Both Denmaku Clubs were created as PC exclusives and initially sold as separately packaged (and purchased) programs before later being included on the same DVDs as the XP compatible releases of Sakura Wars 1 and 2 shown in the photo above, each one bundling together a bevy of nifty themed extras to do with the game in question. Packages like these have been around since roughly forever – I know I’ve got official TwinBee and Farland Story themed CDs somewhere around here – and for the sake of clarity I will stress these are desktop accessory kits, not games.
That doesn’t mean they’re not fun to poke around though: The first Denmaku Club’s extras are all based around the original Sakura Wars, with the main draw being a wide range of desktop wallpapers. There are six to choose from per Flower Division member and a further five miscellaneous ones on top, so whether you hope to plaster your world with images of Sumire or would like to display a little bit of everything there’s something here for you. The program also includes a range of system messages from almost every member of the theatre staff including Yoneda, Ayame, and the admin team (who are also secretly the supportive Wind Division) although they’re all vaguely relevant pre-existing voice clips rather than specially recorded “You’ve got mail!” messages. Still, if you ever wanted your Windows start sound to be “IRIS, IKIMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASU!” then this is disc has got you covered. Rounding off this little set is an installable screensaver, although I have to admit I couldn’t get it to work even on a Japanese language friendly XP laptop for whatever reason.
The second Denmaku Club appropriately enough ties in with Sakura Wars 2, and again offers a good selection of wallpapers available in three sizes (the maximum a rather quaint 1024×768) covering as wide a range of characters as possible, with even relatively minor cast members receiving a star turn in well made and visually interesting images that always do more than simply rearrange familiar stock illustrations in slightly new ways (as you’d hope from something conceived as a standalone paid-for product). System messages are back, once again giving fans eager to personalise their virtual bin emptying experience the chance to do so, although this time around the clips are limited to just four people – Reni, Orihime, Kayama, and Kaede – the upside being that this covers every major character introduced in Sakura Wars 2, which in a roundabout way means you’ve got a full set. Again there’s a themed screensaver that’s supposed to work with your PC, and again it doesn’t work with mine for whatever reason even though it technically should.
And then Denmaku Club 2 just keeps on going: There’s a bonus folder full of Sakura Wars icons to replace your regular boring Microsoft ones. There’s also an amusing desktop toy that looks like a window – click on it and a random member of the cast will pop out and talk – using specially recorded lines – as if you’re Ogami. These “conversations” are all short bits of fluff like “Hi! What’s going on? [pause] Ah. OK. Bye!” but even so they’re a nice bit of fun and the artwork’s as appealing and expressive as ever. You could even at a push call this little program useful, as prodding the clock icon with your mouse will prompt a random Flower Division member to pop out and speak the current time. All done? Closing the program will again cause a reaction (possibly accompanied by a unique animation too), this time someone coming out just to say goodbye. Opening it up will also cause one of them to give the user a unique welcome message too. It’s exactly the sort of retro desktop clog I miss (Falcom’s Zwei!! – at least on its original Japanese PC release – also had a few similar gadgets tucked away in there), a little program that doesn’t do much other than make me smile.
Remarkably Denmaku 2’s still not finished, the set beautifully rounded off with a unique and playable experience: A brand new half-hour story, complete with a shocking amount of freshly recorded dialogue and a miniscule quantity of new artwork, that’d probably best off if it were titled something like “Everything’s Fine At the Grand Imperial Theatre (Honest!)” if it was ever translated into English. It’s a touch typing game, the regular LIPS choices replaced with a single word or sentence for Ogami the player must type out before the timer expires (there are three difficulty settings to choose from), failure not changing the outcome of a scene but instead deciding who you “win” at the end of the game, as the person whose segment you got the most correct is the one who likes Ogami the most (good luck if you’re aiming for Iris by the way – she’s got a comically nasty tongue-twister and some tricky repetition waiting for your fingers!). What happens if you type out every line perfectly, technically winning everyone’s hearts? I will never, ever, know. The story itself is a light-hearted tale that begins with Kanna and Sumire arguing, objects going missing, minor property damage, and… well, you’ll just have to watch the full playthrough below to discover who’s behind it all! I have to say though that they really went above and beyond with this one: People expected (and were rarely given more than) a few dithered BMP files and maybe a postage stamp sized movie but this, bless it, took the time to give us one more mini adventure with the Flower Division.
🌸Sakura Wars 1 and 2
🌸Fan Discs and related frippery
Sakura Wars Hanagumi Tsushin (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Steam Radio Show (Saturn)
Teigeki Graph in Sakura Wars (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Denmaku Club 1 & 2 (Windows)
Ogami Ichiro Funtouki (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Online (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Kinematron Hanagumi Mail (Dreamcast)
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