Cover art of the first game depicting the character Sakura Shinguji
|Genres||Tactical role-playing game, Dating sim, Visual novel|
|Developers||Red Entertainment, Sega|
NA NIS America
Sakura Wars (Japanese: サクラ大戦 Hepburn: Sakura Taisen) is a Japanese media franchise created by Ouji Hiroi, and is developed and licensed by Red Entertainment and Sega (who also owns the franchise). The franchise centers on a series of dramatic fantasy and science-fantasy tactical role-playing adventure video games, which consist of tactical wargame and dating sim elements, but includes a motion picture, anime, printed media, and other merchandise. The series began in 1996 as an eponymous video game; the game was a success and spawned sequels. The video game series has since branched into other genres and platforms, such as portable games and games for mobile phones.
The original storyline, said to be inspired by the Shochiku Revue and Takarazuka Revue, takes place in an alternate 1920s Tokyo. It follows the adventures of an all-female secret task force known as the Imperial Assault Force—Flower Division as they defend the Imperial Capital Tokyo against evil. They are led by Ichiro Ogami, a newly graduated male Imperial Navy Ensign who had been assigned to the squad partly due to his unique ability to use a special type of armor, which was previously believed to be usable only by women possessing high levels of spiritual powers. The setting eventually moved on to other locations such as Paris and New York.
The various OVA tie-ins, the animated TV series, and the motion picture were licensed in North America by ADV Films, Funimation, and Geneon (previously Pioneer Entertainment). The manga version, previously serialized in Kodansha's Magazine Z and now in Magazine Great, is also released in English by Tokyopop before it ceased a majority of its operations.
Sakura Wars is set in a fictional Taishō period. Although the alternate timeline's history is similar to that of the real world, a crucial difference lies in technology, where most of the benefits of today's modern era are made possible in the early 1900s with the effective utilization of steam. In particular, the Imperial Capital Tokyo, also known as the Teito (the capital), stood at the forefront of that period's technological revolution. This was thanks in part to a company called Kanzaki Heavy Industries, who were considered world-leaders in steam-powered machinery.
On Taishō 7 (1918), an event known as "The Kouma War" took place, where a huge demon appeared at Nihonbashi in Tokyo. It was eventually sealed away by the Imperial Army's Counter-Demon Team, but their success came at a huge cost. Due to this incident, an internationally approved effort was made to secure Tokyo from future spiritual threats, thus the formation of the Imperial Capital Defense Program and the Imperial Assault Force.
To increase the defenses of those who would be enlisted by the new organization to fight against demons, part of the preparations involved the development of a dual-powered steam/spirit armor by Kanzaki Heavy Industries. While experiments were being made on a prototype called "Koubu", only a young girl bearing high levels of spiritual power was shown to have been capable of moving it, giving birth to the misconception that only women could operate the armor.
The center of the top secret corps was hidden underneath a theater in the heart of Ginza called the Grand Imperial Theater (大帝国劇場 Dai Teikoku Gekijō). Here, the women of the Imperial Assault Force—Flower Division lived and worked undercover as actors performing theatrical plays under the alias "Imperial Opera Troupe," or "Imperial Revue". The reasoning behind this was both spiritual and mental: song and dance were considered to be traditional methods that could suppress evil, and the stage was likened to a battlefield where self-confidence is built.
When the Imperial Assault Force went into service and had proven to be an effective means of defending Tokyo, other countries soon followed. It began with the creation of the Paris Assault Force, with its base of operations located at a famous Parisian night club known as the Theatre Chattes Noires (テアトル・シャノワール Teatoru Shanowā). The New York Fighting Troupe was established at the Little Lip Theater (リトルリップ・シアター Ritorurippu Shiatā) on Broadway shortly afterwards.
The series depicts the trials and tribulations of these different attack squads as the members grow into their roles and strive to protect their respective cities, while dealing with personal issues at the same time.
Imperial Assault Force
Formed on New Year's Day in 1922, the Imperial Assault Force (帝国華撃団 Teikoku Kagekidan) is the successor to the Imperial Army's Counter-Demon Team. One of the members of that original team, Lt. General Ikki Yoneda, commanded the group until his retirement. The Teigeki has had two vice commanders in its history, the first of which was Ayame Fujieda; after her death, the position was taken over by her younger sister, Kaede Fujieda.
By 1927, the Imperial Assault Force is composed of six official groups, all of which serve different purposes within the organization. The anti-demon attack squad, known as the Flower Division (花組 Hanagumi), is the division that the series focuses much of its attention on early in the story. The division is led by Lt. Junior Grade Ichiro Ogami, with Maria Tachibana acting as his vice captain. Other members include Sakura Shinguji, Sumire Kanzaki, Iris Chateaubriand, Ri Kohran, Kanna Kirishima, Orihime Soletta, and Reni Milchstraße.
