The Sakura Wars series has always offered something of a delicate balance between multiple gameplay elements. With past entries, we had a mix of visual novel and strategic matches. In the reboot, that’s there, except the action is a little more frantic. But there’s something else I’ve noticed as I go through the game. The possible pairings are far more obvious this time, as all of the Sakura Wars romances are very much “in your face.”
I mean, the initial setup helps cement this. When Seijuro Kamiyama comes to Japan to become the new captain of the Imperial Combat Revue, the first person he meets is fellow teammate Sakura Amamiya. She also happens to be his childhood friend. His childhood friend who, coincidentally enough, he promised to marry years ago when they were kids. As you can imagine, the main plot does its best to pair them up as often as possible, just in case you happened to forget their history. Though, to be fair, the other chapters—organized as though they are anime episodes—also take the time to focus on Kamiyama with other heroines too.
In fact, Kamiyama has the option of greeting pretty much every one of the Flower Division’s heroines the same way when they meet for the first time. While not as suggestive as Inuyasha’s Miroku asking every woman he meets to bear his children, Kamiyama can ask each of his coworkers to go out on a date with him. While this… doesn’t exactly go over well the first time you talk to them, it certainly sets a tone. (Also, as a note, there are plenty of opportunities after the initial meetings where inviting them on a date could be the response that garners you the most trust points, so keep that in mind!)
The thing about Sakura Wars is that it is constantly tracking your responses as you play. Whether you’re going through the main story quests or spending time on side-quests, Kamiyama has a lot to say about everything. Since this isn’t a traditional visual novel and instead has some adventure game elements with regards to running errands or searching areas within a certain amount of time, you don’t have the standard quicksave and quickload options. Bringing up the menu allows you to create a hard save you can return to.
Responding to main mission questions can have a chance of giving you trust points with every character involved, increasing morale and relationships that lead to team attacks in battle or a possible ending. The “right” responses here are pretty obvious. Don’t have Kamiyama be lewd or rude. Make good decisions. Odds are, you’ll hear the upbeat audio cue when the heroines respond and see the sorts of positive responses that indicate you did good.
The one-on-one situations can be a little more nuanced. They tend to fall into two different kinds of categories and they require you to seek the heroines out on your way to main missions, visiting places in and around the theater. A normal one, which is indicated by a blue exclamation point, proceeds similarly to the conversations you have during a campaign quest. You’ll meet and talk with the woman about herself or something important to one or both of you. You’ll either have one of three options with a multiple choice response or the ability to choose the intensity of your one response. In either situation, your standing will rise or fall with her. (It is a good idea to save before starting up one of these conversations.)
If you see a pink heart on the map, it is time for a tete-a-tete. Though really, these are the Sakura Wars romances’ skinship opportunities. When Kamiyama enters into one of these moments, perspective shifts to the first person, a soft focus filter is applied, and he can get “grabby.” It’s best to save before one of these segments happens, because they can go on for a bit and have multiple prompts you could get right or wrong. In these segments, the woman you’re speaking with needs extra attention or assistance, and Kamiyama must click on things in the environment for conversation topics or on the heroine to come up with reasons to move the conversation along. They always, always get romantic, though you aren’t guaranteed a lovey-dovey result.
The result is, well, a situation that makes it feel like you really can’t avoid Sakura War romances. People are into Kamiyama. In a way, it’s comforting. There can be enough ambiguity that sometimes the correct response isn’t obvious, so it doesn’t feel like there’s no effort. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to end up forever alone when you play. I’d say it feels welcoming, as you know there are opportunities for love if you’re considerate, kind, respectful, and maybe save before talking to the character you like best just in case.
Sakura Wars is available for the PlayStation 4.