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Sakura Taisen

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Page 1:
Intro
Development
Structure

Page 2:
Sakura Taisen
Atsuki Chishio Ni


Page 3:
Sakura Taisen 2
Sakura Taisen 3


Page 4:
Sakura Taisen 4
Sakura Taisen V

Page 5:
Hanagumi Tsūshin
Hanagumi Taisen Columns
Steam Radio Show
Teigeki Graph

Page 6:
Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2
Ōgami Ichirō Funtōki
Sakura Taisen GB
Kinematron Hanagumi Mail
Sakura Taisen GB 2
Sakura Taisen Online
Sakura Taisen Monogatari

Page 7:
Sakura Taisen V Episode 0
Dramatic Dungeon
Legacy
Influence
Resources

Discuss on the Forums!

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Sakura Taisen V Episode 0 Kouya no Samurai Musume (サクラ大戦V EPISODE 0〜荒野のサムライ娘〜) - PlayStation 2 (2004)

Cover

Released in September of 2004, this was the first glimpse fans had of the new setting and cast for Sakura Taisen V. The outlook was not so good. It is generally regarded as a terrible game, and for good reason. The premise is that just before the events of STV, Gemini set out from her home state of Texas to find her destiny in New York, under orders from her mysterious mentor. What follows is a series of jokes about how the klutzy ditz has a miserable sense of direction and ends up in San Francisco instead. She gets wrapped up in trying to protect a girl named Juanita from the antagonists as they make their way across the USA to New York. All this takes place on a curiously botched map, where Illinois is in Missouri and Tennessee is in Minnesota.

Battle part

The primary gameplay is combat action, controlling Gemini on her trusty horse Rally, as she fights her way through robot enemies with her katana. That is to say, she gets stuck on geometry, tries to convince the camera to face the right direction, and falls in a pit. It seems that trying to do horseback combat right was a poor choice for the first-ever action title in the franchise. Rally's movements almost never feel natural, and it's downright infuriating to try to get moving in the right direction and accurately swing your sword without bumping into something or getting hit by an enemy or a boulder and thus losing your momentum. The 3D environments are drab, dark, and boring, which isn't helped by how many events take place at dusk or at night. Most battles are a matter of muddling your way toward the newest batch of enemies to appear, then mashing the attack button and listening to Gemini make the same "Yah! Yah! Heyyah!" combo ad nauseum until they are all dead. It also feels pretty stupid to fight robots with a sword on horseback. One is forced to wonder what a proper Kōbu-based action combat game could have been like.

Quick Info:

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Probably the best thing about this game

Let's see, what do Americans eat? Cheeseburgers, right?

Gemini & Juanita


Dramatic Dungeon: Sakura Taisen Kimi Aru Ga Tame (ドラマチックダンジョン サクラ大戦 ~君あるがため~) - Nintendo DS (2008)

Cover

Adventure part

Dungeon part

Released in March of 2008, 4 years after the last Sakura Taisen title, this odd return to the series almost seems like a genuine attempt to rekindle the Sakura Taisen legacy in a new genre. Sega advertised Dramatic Dungeon as if it was a completely original and new genre and franchise, though it's clearly just Shiren the Wanderer mechanics plus Sakura Taisen storytelling. If you're familiar with Shiren or the Mystery Dungeon series as a whole you'll recognize much of it in this game: random, "Roguelike" dungeons populated by ever-increasing crowds of baddies and ever-mounting hoards of treasure. It has a fast-paced take on turn-based combat. Input is for the most part like an action RPG, but entities on the screen take exactly one action for each of your actions, so you can make things move as quickly or as slowly as you like. Your companions act automatically, attacking monsters, collecting treasure, and disarming traps, among other things. Interspersed with the dungeon crawling are very brief traditional Sakura Taisen adventure scenes, complete with LIPS dialogues. There's a multiplayer mode, in which you can race friends to the deepest level of a dungeon, while casting spells to hinder their progress. Development was done by Neverland Company, a long-running studio with some well-known titles to their name: Estpolis/Lufia, the Shining Force titles on PS2, Rune Factory, and even Shiren the Wanderer Gaiden on Dreamcast, which makes sense considering the Shiren similarities here.

Dramatic Dungeon spends an unusually brief amount of time on storyline for a Sakura Taisen game. It takes place after the events of Sakura Taisen V in the year Taishō 18, which would equate to 1929 (in reality, the Taishō period ended at year 15 and gave way to the Shouwa period). Yoneda has retired, promoting Ohgami to commander of the Teigeki. During a performance of The Maid of Orleans by Tchaikovsky, Joan of Arc herself appears; she ends up being the villain of the game. A calamitous event somehow transforms the entire city into a monster-infested labyrinth, and incapacitates the Kōbu. The members of the Teigeki have no choice but to delve into the dungeon and investigate. Eventually it is revealed that Paris and New York have suffered similar fates. As the game goes on you move on to playing as Shinjirō, and ultimately you can recruit a party of your choice from the entire cast of 18 heroines.