Other teams that play significant roles in the original storyline are the Wind Division (風組 Kazegumi), who are responsible for frontline support and transportation; Moon Division (月組 Tsukigumi), who provide support within the shadows; and an unofficial group known as the Rose Division (薔薇組 Baragumi), who protect the Majinki. The Wind Division members who are most recognized are Tsubaki Takamura, Kasumi Fujii, and Yuri Sakakibara, all of whom also perform secretarial work within the theater. Little is known about the Moon Division aside from its captain, Yuichi Kayama. Kotone Seiryuin, Yokihiko Ota, and Kikunojo Oka make up the entirety of the Rose Division, with Kotone as their squad leader.
Established before the Imperial Assault Force officially went into service, an experimental troupe known as the Star Division (Hoshigumi) was set up in Europe and was the predecessor to Tokyo's Flower Division. Consisting of Orihime, Reni, and Subaru Kujou, with Ratchet Altair as captain, the troupe was disbanded after only a couple of years. Orihime and Reni were eventually transferred to the Flower Division in 1925. Ratchet was also temporarily stationed with the group near the end of 1926.
Paris Assault Force
The Paris Assault Force (巴里華撃団 Pari Kagekidan), established in 1926 as part of the European Municipal Defense Project, is led by Countess Isabella "Grand-Mère" Lilac. The Groupe Fleur de Paris stands as its armored force, and is composed of Erica Fontaine, Glycine Bleumer, Coquelicot, Lobelia Carlini, and Hanabi Kitaoji. Ogami was assigned as its captain during its first few months of operation.
Mell Raison and Ci Caprice handle the secretarial work for Les Chattes Noires and provide assistance in battle. The maintenance of the spirit armors are overseen by the mechanic staff squad leader Jean Leo.
New York Combat Revue
Formed in 1928 with Michael Sunnyside as its commander, the New York Combat Revue (紐育華撃団 Nyū Yōku Kagekidan) differs from other organizations in that their assault team is referred to as the Star Division. Two members of the original disbanded Star Division were transferred to this group. Ratchet Altair was the original captain of the squad, but her failing spiritual power led her to give the position to Lieutenant Shinjiro Taiga, while she took the role of vice commander. Gemini Sunrise, Sagiitta Weinberg (Cheiron Archer in the English version), Diana Caprice, Rikaritta Aries (Rosita Aries), and Subaru Kujo form the rest of the team.
The game is a Strategy RPG that features a unique sim-based story system. An in-depth storyline exists, much like in any other RPG; however, the player's destiny in the game is not predetermined, character interaction plays a major role. The player's interaction with the game dramatically influences the storyline and the ending, as the player nurtures relationships between certain characters, their performance in battle will also improve and the strength of their attacks soars. This means that the game's social elements are closely tied to the battle system.
The story for the main video games are told in an episodic format, each with its own eyecatches and next episode previews, emulating the feeling of watching a Japanese anime. Eyecatches provide the player with the only way to properly track and save his progress, and are often used to indicate a switch between the game's two main gameplay modes, though this is not always the case.
Adventure mode allows the player to control the male squad leader of the assault force the game is focused upon. By visiting certain locations within a building or a city, he may interact with various characters by a real-time system known as the Live Interactive Picture System (LIPS). LIPS presents the player with options to choose from during conversations and events, where the player must make a choice within a certain time limit, or choose not to respond at all by not making a choice within that time. Choices made, including not having made a decision at all, adds or deducts "trust points" from the characters involved. These points have various effects throughout the game, including shaping the player's relationship with the rest of the cast, affecting their performance in battle, and ultimately, deciding the ending scene of the game. Corresponding chimes will sound if the player losses or gains trust points when answering to a prompt, sometimes there won't be any chime when picking a choice, this indicates that the player has chosen a "neutral" response that does not have any effect on the character's trust. A similar type of conversation system later appeared in a more recent action role-playing game published by Sega, Alpha Protocol.
Later Sakura Wars games introduced several variations to the LIPS system. These include Analog LIPS, which the player can raise the action gauge up or down depending on the situation; Double LIPS, which gives the player a longer amount of time to make decisions; and Stick LIPS, where the player can manipulate the analog stick to raise a gauge depending on the situation.
