Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sakura Wars on Wii Impression

Sakura Wars on Wii
Sakura Taisen is well known to anime fans worldwide but it’s never received the proper release here in the States. The now defunct ADV Films released Sakura Wars but it was at a very saturated time for anime. This being said it’s not too late to get caught up on the anime but now gamers get the chance to experience one of the fine games in the long running Sakura Wars franchise on the Nintendo Wii. Released on both the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii Sakura Wars is indeed dated graphics wise but it fits quite well on the Wii. So what does this release offer both anime and strategy role-playing fans, let’s take a look.

– Battles are carried out in a strategy RPG setting but there are many more elements which set Sakura Wars apart. First there is an adventure mode, think dating sim, where gamers choose main character Shinjiro’s reactions to various encounters thus shaping gameplay. These interactions are usually with other STAR (mech) pilots and will affect the mech driven gameplay. The game takes place in New York and as Shinjiro travels around he can snap pictures around the city so there is a pic taking element. There are also musicals to watch which only makes sense since this is how the STAR pilots make their money. Yeah, in the world of anime this makes sense. A strategy RPG wrapped with a relationship sim and photo sim.

– The animated cut-scenes are beautiful, worthy of any DVD release while the photo stills found in many of the conversations are true to the anime and just plain pretty to look at. The in-game graphics capture the look and feel of Sakura Wars to a tee and look better than any mech titles seen on both PS2 and GameCube. It reminds of a much more polished Eureka 7 and for an S-RPG it avoids the boring grid look and feel.

– Fantastic voice work when present mixes with an anime inspired soundtrack that rocks for fans. Battle sounds are good, but it’s the voice work that captures the day here.

– The mixture of genre types works very well since this is actually the 4th installment of the series in Japan. The mixture of dating sim and S-RPG works well as this is how the franchise is meant to work, for relationships to impact story and battle. The mech designs may seem clunky to fans of Gundam or Evangelion but they are designed to have a more industrial, steam punk feel and it comes across very well in the older New York setting.

– The value of the Wii to anime fans. While the system does not boast the line-up or power of the PS3 or Xbox 360 what is does is offer games ‘next-gen’ system would usually pass over. Seeing (essentially) PS2 titles such as Bleach, Sky Crawlers and now Sakura Wars getting pub is awesome. There are a ton of great anime based games on the PS2 in Japan that gamers here never got the chance to play outside of imports. Localization is not cheap but seeing the release of these titles, even as a trickle, is outstanding. Overall, the story, voice work and setting in Sakura Wars are great, established and something fans will love. For straight-up S-RPG fans the dating aspect and sometimes plodding story may not be your cup of soup but it’s worth a taste for a system starved of good RPG’s. The price is right, the formula refined and for such an odd mixture it’s worth the try.

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