The real surprise about this game is that it really isn't half bad. Once you get over the oddness of dungeon crawling with your favorite Sakura Taisen characters, it's actually just a quite fun Roguelike with a lot of sentimental value. The combat feels fun, especially when team-up attacks start going off and your teammates are calling out their catch phrases. The character portraits are recycled, but the new pixel sprites and environments are charming. Unfortunately the story scenes are not voiced, save for a very few key lines. If you were in the mood for a dungeon crawl anyway, it might as well be with the ST cast, interspersed with night rounds at the theater just like old times.

Back at headquarters


Anime & Manga

The first Sakura Taisen anime was Ōka Kenran (桜華絢爛), "Cherry Blossom Magnificence", released between December 1997 and July 1998. It's a four-episode OVA; episodes 1-3 tell of the Flower Troupe before the events of the first Sakura Taisen, including how Sakura and Sumire joined the Kagekidan. Episode 4 is a side-story that takes place during Sakura Taisen.

Next was Gōka Kenran (轟華絢爛), "Rumbling Flower Magnificence", released between December 1999 and December 2000. It's another OVA, which takes place after Sakura Taisen 2 and consists of six self-contained episodes of Ohgami reminiscing on his experiences in Tokyo with the Kagekidan. Each memory is triggered by some memento he comes across as he packs his things to leave for Paris (in anticipation of ST3).

A 25-episode anime series ran on broadcast TV from April to September 2000. It was based on the story of the first game, but included some unique new scenes and shied away from the heroine-specific relationship subplots that are so often problematic in anime adaptations of games that let the player choose a romance path.

The original two OVA series and the TV series in particular are interesting because they became popular among non-Japanese fans thanks to ADV Films picking them up for localization. So it's not uncommon to find Sakura Taisen fans who have never played the video games themselves, or even who never knew that there were video games! The fantastic late-90s animation, voices, music, and storytelling made the Sakura Taisen animes eminently enjoyable whether you had played the games or not.

Ōka Kenran: Sumire test-pilots an early Kōbu

Sakura Taisen Katsudō Shashin (活動写真), "Moving Picture", is a high-budget theatrical anime production that came out in December 2001. It takes place between Sakura Taisen 3 and 4, and introduces the character of Ratchet Altair, the leader of the New York Kagekidan who would return in STV. The plot is a somewhat bizarre story of a sinister American corporation that is trying to replace the Kagekidan with its own self-piloting robots for profit.

Su-Mi-Re is a one-off OAV episode that commemorates the retirement of Sumire's voice actress, Michie Tomizawa. It was released in December 2002. The story takes place after ST4, and involves Sumire discovering that because her spiritual powers are declining, she needs to retire from the Kagekidan.

Sakura Taisen: École de Paris and Sakura Taisen: Le Nouveau Paris are each 3-episode OVAs, released between March 2003 and March 2005. They tell side stories about the relationships between characters during Sakura Taisen 3, such as how Glycine and Erica met, or how Lobelia was convinced to join the Paris Kagekidan, or how Hanabi has to hide her participation in the Kagekidan from her father.

Sakura Taisen: New York New York is a 6-episode OVA, released between April and August 2007, that takes place after the events of Sakura Taisen V. It tells side stories about the characters of the New York Kagekidan that were originally intended to be included in the game proper as adventure chapters.

The Sakura Taisen manga has been going since February 2003, with story written by Ōji Hiroi himself and art by Ikku Masa (who does a fine job with his inheritance from Fujishima and Matsubara). The plot is based mainly on the storyline of the original game, but with a melange of elements from other Sakura Taisen properties added in: Kayama from Sakura Taisen 2, characters from the stage shows, mechanical designs from Atsuki Chishio Ni, and so on. Nine volumes came out in the original series, released on Koudansha's Magazine ZKC label. A second series that continues the story, with three volumes so far, is being released on the KC Deluxe label. Over the years, the comic has run in the manga publication that mutated from Monthy Shōnen Magazine Z, to Magazine √éno, to Monthly Shōnen Magazine+.