In the first two Sakura Wars games, the battle mode gameplay is similar to that of tactical role-playing games. The player gives commands to all attack squad members piloting a spirit armor in a square-based grid. Commands are arranged in groups, and only two commands from different groups can be issued for each turn. Beginning with Sakura Wars 3, this had since evolved into a gridless action-point based combat scheme known as Active and Real-time Machine System (ARMS). In ARMS, a unit can move as far and attack as many as its action points would allow it, although some orders are still limited to once per turn. This type of combat system would later be the basis for Valkyria Chronicles, developed by much of the same team.
In Sakura Wars, a character's trust points also affect her status during battle. A unit performs better if the pilot has a higher trust rating for the squad leader and performs worse if the pilot has a low trust for the squad leader. If an attack squad member's unit is destroyed in battle, she is removed from the battlefield, and the player loses trust points with her. If the squad leader's unit is destroyed, or if the player fails to meet the given requirements, the game is over.
A Long Day
Before the main menu is shown, the game searches for a system file. If found, the player is asked to load the file; else, he is prompted to create one. Although optional, system files can be loaded into succeeding games in the series for continuity purposes. They also compile various events encountered by the player, such as movie files and mini-games, and provides access to this collection in a mode known as "A Long Day".
The mode appears on the main menu after the player saves into the system file for the first time. It allows the player to browse through the different items the system file has collected by visiting various locations in a limited area, similar to adventure mode, with each place having a particular use.
North American and European release
On 7 May 2009, Nippon Ichi Software's American division announced it would bring Sakura Wars V to North America on 30 March 2010 as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. The game was available for the PlayStation 2 and the Wii. The Wii release of the game was also available in Europe in March 2010.
North American localization efforts
As of August 2015, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is the only Sakura Wars game to see an official release in English translation.
Reception and sales
The Sakura Wars series sold over 3 million units in Japan by early 2002, and over 4.5 million units by 2010. The original Saturn version of Sakura Taisen sold 360,000 copies in Japan in 1996, and sold out within hours of its release, recording the biggest sales as a SEGA Saturn original title. Sakura Taisen 2 later sold more than 500,000 units in Japan. The Dreamcast ports of the first two Sakura Taisen games additionally sold around 100,000 copies each in 2000, while the third and fourth Sakura Taisen games sold around 300,000 copies each for the Dreamcast in 2001 and 2002, respectively. The PlayStation 2 version of the original Sakura Taisen also sold an additional 236,000 copies in 2003.
According to Famitsu's 1996 top ten wanted list, Sakura Taisen scored second place just below Final Fantasy VII. The game went on to win the Game of the Year prizes at the CESA Awards and Semi-Grand Prix Awards in 1997. Sakura Taisen later ranked #13 place in the Famitsu's 100 all-time favorite games list. The first four Sakura Taisen games all made Japan’s “Top 100 Games of all time” as voted by fans. Famitsu gave Sakura Taisen V a 37/40 (10 / 10 / 9 / 8) score. In Japan, Sakura Taisen V was the 91st best selling game in 2005. In 2009, Sakura Taisen scored first place in the Famitsu list of most wanted game sequels of all times. In 2010, Sakura Shinguji ranked 17th among the 50th Famitsu best video game characters. The official Sega Fan Club in Japan voted the series as the best game on the Sega Saturn.
A total of six OVAs, consisting of one to six episodes each, a 25 episode TV series, and an animated film have been created for the Sakura Wars franchise.
There was an official Sakura Wars shop on the top floor of the Sega "GIGO" Amusement Center, located in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district. Called "Taisho Romando", the store sold only Sakura Taisen-related merchandise, such as costumes, toy models, art books, copies of the games and videos, posters, wall scrolls, and snack foods. The store had been upgraded to include the Sakura Cafe, which served dishes featured and inspired by the setting and characters of Sakura Wars, such as "Coquelicot Coffee", which was served in Vietnamese style that is popular in France.
Notes and references
- Interview with Ouji Hiroi, partially translated at the Takarazuka Revue Community LiveJournal page. Retrieved on 2007-04-25 Yet, another Kagekidan = Revue reference, since real-life 'Kagekidans' are oft referred to, by westerners, as revues.
- "5 Manga to Continue after Magazine Z's End". Retrieved 2009-03-05.
- The title literally translates as “The Great War of Cherry Blossoms”, symbolizing the game beginning in spring—a time represented in Japan by the blooming of the cherry tree (sakura in Japanese). See also hanami.
