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Amorous Chrous- Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love Review

Recently, a number of titles previously deemed too eccentric for American tastes have been migrating out of the Land of the Rising Sun. This past month alone, gamers have been presented with Yakuza 3, Cho Aniki Zero, and Spectral Force Genesis; three titles which would have been unlikely candidates for localization just a few years ago. Despite Sakura Wars endearing popularity in Japan (spanning five main games and eight spin-offs titles) over the past fourteen years, no publisher was willing to bring the franchise stateside.

Mercifully, NIS America has translated the fifth entry in the series for Western audiences, rechristening the game as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. Those with a fleeting familiarity of the publisher’s previous output might assume that the title is straightforward JRPG. However, players that take the plunge with Sakura Wars will find the game offers a creative blend of interactive fiction, romantic comedy with a healthy dose of strategic mech battling. While this might seem like a muddled mix of genres, each of the title’s elements are skillfully presented in a distinctly delineated method.


“C’mon pass the ball already. Nobody likes a Kobe!”


Like the best Japanese exports, So Long, My Love’s plotline is crammed with unadulterated absurdity.  Set in the 1920’s, players assume the role of Shinjiro Taiga, a timid nineteen year-old dispatched to New York. A dilemma develops as soon as the budding samurai sails into the Big Apple; it’s seems the demon- destroying STAR Division was expecting Taiga’s seasoned uncle. To compound this quandary, the organization masquerades as a Broadway musical troupe, forging one of the most delightfully outlandish plotlines in recent memory. Players are forced to relinquish any adherence of narrative fidelity and allow Sakura Wars to take them on its madcap expedition.

Each of the game’s episodic stages commences with an adventure phase, as Taiga is tasked with solving a specific problem. Unlike most adventure titles, an explicit route is never conveyed, forcing gamers to explore Manhattan locales which are inevitably populated by fellow team members. Every encounter with a colleague will initiate a dialogue, while some meetings lead to the Live and Interactive Picture System (LIPS), an element which allows players to interact in a number of ways. Often, players will select a response from a multiple-choice dialog tree, while in other situations they may dictate the intensity of their response. In specific situations, Taiga is required to perform QTE’s, such as moving each stick in Street Fighter-esque quarter circles. Each interaction is timed; so that urgent situations demand expedited responses, while casual conversations give the player five seconds to reply.


Maybe the Mech Manufacturers can bail them out…


Resourcefully, these dialog sequences do more than move the plot along, each interactive encounter also advances Taiga’s relationship with his female colleagues. Players will want to stay in each team member’s good graces, as the strength of each relationship will determine your effectiveness on the battlefield; the more each protagonist likes Taiga, the stronger their strikes will be. Teammates infatuated with the young hero have the ability to initiate a special attack which can decimate multiple enemies, substantiating the cliché that “love can conquer all.”

Considered that the title’s developers- Ryutaro Nonaka and Shuntaro Tanaka would go onto to create 2008’s Valkyria Chronicles, it’s little surprise that So Long, My Love’s combat shares many similarities. Each sequence in the turn-based skirmishes gives players a filled Mobility Gauge; allowing players to initiate strikes, heals, and joint attacks until the meter is depleted. Although the title’s combat initially seems simplistic, Sakura Wars conceals an intriguing amount of tactical depth as players can select from multiple stratagems, and choose to spend mobility points for defensive protection. 


“Take it easy, I was admiring that overhand knot, that’s all!”


Despite Sakura Wars five year delay in coming to U.S. shores, the title shows little signs of aging, and compares favorably to many late-era PS2 titles. Each anime-inspired character model is dotingly rendered, and persistently animated- blinking and altering facial expressions as each conversation flows along. The one graphical snag occurs during combat, as attack sequences use canned cinematics. Initially, it was confusing to see two adjacent mechs appear spread out across the battlefield as the attack animation played out. 

