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December 2022

Sakura Wars

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: April 28, 2020

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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PS4 Preview - 'Sakura Wars'

by David Silbert on April 20, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

A cultural phenomenon in Japan, the long-running Sakura Wars series defined the JRPG / romance genre with its memorable characters, masterful writing, and sublime music.

Pre-order Sakura Wars

The dating sim is hardly a new genre, but it has grown in popularity over the years. From Dream Daddy to Doki Doki Literature Club, there's no shortage of ways to confess your love (or die trying).

Sakura Wars, Sega's upcoming genre entry, may seem like a new addition to the publisher's lengthy list of IP. In reality, it's the latest in a long-running series dating (no pun intended) back to 1996, when it launched on Sega Saturn.

Sakura Wars marks the sixth entry in the franchise, but it's only the second to hit North American shores. (The first was 2005's Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love for PlayStation 2.) In Japan, the series has become popular for its unique melding of steamy romance, mecha action, and turn-based combat.

Set to release April 28, Sakura Wars retains all of the elements the series is known for — minus one. The game is a soft reboot for the franchise, seemingly to broaden the series' appeal to a worldwide audience. In making this shift, the new entry ditches turn-based gameplay in favor of real-time musou combat.

To series fans, this decision may feel like an unfortunate downgrade. Valkyria Chronicles, another hit Sega franchise, underwent similar changes with 2017's Valkyria Revolution. The results weren't great.

But Sakura Wars has some unique aces up its sleeve. The game looks gorgeous, thanks in large part to its expressive characters. Anime fans may recognize the design, as Tite Kubo (Bleach, Burn the Witch) lends his talent as an artist for the game. The game also boasts some impressive music, composed by Kohei Tanaka (One Piece).

These anime legends help set the backdrop for an intriguing narrative. As navy ensign Seijuro Kamiyama, you've been enlisted to lead Tokyo's Flower Division to fight an ongoing demon threat. The division consists of a group of women, all gifted fighters, who also happen to have a real passion for theater.

When political pressure and financial woes threaten the closure of the Flower Division, you must work with these ladies to prove your military might — and put on a show for the ages.

Sakura Wars is divided into chapters, each of which plays out like its own anime arc. You spend the first part of each chapter navigating Tokyo's Imperial Theater. There, you'll interact with the women of the Flower Division. By completing various odd jobs for them, you'll learn more about their backstories. You'll also select from dialogue options that will either bring these ladies closer to you — or push you farther apart.

This plays into the latter portion of chapters, which puts you into real-time mecha combat scenarios. The closer you are with the members of the Flower Division, the higher their morale in battle. Defeat all the baddies for that chapter, and you'll push the narrative forward to set the stage for new story threads and theater shenanigans.

While Sakura Wars hasn't completely sold me on its combat, there's reason to be optimistic. The musou mechanics are entertaining. As the Flower Division recruits more ladies to its cause, you'll be able to pilot their mechs into battle. Each mech has its own combo strings, adding a layer of depth to the proceedings. Throw in some light platforming and chapter-ending boss battles, and there are plenty of signs of life.

Anime fans and dating sim enthusiasts, take note. It may have fallen under many people's radars, but Sakura Wars is one to keep an eye on. Granted, the combat is nothing new, and the story also has some pacing issues that I hope improve in the later chapters — but there's a lot to like here.

You won't have to wait long for it, either. Sakura Wars launches April 28 on PlayStation 4.

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