When you say Japan, you must be talking about Kanzaki Heavy Industries. They're the world leaders in steam-powered machinery. They've always fascinated me!— Kohran, Sakura Taisen: Ouka Kenran, Act 1, "The Demon Wars Begin Again"
After all, the Capital Defense Program’s approval was globally unanimous, and it was the first program to bring so many countries together.— Hanakoji, Sakura Taisen: Ouka Kenran, Act 1, "The Demon Wars Begin Again"
- The Japanese words for "Imperial (Floral) Assault Force" (帝国華撃団 Teikoku Kagekidan) and "Imperial Opera Troupe" (帝国歌劇団 Teikoku Kagekidan) are pronounced the same way, and only the characters used in writing are different, resulting in a clever pun. Thus, the Flower Division performs as one during the day, and "changes characters" come time for battle. The term 'revue', "which is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches", was used in a number of official song titles, in both title and lyrics.
Classic Japanese dance was used as part of a ritual of offering to the gods, or to do away with evil spirits. If the young ladies performing the dance were pure, the power was much stronger. I’d like to use that strength to banish the evil shadows creeping over our city.— Hanakoji, Sakura Taisen: Ouka Kenran, Act 2, "The Cherry Blossom Spirit Attack"
- Yoneda: "Being part of this team is just like being in the theatre! If you’re afraid to make a mistake then you achieve nothing, don’t you get it?" Sakura: "Captain!" Yoneda: "Listen carefully, Sakura. Peace for the capital and roles in the plays, both have to be fought for and earned with your own power! Move forward! Never stop! Go out there and win this, Sakura!" Sakura Taisen: Ouka Kenran, Act 3, “Spring is the Time for First Battles”
- Grand Mere: "I guess I’ll start with the reason for the establishment of the Paris Floral Assault Squad. The importance of municipal spiritual defense has already been proven through the three wars in Teito. This is not a problem for Teito alone—the potential for a threat of spiritual nature exists in any major city in every country in the world." Sakomizu: "Presently, major cities throughout the world have begun strengthening their spiritual defensive tactics using the Imperial Assault Squad as model. What we’ve established as the forerunner to this is the European Municipal Defense Project. And what we’ve formed as the key which will act as the very pivot of that...... is this Paris Floral Assault Squad!" Sakura Taisen 3 ~Pari wa Moeteiru ka?~, Episode 1, "The Flower Capital of Europe –Hello, Paris–". Translated by Kayama at GameFAQs.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
- Oogami: "This TeikokuRikugun – TaiKoumaButai...... what kind of corps was it?" Fujieda: "Warriors in a time without Koubu who fought evil with swords or their own bodies...... An organization that became the predecessor to the TeikokuKagekidan." Sakura Taisen, Episode 7, "Decisive Battle – The Limit of Life!". Translated by Lando at GameFAQs.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
- Sakura Taisen 4 ~Koi Seyo, Otome~ Hanagumi Roman Gahou. Kodansha. 2002. ISBN 4-06-339653-3., page 40
- The squad name "Flower Division" is a pun reflective of the fact that the original members of the Teito Flower Division and the Paris Flower Division were all named after flowers.
- Kayama: "The corps that moves in secret, supporting the Hana-Gumi that normally fights on the front lines of the battlefield from the shadows, the Tsuki-Gumi......" Sakura Taisen 2 ~Kimi, Shinitamou koto Nakare~, Episode 8, “The Longest Day in Teito?!”. Translated by Kayama at GameFAQs.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
- Yokihiko: "Protecting Japan’s ultimate sacred treasures that have been kept in the basement of the Great Imperial Theater......" Kikunojou: "The ‘Majinki’......" Kotone: "That...... is the mission of our secret corps of love and beauty, the Bara-Gumi!" Sakura Taisen 2 ~Kimi, Shinitamou koto Nakare~, Episode 8, “The Longest Day in Teito?!”. Translated by Kayama at GameFAQs.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
- The squad name "Star Division" (星組 Hoshigumi) is another pun on the names of current and previous Star Division members, whose names are all related to the stars in some form.
- Sakura Taisen 3 ~Pari wa Moeteiru ka?~ Final Guide. Enterbrain, Inc. 2001. ISBN 4-7577-0529-8., page 12
- Plum: "Ufu fu fu, We’re members of the New York Floral Assault Squad, too. And that name is...... The New York Floral Assault Rainbow Division!" Anri: "We’ll provide support on the sides for everyone in the Star Division. So please ask anything of us." Sakura Taisen V ~Saraba, Itoshiki Hito yo~, Episode 1, "A Samurai Makes His Stand". Translated by Tenchi at GameFAQs.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
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- Sakura Wars' Taishō Romandō Shop & Sakura Cafe Closes (Updated) – Anime News Network