Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love (サクラ大戦V 〜さらば愛しき人よ〜 Sakura Taisen V ~Saraba, Itoshiki Hito yo~) is the fifth main entry in the Sakura Taisen series of video games. First released in Japan on July 7, 2005 on the Playstation 2; it was the first game in the series to be released in North America.
Sakura Wars V was spawned from the Sakura Taisen World Project along with its prequel game, Sakura Wars V: Episode 0. There is also a sequel in the form of a six-part OVA, Sakura Wars: New York NY, released in Japan in 2007.
- Main article: Gameplay in the Sakura Taisen series
Sakura Wars V: So Long My Love is set in New York City during a fictionalized version of the late 1920s, with players taking the role of Shinjiro Taiga and the all-female New York Combat Revue. Dubbed a "dramatic adventure" game and taking place across multiple episodes, the gameplay segments incorporate tactical role-playing, dating sim and visual novel elements. The gameplay is divided between adventure segments where Shinjiro explores a 3D-rendered version of New York—including the interior of the Little Lip Theater—, and combat sequences governed by a turn-based battle system across a three-dimensional (3D) area allowing full range of movement.
During adventure segments, Shinjiro can both navigate New York on his own and bring along a member of the New York Combat Revue. During these sequences, when talking with both the main heroines and supporting characters, conversations rely on the LIPS (Live & Interactive Picture System) system. When faced with critical choices in the course of a conversation, up to three dialogue options are displayed with a time limit for the player to select a response. Depending on the type of response, the character may respond positively or negatively, impacting the relationship and future interactions. An additional "Analog LIPS" option has a single response with analog input which changes the intensity of Shinjiro's voice, which further affects the characters' reactions. Other actions within LIPS include holding the cursor over parts of a character's portrait to trigger internal monologues and varying responses from the characters, and quick-time events relying on moving the control sticks and button inputs. If Shinjiro has a strong-enough bond with one of the heroines, he can initiate a romance, unlocking a character-specific ending once the main story is finished. When exploring New York, Shinjiro can access a device called the Cameratron, a device that can both be used as a communication device with members of the Little Lips Theater and take photographs around the city.
During the combat sequences, the player controls the New York Combat Revue as they battle demonic forces using machines dubbed Super Telekinetic Assault Robots (STARs). Battles take place within 3D arenas, where each unit has a full range of movement, with their distance limited by an Action Point meter: the battle system is dubbed "ARMS" (Active & Real-time Machine System). Each unit has its own turn, with each turn allowing two actions. These actions include "Attack", "Defend", "Move", "Deathblow" (a critical strike that kills an enemy in one hit), Charge (store energy for a more powerful action during the next turn), and Heal (which restores health points to a chosen unit). Different units specialize in different skills, such as support actions, melee attacks, or distance attacks—along with their range of movement, each unit also has an independent range in which they can perform actions. LIPS interactions in between combat segments raised each heroine's statistics, allowing a greater range of movement, and unlocking more powerful abilities and combination attacks. Should a character fall in battle, the relationship will suffer, weakening their future combat ability. In addition to ground-based battles, STAR units can convert into a flying form, enabling mid-air battles using identical mechanics to the ground battles.
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love begins with Shinjiro Taiga departing from Tokyo to New York City. Shortly after arriving there, Shinjiro witnesses a bank robbery being foiled by Gemini Sunrise, a samurai cowgirl. Shinjiro is apprehended but is bailed and led to the Little Lip Theater to meet Shinjiro's captain, Ratchet Altair, and the Star Division's commander, Michael Sunnyside. Taiga and Gemini meet each other in Midtown, and then head to a district known as "The Village", where Shinjiro's apartment is based. Ratchet then introduces Shinjiro to the rest of the Combat Revue. Shinjiro then learns that his uncle, Imperial Assault Force Commander Ichiro Ogami, was to be in New York in place of Shinjiro. Shinjiro is assigned by Sunnyside to be an usher until he is able to return to Japan. While at Central Park, Shinjiro meets Diana Caprice, who helps Shinjiro acclimate himself with the city. Following an attack on the Statue of Liberty, Shinjiro becomes a member of the Star Division. The New York Combat Revue engages demon forces at the Statue led by Ranmaru, a recurring antagonist in the game. During the battle, Ratchet is wounded, forcing Shinjiro to assume command.
