- System: PlayStation 4
- Developer: SEGA
- Publisher: SEGA
- Release Date: December 12, 2019[JP] / TBD 2020 [WW]
- Genre: Action, RPG, Visual Novel, Simulation
The Sakura Taisen series (known as Sakura Wars in the west) has been ongoing ever since the mid 90’s, and continues to leave a lasting legacy for fans of the series. Oji Hiroi decided to bring the beloved series to life in September 1996, where it has gone on to sell millions of copies and still maintains a large following with its riveting story, compelling cast of characters, and dynamic gameplay. Mostly known for incorporating a more tactical role-playing feel along with tidbits of dating sim and visual novel aesthetics implemented for more diversity, Shin Sakura Taisen is taking a brand new approach by implementing a more dramatic action oriented musou-style gameplay.
About Shin Sakura Taisen
Shin Sakura Taisen was officially unveiled during Sega Fes 2019 in Akihabara, which took everyone by surprise with its brand new look and gameplay mechanics introduced. The title has been in development since 2016 and now we finally get to experience the game at its potential once it arrives on PlayStation 4 December 12, 2019 in Japan, and a 2020 release in the west. Much of the game takes place in the fictionalized Tokyo set in the Taishou period, and follows main protagonist Seijuro Kamiyama alongside the all-female unit of the Imperial Combat Revue's Flower Division. Their mission is to fight the demon invasion while also taking part in an international World Combat Revue tournament to ensure the Imperial Theater remains open.
During our play time with Shin Sakura Taisen one of the more standout features of the game was the "Live & Interactive Picture System" (LIPS). This feature ties into the visual novel/dating sim mechanic where players are given a time limit during conversations to choose how they feel towards the other characters. Depending on the response Kamiyama provides the overall flow of the game will change in terms of his relationships with the protagonists, as well as affecting battle performance during missions. If you start to take too long to answer the question or statement, heat fumes slowly start to permeate around the text box to alert you to make a decision. This little subtle visual touch was striking to us and we felt that it added a lot more dramatic realism to the situation.
Mechs, Mechs, all the Mechs!
Much of our experience with Shin Sakura Taisen was mostly wandering around the Imperial Theater and getting accustomed to the controls, along with the LIPS system that we discussed earlier. However, we were given a brief introduction into the battle system during our second half and boy were we surprised. Anyone who has dabbled with musou-style titles like Dynasty Warriors or Sengoku Basara will immediately find themselves at home, as the control scheme is very similar along with the way you can dish out powerful and long combos. Players can attack by pressing the circle button and doing a heavy attack with the triangle button. The R1 shoulder button allows you to weave and dodge around enemy attacks and the R2 shoulder button gives the player the ability to glide around in their Mech. Another cool gameplay feature was being able to run and glide off of walls parkour style, and this was performed by jumping towards the designated wall then quickly pressing R2 to grip on. This added element of movement is really exciting and truly helps to create a more 3 dimensional feel while playing. Every slash and gun shot combo you pull off looked really flashy, along with the overall movement feeling fluid. There were times were our controls felt somewhat delayed but we attributed that to the actual PS4 hardware heating up, since a lot of people had been using it throughout the event.
Since we only had about 20 minutes to play through the demo, we really didn’t get a chance to explore more of the gameplay mechanics to properly assess just how things feel overall. However, the time that we did get to spend with Shin Sakura Taisen was well worth it because it gave us enough assurance to know that the gameplay alone is going to be exciting, especially during boss battles where your movement and combo options will be of greater importance. The story so far feels very well done and we immediately fell in love with the LIPS system, along with the new stunning visual direction they’ve taken with the game. What’s even more exciting is that a new animated series will be released next year for Shin Sakura Taisen, so fans will have even more to celebrate in the new year!