Sakura Taisen is a dramatic adventure game developed by Sega and Red Company (now Red Entertainment) as the first installment in the Sakura Taisen series. It was released in 1996 for the Sega Saturn, in 1999 for Microsoft Windows-based personal computers and in 2000 for the Dreamcast. An enhanced remake was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003 as part of the Sakura Taisen World Project.
Sakura Taisen is a Strategy RPG that features a unique sim-based story system. An in-depth storyline exists, much like in any other RPG; however, the player's destiny in the game is not predetermined. Character interaction plays a major role. The player's interaction with the game dramatically influences the storyline and the ending, as the player nurtures relationships between certain characters, their performance in battle will also improve and the strength of their attacks soars. This means that the game's social elements are closely tied to the battle system. Sakura Wars carved out a whole new genre for itself, it's the first in gaming history to combine elements of dating simulation and strategy.
The story is told in an episodic format, each with its own eyecatches and next episode previews, emulating the feeling of watching anime. Eyecatches provide the player with the only way to properly track and save his/her progress, and are often used to indicate a switch between the game's two main gameplay modes, though this is not always the case.
Adventure mode allows the player to control Ogami. By visiting certain locations within a building or a city, he may interact with various characters by a system known as the Live Interactive Picture System (LIPS). LIPS presents the player with options to choose from during conversations, where choices made, including not having made a decision at all, adds or deducts "trust points" from the characters involved. These points have various effects throughout the game, including shaping Ogami's relationship with the rest of the cast and, ultimately, deciding the ending scene of the game.
In Sakura Wars,the battle mode gameplay is similar to that of tactical role-playing game. The player gives commands to all attack squad members piloting a spirit armor in a square-based grid. Commands are arranged in groups, and only two commands from different groups can be issued for each turn.
A character's trust points also affect her status during battle. A unit performs better if the pilot has a higher trust rating for the squad leader and performs worse if the pilot has a low trust for the squad leader.
If an attack squad member's unit is destroyed in battle, she is removed from the battlefield, and the player loses trust points with her. If Ogami's unit is destroyed, or if the player fails to meet the given requirements, the game is over.
A Long DayEdit
Before the main menu is shown, the game searches for a system file. If found, the player is asked to load the file; else, he is prompted to create one. Although optional, system files can be loaded into succeeding games in the series for continuity purposes. They also compile various events encountered by the player, such as movie files and mini-games, and provides access to this collection in a mode known as "A Long Day".
The mode appears on the main menu after the player saves into the system file for the first time. It allows the player to browse through the different items the system file has collected by visiting various locations in a limited area, similar to adventure mode, with each place having a particular use.
- Main article: List of Sakura Taisen episodes
Ichiro Ogami, having just been informed that he will be taking command of the secret corps known as the Imperial Assault Force (帝国華撃団 Teikoku Kagekidan), Flower Division (花組 Hanagumi), arrives in Teito (Imperial Capital Tokyo) and is taken to the Imperial Theater by Sakura Shinguji, who is herself new to the team. Ogami is greatly surprised to find that he has been posted to a theater, and doubly so when he's informed that he'll be filling the vital role of clipping tickets of patrons as they come in. Fortunately for his patience, it doesn't take long for the city to come under attack by evil forces, and he's quickly informed of his real role and given a quick course on operating the Koubu. Combat ensues, but he is able to push them back, with the aid of the Flower Division members.
Shortly after, Kohran Li arrives from the Hanayashiki branch of the Imperial Assault Force, where she's been working on the development of the Koubu. Ohgami is also introduced to Ayame Fujieda, a woman of surpassing beauty and an air of serenity, and who incidentally happens to be the Vice Commander of the Flower Division. Ogami winds up mooning over Ayame a bit, making Sakura instantly jealous. A battle at Teito Tower is won, thanks to timely fire support from the Flower Division's flying battleship, the Shougei-Maru.
The next episode focuses on Maria Tachibana, who is having trouble with Ogami's leadership, which she sees as irresolute and reckless. Kanna Kirishima returns from her martial arts training, displaying incredible strength and an even more incredible appetite. In a battle against the Hive of Darkness (黒之巣会 Kuronosu-kai) member Jade Setsuna (蒼き刹那 Aoki Setsuna), a young child is threatened, and either Ogami or Sakura is severely injured protecting him. Either way, Ogami is treated to a severe tongue-lashing by Maria. Before the matter is resolved, Setsuna appears to Maria, threatening to reveal her past as "Kazuar", and Maria pursues him. (Naturally, this past is promptly revealed to Ogami and the others.) The Flower Division tracks down Maria's Koubu, which she has abandoned, and follows a signal from her uniform's tracking device to where she has been captured by Setsuna. The following battle takes care of Setsuna.
Iris, by bullying Ohgami into agreeing to taking her out on a date in celebration of her birthday, manages to break up some private time between Sakura and Ogami. The date proceeds well, until the two go to see a scary movie, at which point Iris panics. Her spiritual powers go out of control and a massive earthquake levels the theater. After being scolded, a despondent Iris barricades herself in her room, and none of the Flower Division's members are able to convince her to come out. She eventually flees the Imperial Theatre by commandeering her new Koubu and returns to the park where the date took place coincidentally, just in time for an attack by Rasetsu. Ogami and Sakura recover Iris, once she's calmed down somewhat, and the Flower Division finishes off Rasetsu.
