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Sakura Taisen
  opened by paleface at 04:15:11 10/06/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=DC; cat=Strategy; reg=JPN]
Download added: hall_sleep.jpg (22584 bytes)
  "So many bedrooms to visit... Maybe I'll just sleep here in the hall."
Port of the original Saturn version of the first game in Sega's "Sakura Wars" series. Even though a port from an older system, the production values are incredible, with fantastic art, music, and voice acting.
The story, in which you play a young nice-guy throw in to the command of six somewhat unruly but romantically-inclined girls, who also happen to be actresses and highly-trained secret robot-piloting military agents defending the quaint town of Teito against sorcerers and demons, is incredibly involved for a video game, dividing the two-GD-ROM game into 10 "episodes" like an anime series.
Tile-based strategic mech battles form the bulk of the gameplay as such, aside from a half-dozen quirky little mini-games that you may find in the course of the story. The battles themselves really aren't that hard if you pay attention to what you're doing--each girl has a particular weapon with a particular range, as does each enemy, and you just match the two up to your advantage, with super attacks, healing, and the occasional tricky terrain layout providing some variety. It's decent fun but nothing to write home about.
The memorable part of the game really lies in the character interactions. Being the straightlaced, slightly awkward young man that you are, you naturally can only conceive of going after one of the girls. So after going through conversations with them in the course of your team's adventures you settle on your heart's choice and proceed to try winning her over, primarily by saying the right things in certain time-limited conversation branches and by protecting her during combat (rather unprofessional of you to protect your love interest at the expense of the rest of the squad but hey, this is your woman). Do these things right enough times and she will, of course, eventually come to realize that you are the bee's knees, in a PG-rated way. The game is surprisingly lengthy and you get to see the characters develop in satisfying ways. And, of course, if you play it through again and pursue a different girl, you get different conversations and a different ending.
It sounds silly and, well, it is, except that the characters are so well written and (voice) acted that you can't help but be pulled in to the drama. The clever exchanges and vivacious characters don't fail to put a smile on my face after even the toughest day. Aside from the romantic cliffhanger, the plot also undergoes interesting twists toward the end that will keep you punching away through the blocks of dialogue.
Lest we forget: this game is in Japanese. There's a LOT of dialogue. Japanese dialogue. Some spoken, but again in Japanese. Fortunately a chap nick'd "Kayama" undertook the mammoth task of translating the game in to English--without his efforts we ignorant gaijin simply would have been unable to think about diving in to these games. So thank goodness for Kayama, thank goodness for Sega and their "Red Company" team, and thank goodness for cartoonish teen romances with genuine heart.
I'm not sure that I will play through the game a second time--I guess it's possible down the road, but the effort of following the dialogue off a FAQ isn't something to be treated lightly, and unfortunately Kayama tends to give away the "best" conversation choices, sometimes even neglecting to tell you what the other ones were. These things do cut down on my desire to replay the game (since the plot and battles would be largely the same anyway) but even if you're a wimp like me it is far more than worth it just for the first time through.

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