers liked the difficulty of the fights -– they weren’t too hard or too easy, and it advanced at just the right pace. The aerial battles were also a hit. On the other hand, some people didn’t like the battles, stating that they were too easy. Unlike in the Western reviews, there wasn’t any real issue with the fact that all the battles were clumped at the end of a chapter.
Several points were made on the story on Amazon.jp that didn’t appear in the Western reviews at all. These were especially interesting because nearly every was in unanimous agreement. One was that there wasn’t enough content; the story was too short. This was what they felt despite the replayability of the game, since you need to finish the game several times to get all the routes. The other was that the story seemed very contrived. There was no real reason for the enemies to be attacking, no real motive, and the heroines were all too simple — like you could tell this was a game about America created by the Japanese. The humor was great, but they would have preferred for more of an effort on the “making sense” front.
Another major point cited was the fact that there’s no “retro” feeling, which has been a staple of the Sakura Wars franchise. One review even pointed out that the reason for this may have been because only one year had passed between Sakura Wars 4 and this game, and yet such a huge change (geographically and culturally) had taken place, which felt too rushed. Unlike with the other games, which were close sequels of one another, both Sakura Wars 4 and Sakura Wars V were separated, either by time or distance. Another speculated reason was that the previous games had hinted at a steam-punk world, whereas there was no such thing in this game.
Some miscellaneous points were that there weren’t any minigames, that the boss enemy designs were bad, and that the long conversation leading up to the last boss was kind of a wet blanket. A few reviewers also stated that the epilogue wasn’t satisfying, nor quite as impacting as in previous games.
Keeping in mind that many of these point are comparisons made to previous games, here are some of the reviews from Amazon.jp.
Please Don’t Compare with Sakura 1-4 (5 stars)
I’m a Sakura fan from England. I’ve been playing the series ever since the SS [Sega Saturn] version. That’s why, like the other fans, I didn’t really expect much from V. I was against the fact that the protagonist had changed, and I didn’t think the Episode 0 for V was interesting at all.
Setting these aside, I tried V. At first, I felt the lack of charm that these characters had, but as I played more and more, I started to grow fond of them. (This has nothing to do with anything, but I like Subaru. At first, I had thought, “Is this just another Leni2?” but now I’m a big fan of her.) Unlike with Sakura 1-4, I was greatly moved by this game. The difficulty of the battle was just right, too, and no matter how many times I play I don’t get tired of it. I’ve already completed all the character routes. The previous Sakura games were great, but after playing them for a few weeks, I get a little tired of them. But, V is different; for some reason, I didn’t get tired of it and managed to complete the entire character gallery.
Unlike with the old protagonist, the new protagonist, Shinjirou Taiga is, in a sense, immature. But I grew to feel that this was one of the things that was cute about him, and I felt like I wanted to watch over him. At first, I felt like I didn’t want to betray Oogami, but now I feel differently.
V has a different sort of charm than 1-4 do.
I wonder if perhaps the reason those who don’t like V do so because they’re comparing it to previous Sakura games. It’s true that the previous Sakura games were games that could even be considered masterpieces, but that doesn’t mean V isn’t good. Are they perhaps uninterested because they’re comparing this game with those masterpieces? Please try to play this game without comparing it. If you do so, I feel that you can also feel the charm behind V.
I will continue to love the Imperial & Paris [Assault Forces], but now I’m also looking forward to seeing the New York Fighting Troupe grow. I anxiously await the release of VI.
It’s a True Sakura Wars (4 stars)
In this game, the characters, the protagonist, and the stage are all new. I received a different impression than from the other Sakura Wars games, but when I tried to play this game, I felt that it was a true Sakura Wars game, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
I was also very glad that, when the Battle parts got more difficult and I would be beaten to a pulp halfway through, I was still able to enjoy it. However, I’m not really all that great with the Battle part, so I would sometimes spend over an hour and a half just on the Battle part (and end up getting pulverized). Still, after I played it several times, I managed to learn the ropes and was able to win.
It was good that the Simulation part was conscientious, but compared to the Battle part, it felt like it was lacking in volume. It would be good to add a little more Simulation part to balance out the Battle part, I think.
All the characters have very strong personalities, and if I had to say something was bad, it’d be that there were bad guys, but after playing I thought they were really cute. Even the protagonist, who was down-talked by everyone and was really weak, grew to be acknowledged by everyone and grew to be a proper character as the story went on. It was really fun watching the protagonist grow.
Good points are…
Bad points are…
This is a game that you grow to like the more you keep at it. I got the image that you’d be bored of it at first, and then by the end you’d be completely submerged in the game.
