Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love - Wii

This title from the makers of PS3 classic Valkyria Chronicles isn't your typical role-playing game.

Where most Japanese RPGs focus on a po-faced, spiky-haired protagonist suffering from amnesia, this 2010 release takes great delight in dispensing with this tried and tested formula, resulting in a refreshing take on the genre.

Part turn-based strategy game, part social interaction/dating sim, Sakura Wars is full of chirpy anime characters, giant robots, animated cut scenes and a nonsensical plot which twists and turns through an alternative 1920's New York.

Taking control of Shinjiro Taiga, the son of a Japanese general, you are sent to the Big Apple to assist the New York Combat Revue in their battle against an evil force.

The first three hours or so are spent ploughing through a multitude of conversation topics, with only one battle tutorial to break up a slideshow of anime stills and crude 3D free-roaming sections. Persevere, though, and Sakura Wars blossoms into an engaging and highly entertaining game.

The story runs over a series of chapters, which are delivered in a similar style to a TV series. Each chapter throws up the usual assortment of dialogue trees, but Sakura Wars shakes the formula up by giving the player a limited time to make their conversation choice.

This quick-fire approach means you sometimes have to skim over the choices, leading to a variety of outcomes.

Where the system doesn't work so well is when you are tasked with manually twisting the left analogue stick and the D-Pad on the Wiimote within a tight time frame to achieve objectives. The controls here are less than responsive and lead to moments of frustration.

However, despite some control wobbles, underneath the sugary-sweet anime coating lies a robust and enjoyable strategic battle system.

Here, much like Valkyria Chronicles, the player has a limited range of movement before they can choose to attack. It's a deep and absorbing chess-like experience, with each move running the risk of leaving a squad member exposed.

The battles don't occur every five minutes, either. Instead these epic fights end the chapter, meaning if you don't warm to the story or the friendship building, you could find yourself extremely bored.

While each character has their own range of special moves, links can be created between two units, which increases your firepower. These start off relatively weak, but can be beefed up by interacting with your squad mates between skirmishes.

Forging relationships with the rest of your squad echoes Atlus's Persona games, but it never feels quite as complete. It certainly doesn't detract from the experience, but it just fails to match these PS2 classics.

Sakura Wars' visuals are a mixed bag, with the clean-cut character portraits and epic battles taking most of the plaudits. The blurry backgrounds and rough-looking free-roaming sections unfortunately don't fare quite so well, especially as the game doesn't run in progressive scan mode.

The biggest surprise of all, however, is the fact the game has been released in Europe at all. For years, games such as Sakura Wars were destined only for the Japanese market, so it's refreshing to see NIS America take a chance on such a niche title in the West.

You should be able to find Sakura Wars at a low price these days, so if you see it, snap it up.

1 comment:

Nintendo Wii said...

Sakura Wars is not cheap game. Sakura Wars is now phenomenon games for discussion. All controls, layouts and graphics were bang on. I wish that i will get new series of this game as soon.