Oh yeah, I did finally finish the game earlier this week. I guess I would give it about a 6.5 or a 7 outta 10 overall. Sure, I enjoyed it, but man, it feels like a super low budget game.
— I didn’t bother to 100% the game, because I hated Koi Koi. I hated it because I’m simply bad at it. I can’t keep track of the cards at all, and I don’t want to constantly be looking at a reference to know which ones are valuable and which hands to build.
— Plus, the thought of replaying every combat mission with each girl sounds painful to me. The missions aren’t even interesting the first time, so why would I want to do each of them four more times? Sakura Wars‘ strength lies within the visual novel aspects, not the combat.
— So Valery found a crying Leyla and called her beautiful… and that’s really all it takes, guys. You can have someone at your complete beck and call as long as their self-esteem is in the dumps.
— Right after the OP, we see that the Imperial Combat Revue has accepted a challenge from the Moscow Combat Revue. According to Sumire, they would’ve been deemed cowardly by all of the other Revues had they refused. I don’t know about that. When you finish the game, you pretty much become friends with the Shanghai, London, and Berlin Combat Revues. I’m sure that they can understand why you wouldn’t want to risk a girl’s fate over some silly challenge.
— The first round of the competition is a dance-off, so Hatsuho gets to represent her team. I’m sure her actual dance is very impressive, but the animation here is lazy. As a result, all we really see is her T-posing and spinning in a circle. Impressive, huh?
— Naturally, Leyla steps up to the plate and performs a ballet. Of all people, Reiji is the one to tell us why the performance is impressive. Apparently, this is meant for two people, but Leyla is pulling it off by herself! But again, all we see is someone spinning in circles. I’m sure ballet has more intricate moves than that. Try not to strain yourself too hard, you guys.
— So I guess like the game, the anime series just doesn’t push itself too hard. All of the visual novel stuff in the game is fine. I only have two complaints really. First, the city is way too small. There’s hardly any exploration to be done. You barely utilize it anyways. Second, I have an issue with the game’s structure. The reason why the recent Persona games are so addictive is because you get a choice. Unless you’re using a guide, you’re more than likely not going to see and do everything in your first playthrough. The player has to manage their time and thus decide what they value the most. Should I explore a palace today? Or should I hang out with a friend. Oh wait, I need to up my social stats, so maybe I should go study. Ah, but where to study? In Sakura Wars, however, the game is cleanly divided into combat sections and non-combat sections. You can talk to everybody and woo everybody. There is nothing to miss unless you purposefully decide to miss it. For me, that takes the wind out of the game’s sails.
— Hatsuho predictably loses to Leyla, so the Russians are up one. The second round features an obstacle course, but Valery arrogantly refuses to have his team participate. He considers it vulgar. Um, okay. I bet the studio behind this series just didn’t wanna bother animating Azami running through the course. There’s also the fact that we have yet to see the faces of any of the other Russian members…
— Finally, we get to the mock battle. For the good guys, it’ll be Sakura, Hatsuho, and Azami. I find it funny, ’cause those three are pretty much who I used over and over in the game as well (unless I was forced to partner with Claris and Anastasia for their chapters). Speaking of the combat, man… those sections suck in the game. First, every single level looks the same. Second, there’s no enemy variety. Third (and probably most important of all), you’d have to be utterly terrible at video games to get anything less than an S on those levels. The combat sections are that easy, and I’m not even good at action games. I think the funny part is how Hatsuho can literally just spin to win. I’ve cleared entire rooms full of mobs without taking damage with her. In fact, she kills so fast, the characters can’t finish speaking.
— It’s not as though the other girls are bad either. When Sakura upgrades her mecha (which we oddly don’t see in the anime), her special move can clear the entire room by itself. Again, it’s ridiculous.
— Speaking of upgrades, it would have been fun if you could actually earn money and then use said money to upgrade the girls’ mechas. Just anything to give the player a sense of gradual progression. There are side battles in the game, but they just pop up kinda randomly. Then after mashing circle and triangle for about five minutes, I get my S ranking and nothing else to show for it. These could’ve been replaced with side missions that rewards money or even rare mecha parts/weapons. I dunno, just a thought.
— In order to win the mock battle, one team has to get to Klara first. The poor girl is actually trapped in a cage for the purposes of this silly competition. That seems potentially dangerous, but whatever. After all, Valery never actually intended to play fair. On his side, there are four mechas instead of three. And after cutting the worldwide broadcast, they start using real weapons against the Flower Division.
— Finally, Leyla does something to trigger Klara. This eventually leads to the girl “awakening” to her true angelic self. Since there are demons to fight in this world, I guess it’s only natural that we eventually encounter angels? Still, I wonder where she and her sister came from. Hell, I wonder if they’re actually angels at all. I’m sure the series will get to this eventually, but it does remind me of something that bugged me about the game. If Sakura Wars (2019) is supposed to be a soft reboot, how come it doesn’t explain anything for people new to the series? I haven’t played the previous four mainline games, so I obviously have no clue about its history and development. What the hell are the demons and where do they even come from? Not once does the game bother to explain that to me, and that’s a huge disappointment.
— Sumire sends Claris and Anastasia to apprehend Valery, but they find Black Cape instead. Shocker. Truly, truly a shocker.
— Hm, I wonder hard it is to pilot a mecha with those heels.
— What does Valery want with Klara? Well, it’s pretty much the same thing that every other JRPG antagonist seems to desire: destroy the current world and create a new one according to his whims and desires. Yawn.
— Hatsuho, who has been observing for a distance, decides to… fly towards the arena? Is that one of her powers as well? Is she part Russian? Maybe she has angelic stuff in her veins? Eh.
— In the end, Klara decides that she can’t be a burden to the Flower Division any longer. So despite Sakura’s pleas, the girl flies off on her own. I’m sure she thinks she’s doing this in order to protect her new family, but I hate it when characters do this. I hate it when characters make any sort of unilateral decision that affects the rest of the team.