Also, this is a personal opinion of mine, but the only feeling I get from the extra game you get from connecting with the cellphone is only there for them to roll in more and more dough, so it’d be best if you don’t do it.
Different People Will Feel Differently on Whether This Game was Better Than Expected or a Letdown of Expectations (4 stars)
I’ve been playing since the SS days, but honestly I didn’t expect much from V. Both the pre-release and the post-release reputations were pretty low, but when the price dropped, I felt, “Why not?” and went and bought it.
It was more interested than I expected.
The battles, which have always been lacking up until now, are interesting in how they get more difficult over time. The user-friendliness of the conversation log system was also incredibly good. At first, I felt that there was no charm in the game, or perhaps it was an automatic rejection reaction against the characters, but as the story went on, I grew to like them more and more – should I say “just as expected?” The music, too. It’s changed from its original style a bit, but it’s more than enough quality. There wasn’t as much impact as with “Gekitei3”, but “Chijou no Senshi4” from V won’t lose in terms of which is more pleasing to the ear.
4. “Chijou no Senshi” is the title of the opening for Sakura Wars V.
Of course, as the majority of society has said, there are many parts where you just go, “They kind of missed…”
The retro-ness that is the charm of Sakura was shallow (I thought it was present-day for a second), and there wasn’t really any raison d’etre for the enemies; plus, there’s no minigames… Is it really all right for children who are amateurs and girls on the last legs of their lives to participate in battles? All of these are conflicting areas and the areas where the plot fails. However, maybe this has to do the fact that there were fewer than the expected number of chapters…? Such was my naïve view of things.
(I believe that the producers shouldn’t be able to make such an excuse, but that’s just the mentality of a fan.)
As a whole, it’s true that there’s no volume. Perhaps a length such that you can play for weeks on end as a given without stressing. Rather, I think that the lack would be perfect if it were a link to the next game.
It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought it was (3 stars)
I’ve only been seeing bad reviews like “The characters aren’t cute,” or “As a whole, there’s not enough volume,” so I was wondering whether I should pass up this game, but I made up my mind and bought the game.
I’ll honestly list what I felt.
The fact that the main character’s voice actor was the same as Sun Quan (and Jiang Wei) from the Shin Sangoku Musuu series made me droop. I don’t deal well with that voice.
I’m hoping for the next game to be on the PS3. All the conversation scenes will be in full animation! Just having the expressions change is a bit…you know. Also, it’s about time we have the game fully voiced… I know that anime scenes take up lots of space … but having voiced only during the important parts is a bit…you know…
Questionable… (2 stars)
The characters weren’t my type, so I won’t talk about them here.
There also weren’t any voices worth mentioning that were concerning (in a bad way).
Even though it was short, they still tried to…
At its list price, it’s definitely no good. I like the series, so I want to compliment it, but…
If only just one thing appealed to me,
whether it be the characters, the opening, or the movies…
An Easy-To-Understand Failure (2 stars)
In the end, it wasn’t much more than an extra side story. Even though America is the stage, the heroines are all too simple and rustic. You can tell it’s a game created by the Japanese crazy about Americans.
Why was it Named Sakura Wars? (1 star)
I still question as to why this game was included in the Sakura Wars series. I think the game itself was good, and even though each character can’t compare to those in previous works, they’re still charming people.
However, looking at this game from the point that it’s part of the Sakura Wars series, it’s true that I can’t bring myself to like this game.
Among the reviews here, there are some who tell people to please not think of the previous games when playing this. There’s also the fact that, unlike the previous four games, this game isn’t numbered 5 but V.
However, for fans who have played past games, this is definitely something impossible. Why? Because unlike with series like Final Fantasy, each game in Sakura Wars is connected.
Even V is only 1 year after 4 takes place.
On the other hand -– no, at the very least, for me -– it should have been made “Shin Sakura Wars” in a different world, or if that can’t be done, then at least make the world of V 10 years after 4. That way, I would have been satisfied. However, in reality that world is just 1 year after the world of 4.
In just 1 year, the setting has not only moved to America, but the cities are filled with buildings, and yet the Koubu from Japan is kept the way it is, and in an instant, the robot transforms and flies away. Clearly the scientific advancement is much faster than in the past. No, it’s way too fast.
I think that perhaps the producers wanted to include the flashiness of American comedy in V. But still. It’s true that this is a game, but I want to be able to say that that world is real. I mean, it’s true that it’s an amazing world already since robots exist so far back into the past, but, up until now in the backgrounds of the Taisei Era, they carefully kept the number of years that have passed between games in mind when they wrote.
That was why Sakura was a masterpiece, wasn’t it?
That was why, when I played this game, I wish the people who made this game would look over that part again.