During the production of the play Saiyuki, Kanna and Sumire get into a fight and nearly destroy the stage. Yoneda orders those two to accompany Ogami in an investigation of an old abandoned mansion, which apparently holds the interest of the enemy. There, they discover Kanna's fear of snakes, Sumire's fear of spiders, and Crimson Miroku, who they promptly drive off with the assistance of the timely-delivered Koubu and the rest of the Flower Division.
The presentation of Saiyuki wraps up, much improved by Sumire's and Kanna's improved attitudes towards each other, and the Flower Division prepares for a party. However, Sakura's return from shopping for supplies is interrupted by a thunderstorm, and we learn that Sakura has a dire fear of thunder. Miroku, who tracked the Flower Division back to the Imperial Theater, launches an all-out assault, trapping Ohgami and Sakura in one of the underground rooms while the others are left to fend off advancing hordes of enemy steam-powered weapons. Ohgami and Sakura escape through a one-in-a-million shot with Maria's practice gun, and Sakura's great amount of spiritual power is revealed in saving them from the ensuing explosion. Miroku's mecha is destroyed, but she escapes, and the enemy completes their plan of unsealing the evil energies of Teito. The shock of the evil energies knocks Sakura into a coma.
The leader of the Hive of Darkness, Tenkai, proclaims that he wishes to re-establish the Tokugawa Shogunate, and that he will destroy Teito if it does not surrender. Kohran isolates an amazingly powerful source of evil and the Flower Division, believing it to be Tenkai's location, attacks. However, it's actually a trap set by Miroku, and they are besieged by countless numbers of the enemy. However, Sakura suddenly recovers and bails them out, and they retreat to plan a new attack. After the revelation of the back story of the Kouma War five years ago, the enemy base is identified as caverns below the Japan Bridge. Tenkai is destroyed by the combined spiritual power of the Flower Division.
For the New Year, Ogami gets to enjoy a day with the girl who likes him best, but they're interrupted by Aoi Satan, last survivor of the Hive of Darkness, and his minions, the Kouma which had been banished five years ago. The Kouma are amazingly powerful, and a short battle with a few of them is enough to nearly wreck the Flower Division's Koubu units. As an attempt to increase their strength, the Flower Division separates to engage in special training. Sumire uses her influence in society to produce the funding needed for Kohran to produce a new version of the Koubu, named the Shinbu. The Shinbu prove much more capable of attacking the Kouma, and Aoi Satan's subordinate Inoshishi is destroyed.
In the background of a comedic play starring Kohran and Iris, Ogami learns the rest of the history of the Kouma War. Yoneda also reveals to him the final trump card of humanity, the Majinki, which is three magical items capable of releasing immense spiritual power. Ayame falls under the influence of Aoi Satan and nearly strangles Ogami, but recovers at the last second, and orders Ogami to shoot her if it happens again. The Imperial Theater is again attacked by one of Aoi Satan's subordinates, Shika, who is promptly killed. However, Ayame once again turns traitor, steals the Majinki, and reveals herself as a demon in alliance with Aoi Satan.
After doing some much-needed cheering up of the rest of the Division, Ogami learns that Aoi Satan is about to use the Majinki to summon the Seima Castle from Tokyo Bay - a gigantic floating city equipped with a massive cannon that is fueled by negative human energies. However, they are forced to first deal with the final one of Aoi Satan's three henchmen, Cho, but they do not beat him in time to prevent the Seima Castle's revival.
Knowing that they don't have a chance, the Flower Division boards the Shougei-Maru and heads for the Seimajou (Seima Castle). However, Yoneda has one last trick to play, and he orders the launch of the Aerial Battleship Mikasa a steam-driven flying dreadnought over five miles long. The main cannon of the Mikasa blows away the gates of the Seima Castle, and the Flower Division infiltrates.
There, they find the three underlings of Aoi Satan once again revived, and the Flower Division girls sacrifice themselves one by one so that the rest of the group can advance. In the end, nobody is left but Ogami and whichever girl is most attracted to him. They are confronted by Ayame, who refuses to return to normal despite Ogami's entreaties, and Ogami duels her and wins. He refuses to finish her off, though, and Ayame in turn saves him from Aoi Satan's attack. Aoi Satan is destroyed, but first he activates the fearsome main cannon of the Seima Castle. Yoneda is forced to ram the Mikasa into the Seimajou to prevent the destruction of Teito.
Aoi Satan reveals his true identity - as Satan - and challenges Ogami to a final showdown. Ayame rises, and tells Ogami that her real name is Michael, the Archangel Michael and that he has to stop Satan. She revives the members of the Flower Division, and Satan is destroyed. At the end, Michael offers Satan the forgiveness of Heaven, but he refuses, promising to return one day to afflict humanity once more.
Ogami is then treated to a short epilogue and a bonus scene depending on which girl he ends up with.
Upon its release in 1996, Sakura Taisen instantly became a mega hit, both critically and commercially. According to Famitsu's Top Ten Wanted list, Sakura Taisen scored second place just below Final Fantasy VII. Sakura Wars also ranked #13 place in the Famitsu's 100 All-Time Favorite Games List. Sakura Taisen won the 1997 Game of the year Semi-Grand Prix Award and the 1997 CESA Grand Prix Award and was recorded as being the game with the biggest sales as a SEGA Saturn original title.