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  1. #1

    [PS4] Project Sakura Wars/Shin Sakura Wars

    Impressions based on the Japanese version; western versions (EU and US) slated for March 2020.
    I should have started this thread long ago, but I couldn't really put my thoughts into a coherent written form...and it doesn't help I'm kinda struggling to get through this game.
    Project Sakura Wars (or Shin Sakura Wars in Japan) is a new chapter in the long-running Sakura Wars series, started way back on the Saturn. This is not a reboot, PSW links directly into the previous titles, first two in particular, although knowledge of them is not required. Most probably western players will be puzzled when staring at photos found throughout PSW depicting old characters, but everything needed to connect 2019 (or 2020 for the western release) to 1996 is explained during the game.
    You take the role of Seijiro Kamiyama, the freshly appointed captain of the Imperial Combat Revue; this outfit consists of actors that also fight the Gouma in powered battle armours, the Koubu. The Revue is directed by Sumire Kanzaki, former actor/fighter from the first two games. The Revuew is in a dire state of affair, the current members can't really act or fight, and it's up to you to make things right.

    There are five girls in the troupe (against six of the first game), with a larger cast of secondary characters, including other Revues from the UK, Germany, and China. Your mileage will vary on how much you like each girl and why can't romance Eris from the German Revue.
    Sakura is the classic heroine: not the strongest, but she's upbeat, holds and incredible inner strenght, goes through a "down" period, only to get back on her feet stronger than ever. Hatsuho is physically strong but sweet deep inside. Clarissa (from France, IIRC) is a bookworm mage who's afraid of her magic and still hasn't realised her full potential for theatrical work. Azami's a ninja. Anastasia is a newly-transfered Greek actor.
    As you can see, I have more to write about some characters, and that's because Sakura is the more developed characters, with the rest of the cast being given a chapter for development and then pretty much left alone, unless you want to pay them more attention. Hatsuho seems the second most important girl, with Azami and Clarissa almost feeling like a secondary character in a primary role. Anastasia...is there.
    Granted, I haven't completed the game yet, but that's how I feel right now: it's more of Sakura's story than the Revue's (or Seijiro's) story, which can really make or break your interest in the game, because Sakura isn't that interesting of a character.

    Truth to be told I don't really find any character interesting, and PSW has a very passive way to tell its story: you just watch things happen, with your inputs limited to the LIPS system (a fancy term for time-limited, multiple-choice answers) that will only affect how someone relates to Seijiro and not how the story goes. The main plot isn't particularly interesting either, you can pretty much piece it together by just looking at the intro ("oh, that masked character looks like exactly like someone important from the first game"), and I've found every other event much more fun.
    This being a fully 3D game, Sega had the marvellous idea to mocap pretty much every single event, and the result is outstanding: ancilliary events with a humurous attitude (have I mentioned that your base/theather apparently has only one bath?) are absolutely hilarious in how Seijiro moves and reacts to events, and more than once I chose (or better, hoped I to choose due to the language barrier) the option that would lead to typical anime skits just to see what actors and directors came up with.
    The same goes for serious moments, the mocap really brings out a lot, and makes every scene enjoyable to watch. The voice cast further helps in giving characters a personality, and this is something Sega nailed completely. The only thing I can say against the voice cast is that Saori Hayami, playing Clarissa, sounds too much like, well...Saori Hayami. This is not to say that her performance is bad, quite the contrary, it's just that she has a very distinct voice and I hear more the actress than the character, especially after going through 13 Sentinels where she plays another character with a very similar intonation.

    The major change is the combat, now the Imperial Combat Revue no longer engages in turn-based strategy, it goes for real-time action.
    I'm not really sure if that was a good decision...
    Yakuza this ain't. Two attack buttons, light and heavy, that you can string into simple combos, a dodge that slows down time, a special attack, and a combination attack with your partner is all you have. You are thrown into linear dungeons that go from battle to battle, with some light platforming, and you have to defeat the local boss to proceed. At times you have to ride on walls, which sounds pretty exciting at first, but once on those walls you can't steer or attack, you just need to keep the dash button down and go straight. The last dungeon I did had a cool idea (

    a giant serpent teleporting around

    ), but never got better than a mild incovenience while crossing two sections of the area, and it seems like developers where afraid of incoveniencing the player too much...which also goes for bosses, they go down in one or two special attacks, and you always fight with two people, Seijiro and one girl, so I'm frankly unimpressed by this new system.
    The six playable characters are all very different in handling attack methods, which is nice, but Clarissa and Anastasia are incredibly boring to use because they only have ranged attacks, the game autolocks on what you have in front, and you spend dungeons hammering the light attack button until everything's over. Personally I've found Hatsuho is the most interesting character to play as due to her long recovery time that forces you to look for openings or suffer retaliation attacks.
    All dungeons connect to the story, and with the exception of one, you are forced to bring along the girl the game wants you to. You can replay all the cleared dungeons with the companion you like, but can't say it's very exciting to go through the same dungeon, with the same enemy composition, four more times. The reward for clearing again a dungeon is that you get more affection from the accompaining girl, there are no levels, no new techniques to learn, or way to customize the power armour.
    Combat's pretty barebone, which makes me think developers were more interested in the rest of the game.

    I will continue to play Project Sakura Wars until completion, but I'm not finding myself invested into it. Maybe it's the characters, maybe it's the combat...I can't quite point at one thing that's bad, they are just...uninteresting. I think the new character design works well (although a couple a characters seems carbon copies of people found in Bleach), characters are likeable despite everything, the mocap scenes are wonderful, the game is done with a lot of love...and yet, I can't quite get into it.




  2. #2
    Looks stunning, can't wait. Thanks for the impressions

  3. #3
    I'm watching this with interest, but I was also saddened that they moved away from turn-based strategy to a more action-focused game.

    I've never played the prior ones as their availability in the UK was spotty at best, and they're text-heavy so playing the Japanese versions wasn't really an option.

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