Monday, January 4, 2010

Sakura Wars V: a financial disaster in the making, or a cult success?

Sakura Wars doesn't have a very favorable history in the US. The rumored attempts at bringing the previous four games to the US, whether the fault of Sega, Sony, or RED themselves, have all ended in failure.

Saturn, Dreamcast, PSP: Sakura Taisen's had a lot of chances. It seems like the tide is finally turning. As RPGamer put it, 'the holy grail of unlocalized RPGs' is finally coming stateside in March(hopefully).

On the bright side, NIS America are taking the initiative of bringing over the newest game in the series, the fifth game. It's arguably the most West-friendly, since it takes place in New York. It's also unconnected to the prior games.

However, it's four years old, and was reportedly not very successful in its home country.

Will things be different in the states?

The US version has been dubbed 'So Long, My Love'. The voice acting and localization work is looking really good so far. More than enough to make up for the infamous Ar Tonelico II debacle, wherein the game was plagued with glitches, untranslated text, and removed voicework to make room for dual voiceovers. Ar Tonelico II had a good localization and good voicework, IMO, mired by shoddy QA work and a rush for it to hit the market prematurely.

NIS are doing the exact opposite with Sakura Wars V, and taking their sweet time. It's been pushed back a few months now, in true Working Designs tradition. On the bright side, Working Designs were known for delivering a quality product, no matter how long it took.

I think most Sakura Wars fans would prefer NIS America not blow this one. There's too much riding on it.

But will they make back their investment? NIS have already said this is by far their biggest project ever. It's also being ported to the Wii exclusively to the US market, giving it a shot on two consoles: the PS2 and the Wii, so they won't suffer a complete disaster if no one buys the version released on a dying console.

The general buzz on the internet seems to be lukewarm so far, which seems dire. The hardcore fanbase are understandably reluctant to get their hopes up, and the rest of the RPG community seem to be alienated by how out there Sakura Wars' premise in general is.

The gameplay typically has two segments: during the day, you talk with the members of the Star Division and interact with them through the LIPS System. The protagonist has a limited amount of time to respond in conversation, and the results will affect a certain character(if not characters') opinion of him.

Girls with a high opinion will perform better in battle, while those who despise the protagonist will perform worse.

This also affects the ending the player will receive.

The battles themselves are strategic in origin, while more 3D oriented than the 2D grid-based warfare of the older games in the series.

Review copies are already making their way to the press, so more details should be soon in the coming.

Early impressions have been very positive, so let's just hope the gaming public picks up on the opportunity.

It's been a long 16 years of waiting, and I'd hate to see history in the making crash and burn before making an impact.


  1. To me, cult status and finiancial disaster are hand-in-hand. So who's gonna step up to the place and do a series review for HG101?!

  2. To date I've read 3 public comments from journalists who stated they received the preview build but then neglected to play it or post impressions. (See: "trilobite") Lukewarm buzz? Alienated? Perhaps if the press were more diligent, there would be less risk. Also keep in mind that Valkyria Chronicles didn't turn the corner until word-of-mouth spread well after its release. I expect Sakura Wars to be a success for NISA over the long term.

  3. I had planned to cover Sakura Taisen way back when I first started the site six years ago. I had nearly all of the Saturn games (including some of those stupid supplemental discs) and a bunch of the Dreamcast remakes, but I just never got around to it. I never ended up playing much of them either, other than making it halfway through the first game.

    I have to think the only reason this got greenlight for the US is because the series was basically the origin of the dating sim/RPG mechanics that became really popular with Persona 3 and 4. I haven't reviewed the press materials but they should really be hyping that aspect up.

  4. I find it really disappointing that the Wii version of the game will only have English voice acting, while the PS2 version will have both English and Japanese voice acting.

    1. You really should read the article fully.