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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: NIS America
Developed By: RED/Idea Factory
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

April 19, 2010 - When you talk about Japanese RPG titles, you can’t help but mention the long-running series known as Sakura Wars. While games like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Breath of Fire are usually the first games to be mentioned that come out of Japan, Sakura Wars has a strong cult following that’s going on 14 years strong since its debut back in 1996. While previous titles never were released via retail in North America, it didn’t stop eager fans of the Japanese dating-sim/RPG from importing the title and supporting Sega’s love for all things role-playing. As we fast forward to 2010, by the good graces of NIS America, the first Sakura Wars title has been ported and released in North America for the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2 consoles, known as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love.

When I first heard about this game, I decided to do some research on the series and see why it has such a strong connection here in North America, though not a single title was ever released here until now. It seems that these titles are built on a solid foundation of relationship building and combat, which is present within Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. Relationship building is actually the principle foundation for this title as the stronger your bonds are with the people you meet and work with, the more explosive you can and will be on the battlefield against your enemies. Games like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins and several other boast a similar construct, however unlike those titles, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love actually pulls of the mechanic “perfectly”.

The story within Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love takes place within the 1920s. You are young Japanese soldier named Shinijiro Taiga, who is sent over to New York to help the newly structured “New York Combat Revue, Star Division” as they look to beef up their forces to stop all forms of evil. The help to keep your true identity secret, you become part of the Little Lip Theater staff, where they put on extravagant musical performances to help mask their true jobs of keep New York safe. You soon come to realize that the entire team, with the exception of the owner, is all female and possess varying degrees of attitudes and personalities. In order to get everyone to trust you, you must earn their trust through hard work, dedication, and compassion for one another. Just like in real life, you will be rewarded for the time and effort you put into Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love.

After the first few moments of the game, you get the chance to participate within your first battle and it’s here that you realize how important understanding your comrades and becoming close with one another is essential to your survival. In Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love you do not earn any experience points of any kind, so there is no need to replay battles over and over just to be able to acquire more powerful attacks and maneuvers. Instead, you must become closer with your allies, often enough simply talking to them or helping them get through a personal matter. Doing this will gain access to things like team-attacks, stat boosts, new attacks, a snazzy uniform and a lot of chiming music letting you know you chose the right course of action.

How you interact with one another is determines which course the story actually takes. Take too long to respond to a situation, are speaking too loudly, when you should be quite, can change the course of actions, venturing the story down a different path from the one you were currently on. Because of these elements spread throughout the game, you end up with a high replay factor as this game has several endings and several different ways to go about reach said endings. To make things even more enjoyable, for those who pick up the PS2 version of this game will get both the English and Japanese audio tracks on two separate discs. Basically, you are getting the game twice, one disc for the English voiceovers and the second for the original Japanese voiceovers.

All the interactive actions which govern your character’s growth and the growth of your bonds with your comrades are determined by the “Live Interactive Picture System”, a.k.a. LIPS. LIPS present the main character with varying ways to respond to a certain situation/dialog. There are five distinct LIPS within the game, ranging from normally selecting one of three possible responses, helping to complete a task via some quick-time analog stick movements and even increasing or lowering a gauge in order to determine how loud you say a response or give a command. However, when you are not wooing over your fellow comrades with LIPS and hard work, you are on the battlefield thwarting evil with your mighty gundam-like robot known as STAR. When on the battlefield, these machines use a combat scheme known as “Active and Real-time Machine System” (ARMS), which allows you to move as far and/or attack as many enemies as your action points would allow. The higher your bonds are with your fellow comrades, the better they will perform in battle. Should one of your comrades fall in battle, they will lose trust and favor in your, and if you die in battle, the game is over. This system is very simplistic, yet engrossing, requiring you to keep an eye on your fellow comrades on the battlefield as well; coming to their aid if need be.

When it comes to the visuals, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a solid experience. The game utilizes several different types of animation in order to convey the action and story within the game. There are character sprites, animated cutscenes and even some in-game graphics being used when roaming New York. For a title that is five years old, the game has certainly held up well. For those playing the PS2 version through a compatible PS3 console connected to a HDTV via a HDMI cable, you will definitely notice a bump in the visual quality. The Nintendo Wii version looks equally impressive. In terms of the voice work, you have to give up to Idea Factory for ensuring the English voiceovers came across good; not hindering the gameplay in any way. The inclusion of the original Japanese voiceovers via a second disc in the PS2 versions is just another reason why this game is the total package.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is one of those titles that not everyone will run out immediately to pick up. It’s a great SRPG that took five years to finally reach our shores, and was and is well worth the wait. If you are into dating-sim styled RPGs and or have a history with the series, I recommend rushing out to your local retailer and picking up either the PS2 or Wii versions. You certainly can’t go wrong with either one, though purist will be persuaded by the PS2 version due to the inclusion of the Japanese voiceovers. With countless different outcomes, intuitive gameplay mechanics and a solid visual presentation, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is another great RPG to end the PlayStation 2 on a high note and to solidify the Nintendo Wii of a strong third-party presence.


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