After thwarting Ranmaru's invasion, Shinjiro becomes the New York Combat Revue's Captain-in-Training and Ratchet fills the role of Vice Commander. In between subsequent missions against powerful demonic beings allied with Ranmaru, Shinjiro becomes involved in the personal lives and struggles of the growing New York Combat Revue—which grows to include Diana and Mexican bounty hunter Rikaritta Aries. He gains their trust and can optionally romance one of the members. Gemini is brought into the group once her connection to a group called the Five Star Warriors is revealed. After learning of Ranmaru, who defeated and killed most of the Five Star Warriors, Gemini's sister Geminine—who resides in her body as an alter-ego—plots to exact revenge for her master's death. Shinjiro persuades Geminine not to go through with it. Afterwards, subduing an attack led by Ranmaru, Geminine decides to rest inside Gemini after using too much of her influence to dominate Gemini's body.
Following Christmas, Ranmaru's master Oda Nobunaga summons his base Azuchi Castle in an attempt to dominate the city. Assaulting Azuchi Castle, the Combat Revue destroy the remains of Ranmaru's robot, only for Shinjiro to be severely injured by Nobunaga. After he recovers and helps the Star Division repel an attack on Little Lip Theater, a plain dubbed the Sixth Heaven appears over New York. After resolving to fight Nobunaga without sacrificing anyone to the Five-Ring Mandala, the only known method to seal Nobunaga, Shinjiro is promoted to the rank of Captain and leads the assault. Making a final stand against Nobunaga, the Star Division defeats him, then Nobunaga decides to rest inside Shinjiro to better understand human feelings. Shinjiro accepts the offer, Nobunaga disappears and his castle disintegrates into cherry blossoms. The final celebration and ending vary depending on whether Shinjiro romanced a member of the Combat Revue.
Prior to the game's release, a prequel was released in 2004. It was entitled Sakura Taisen V Episode 0 ~Kouya no Samurai Musume~, which translates to "Sakura Wars V Episode 0 ~Samurai Girl from the Wild West~" and revolves around the character Gemini Sunrise.
Sakura Wars V: So Long My Love was first announced in July 2002 at a press conference dedicated to the Sakura Wars series, hosted by Sega and Red Entertainment at the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka. Given a provisional 2004 release window, it was stated to continue narrative elements started in Sakura Wars: The Movie in addition to having a brand new cast. The game eventually released in Japan on July 7, 2005 under its native title Sakura Wars V: Farewell, My Lovely. A Hangul translation was published in South Korea by Sega's local branch on February 16, 2006.
In 2009, NIS America announced that Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love would be published in North America on both the PlayStation 2 and Wii. The North American PS2 version is a two-disc premium edition that includes the English and original Japanese voice tracks as well as a collector’s item art cover. The Wii version is a single-disc release with English-only voice-overs. On December 11, 2009, NIS America announced that the game would be released on March 23, 2010 for North America, however NIS delayed the game for one week and the game was released on March 30, 2010.
|So Long My Love|
Prior to the game's release, the prequel Sakura Taisen V Episode 0: Kouya no Samurai Musume sold 71,807 units in Japan during 2004. In 2005, the original PlayStation 2 version of Sakura Taisen V: Saraba, Itoshiki Hito yo sold 144,668 units in Japan, making it the 91st best selling game in the country that year. Combined, both Sakura Taisen V and its prequel sold 216,475 units for the PlayStation 2 in Japan by the end of 2005. Upon its 2005 release in Japan, Famitsu's panel of four reviewers gave Sakura Taisen V ratings of 10, 8, 10 and 9 out of 10, adding up to an overall score of 37 out of 40. This is the highest score that a Sakura Taisen game has received from Famitsu. It was also one of Famitsu's thirteen highest-scoring games of 2005.