Probably the most bizarre development in the Sakura Taisen franchise is the girls' comic Sakura Taisen Kanadegumi (サクラ大戦奏組), which started in 2011. A collaboration with the long-running popular girls' manga magazine Hana to Yume, it reverses the classic Sakura Taisen trope by putting a female protagonist in a troupe full of charming and attractive men. The story is that the heroine Neko Miyabi came to Tokyo in order to join the Hanagumi as a performer, but ended up assigned to the Kanadegumi, the orchestra group. Of course, it turns out that the orchestra is also a secret combat troupe for battling demons. The limited edition of the first volume of the manga came with a short anime DVD. Starting November 2012, Kanadegumi stage performances are being held much in the same vein as the traditional Sakura Taisen live shows.

Ōka Kenran: Sakura learns her deathblow

Ōka Kenran

Sakura Taisen TV

Sakura Taisen TV

Katsudou Shashin



Legacy

Sakura Taisen Kayou Show

The semi-annual Sakura Taisen stage shows grew to be as big of a part of the franchise as the games, anime, and manga. If there was any doubt about how seriously the fandom took their idolization of the actresses, consider the hubbub surrounding the retirement of Michie Tomizawa, the voice of Sumire, in 2002. A special, melodramatic farewell stage show was assembled to be her final performance, and a special Sumire-focused anime episode was produced and released to DVD. Sakura Taisen heroines cannot just retire without a fanfare!

The music of Sakura Taisen is, of course, legendary. The slightest clip of incidental music from an inconsequential scene is known to immediately turn a true fan misty, let alone a full-on vocal piece. The absurd, 8-disc Sakura Taisen Complete Song Box from 2002 is the quick way to get ahold of most of it (RPGFan has a lovely review). There's even a more trimmed-down 120-song set, including Sakura Taisen V tracks, on iTunes for a mere $70.

For a decade, a dedicated Sakura Taisen shop and cafe, the Taishō Romandō, operated daily in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. It was crammed full of Sakura Taisen merchandise, organized by heroine. It featured human-sized statues of the characters and Kōbu. The staff wore Sakura Taisen cosplay, and apprehensively declined being photographed. At the cafe, a small menu of tenuously character-themed sweets and drinks were available. In the back was a shelf loaded with dozens of guestbooks, every page filled with messages and drawings from fans around the country and around the world.

Taishō Romandou, the ST shop and cafe.



Influence

Other series have since successfully blended dating elements into a more standard RPG framework. Thousand Arms, released by Atlus in 1998 for PlayStation, took a less pure-hearted approach, but combined dating and RPG mechanics in a steampunk world. Langrisser 3, another tactical RPG, introduced a Sakura Taisen-like system in which you can develop trust with members of the female cast, culminating in a romance.

Later games added their own RPG/dating hybrid experiences, notably the Ar tonelico series and recent installments of the Persona series. Ar tonelico intersperses visual novel chapters with the RPG sections, with your trust level directly affecting your combat performance, creating a remarkably Sakura Taisenesque experience. Its focus on music and the heroines' roles as singers suggest a direct influence. Persona 3 and 4 weave the relationship management more directly into the flow of the story, but also include time management like a traditional dating sim and like Sakura Taisen's night patrol sections.

The closest thing you are likely to see to a Sakura Taisen 6 is Valkyria Chronicles. Much of the Sakura Taisen team remaining at Sega, headed up by Ryutarō Nonaka and Shuntarō Tanaka, worked on it. It shows: an alternate-history world with wildly unrealistic machinery powered by miraculous technology. Gridless, pseudorealtime tactical combat. A heavy emphasis on developing relationships outside of battle, and how those relationships come into play on the battlefield. Of course, Valkyria Chronicles doesn't have any of the dating-sim relationship or time management of ST; all of the character development happens on a rail. Conversely, Sakura Taisen doesn't have detailed roster management, training, and equipment upgrading mechanics. But the overall feel of the games is similar: semi- to fully-campy wartime drama with a sentimental bent.


Resources

Official Sakura Taisen history page

The Project S documentary DVD that came with the LE of Atsuki Chishio Ni is invaluable for fans interested in the history of the series.

Kayama's translation guides are a way for non-Japanese-speakers to join in the enjoyment.

A personal account of the author's experiences with Sakura Taisen while living in Japan


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Development
Structure

Page 2:
Sakura Taisen
Atsuki Chishio Ni


Page 3:
Sakura Taisen 2
Sakura Taisen 3


Page 4:
Sakura Taisen 4
Sakura Taisen V

Page 5:
Hanagumi Tsūshin
Hanagumi Taisen Columns
Steam Radio Show
Teigeki Graph

Page 6:
Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2
Ōgami Ichirō Funtōki
Sakura Taisen GB
Kinematron Hanagumi Mail
Sakura Taisen GB 2
Sakura Taisen Online
Sakura Taisen Monogatari

Page 7:
Sakura Taisen V Episode 0
Dramatic Dungeon
Legacy
Influence
Resources

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index