While most otaku will revel in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love’s well-executed outlandishness, more mainstream gamers might be bothered by the title’s unabashed loquaciousness. Before gamer’s can indulge in the game’s satiating scuffles, there is a substantial amount of rapport building, which may turn off players seeking gratification through mechanized melees. Yet, for Japanophiles, So Long, My Love is a must-play adventure and an aptly titled finale for the Playstation 2.


“Alright, Decepticons, leave peacefully, or there will be consequences!”


Wii Version: Although Nintendo owners forsake the English and Japanese dual disk treatment, art booklet, and oversized manual, players do get all of Sakura Wars’ Broadway singing and mech battling charm for a slightly more economical price.  Those seeking an eccentric reprieve from the mini-game collections should considering adding this enchanting title to their library.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

51 comments

  1. Great review! I was thinking about ordering this.

  2. I’m considering this one.

  3. I thought this was a boring dating sim, but I’m impressed by the reviews its getting.

  4. Do you get to equip the mechs?

  5. Hmm, you like this but not really DOA: Paradise? that’s strange.

  6. I’m not really convinced I’ll like this one. Too much reading in games is boring.

  7. Cute looking game. You went there with Kobe. Shame on you, Deagle.

  8. How much is the Wii version?

  9. Are there any singing minigames?

  10. I know you’ve really like it Deagle.

  11. Were you afraid to call it a dating sim?1?

  12. I bought it from Rosenqueen, and have been loving it so far. I just hope they offer the earlier games on PSP one day. Please NIS, please!

  13. Any graphical differences between the two versions? I heard the PS2 version doesn’t have progressive mode.

  14. I’d love to see more dating sims come out here.

  15. Thats always fun. I wish Chromehounds wasn’t dead now. RIP you fighting bastards.

  16. I love Kosuke Fujishima. I collect everything he works on.

  17. I was expecting the game to be kind of creepy. It’s not like that at all, it’s really about friendship, although you can romance.

  18. I bought if for both system, cause it’s that damn good!

    Great review, Desert, but it deserves an “A”

  19. This almost looks like a PS3 game. Very nice.

  20. Don’t you guys live in LA? LOL.

  21. I might get the Wii version.

  22. Makes me wish I had one of those backwards compatible PS3s.

  23. Awesome captions, Deagle! I liked the mech ones the best.

  24. Why do you think SEGA didn’t bring this over? They published it in Japan, right?

  25. I wonder is ME has anything to do with company being more comfortable with dating sims.

  26. Sorry, but it sounds pretty boring.

  27. Great review. I’m glad a few people understand there’s much to love about Japanese games that dont cater to Western audiences.

  28. Last great PS2 game? I hope not!

  29. Who doesnt want to be surrounded by cute girls and giant pieces of lethal hardware?

    1 of 2 aint bad, I guess.

  30. Why cant Japanese artists draw realistic looking black people?

  31. Good writeup. I really want this!

  32. Pick up a PS2, they’re cheap these days.

  33. How’s the soundtrack? Can’t be too good otherwise they’d give you a bonus disk, right?

  34. How long is each chapter?

  35. I’ll unwrap mine this weekend. I have two full days set aside.

  36. So are the extras worth $10?

  37. This will be in my top 5 of 2010, along with ME2

  38. What do you expect they don’t ever draw Asian eyes properly.

  39. How’s the enemy AI? I hate SRPGs with lunkhead tactics.

  40. A good grade for a NIS game? On this site?

  41. SpoiledRottenGamer

    I don’t see myself liking this. The battles sound good but the cheesy romance seems boring.

  42. No, if you are looking for a title like that, might I suggest the Armored Core or Front Mission games?

  43. $29.99 for Wii, $39.99 for the deluxe PS2 version.

  44. Thank you, PTQ!

  45. I suggest the Armored Core or Front Mission games if you’re yearning to tinker with mechs.

  46. Totally!

  47. I need to get this one.

  48. LOL. Yep, not a shock, but ATlus and NIS bring the quality.

  49. B+ =

    A for those that like these types of games and a C+ for those that don’t.

  50. On my way to say, “So Long, My Money”