Upon its overseas release in 2010, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love also received positive reviews. IGN's Sam Bishop gave the game an "Amazing" score of 9 out of 10, stating that it is "safe to say this is probably one of the most re-playable games of its kind" with hundreds "of dialogue choices, exploration and the odd bit of conversation" that "will keep you coming back." He gave it ratings of 8.5 for presentation, 8 for graphics, 8 for sound, 9 for gameplay, and 10 for lasting appeal. The game was given the "Editor's Choice" Award by IGN. RPGFan's Patrick Gann gave it a 90% score, including 70% for graphics, 97% for sound, 92% for gameplay, 90% for control, and 90% for story. He praised the gameplay and script, and the quick time event dialogue choice system as "a lot of fun," but criticized the game for not being as good as its predecessors, nevertheless concluding that it is "a great game in its own right" and that "BioWare, with its strong emphasis on dialogue trees and "choice," could learn a thing or two from Sakura Wars." 1UP's Andrew Fitch gave the game a B+ rating. He praised the "multiple-choice responses" that demand "a response within five seconds", comparing them to the more recent Heavy Rain and noting they "affect relationships with teammates, influence battle prowess, and ultimately alter the game's ending." He criticized the "silly, slapstick anime" plot, but overall recommended the "mix of real-time, visual-novel storytelling and giant-mech strategy".
Mikel Tidwell of RPGamer gives it "good" a 3.5 out of 5. He highlights that the game has great animation, characters and a story, but believes the gameplay suffers from the slow-paced battles and lack of save points and "free time" in between. Tidwell closes saying this game should have come out five years ago when in North America where the market was not as competitive as he believes people no longer have the time and patience to play through the game multiple times to get all the endings. Destructoid's Josh Tolentino, however, states that despite being five years old, "its experience is quite unlike anything else out there." He praised the LIPS system for taking "the dialog tree several steps further, placing your choices on a timer (ala Alpha Protocol, though Sakura Wars did it first)", and the turn-based tactical battles which are enhanced by the "relationship-building", but criticized the dated "mid-generation PS2" graphics, giving it an 8 out of 10 overall. Wiiloveit.com described it as a "strong RPG that's worth sinking your teeth into" that adopts a "very unique gameplay system". Gamespot gave 7/10 saying "This amusing strategy RPG is as close as you're likely to get to starring in your own anime." It praises on dialogue choice and anime portraits but suffers from slow, buggy combat and crude graphics.
The main characters of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love was featured as part of the playable cast in the 2008 dungeon crawler spin-off Dramatic Dungeon: Sakura Wars: Because You Were There for the Nintendo DS. Gemini Sunrise was later included as a playable character in the 2012 Nintendo 3DS crossover title Project X Zone and its Project X Zone 2, representing Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love alongside characters from the original Sakura Wars and female protagonist Erica Fontaine from Sakura Wars 3.
A six-episode original video animation (OVA) series, Sakura Wars: New York, NY, was released between April and August 2007. The anime was produced by Anime International Company, with Akahori returning to write the scenario and the original cast reprising their roles. For the scenario, Akahori used the cut episodes involving Tutankhamun and Cleopatra from the game's original scenario. The OVA is set after the events of Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love, showing the New York Combat Revue's conflict with Tutankhamun alongside Shinjiro needing to cross-dress for the role of Cleopatra in the Revue's next musical production.
- "Sakura Wars Premium Package Unveiled". 8 July 2009. http://www.nisamerica.com/images/email/Sakura_dual_20090708.pdf.
- NIS America (2010-03-02). "DATE CHANGE: SAKURA WARS COMING MARCH 30, 2010". Press release. http://www.nisamerica.com/images/email/Sakura%20PressRelease100302_support.pdf. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/sakura-wars-so-long-my-love. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
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