I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t particularly looking forward to going through this one. Beyond having been Sakura’d as well as War’d up to my eyeballs by this point in my research the game seems to be a title that for English-speaking Dreamcast fans exists as a name and not much else on a few wikis and for Sakura Wars fans… exists as a name and not much else on a few wikis. It’s not exactly the sort of buzz that makes you rush out to buy a ga- a digital fan disc (the packaging’s own description), especially on the one console that already has more excellent playable Sakura Wars than any other before or since.
Ah heck, I was wrong. This is at least Teigeki Graph‘s equal if not better, and it does the best job out of all the fan discs of intertwining its real-life content with a game-like experience. The core of the game is the 1999 live-action stage show performed by the voice actors: “Sakura Wars Song Show ‘Benitokage‘” – a play about the Flower Division (Sakura Wars 2 era) putting on a play, which at least on a technical level means Sakura Wars is operating on the same level as William Shakespeare (or maybe even one better, seeing as this is a game about a play within a play). Unlike the others this isn’t a collection of interactive stuff split across two discs but a single tale to play through, the player once again putting on Ogami’s shoes in an effort to help everything turn out right – even when the Flower Division aren’t doing much to help.
I’ve been trying to think of the best way to sum it up but it always comes down to the same thing – Sumire, the theatre’s “Top Star”, limelight hog, and “OH~HOHOHO~“er in chief is being… well, very Sumire, and the rest of the gang get busy helping, “helping”, or… well, you might enjoy watching this clip of Iris and Ogami trying to make her feel better (not that there’s anything wrong with her):
And so you spend a lot of time staring at that familiar adventure screen layout, talking to the cast, answering LIPS questions as quickly as possible, and freely wandering the first floor of the theatre (for one game only this saps ten, rather than the usual five minutes of time). Although there are none of the traditional battle sequences to worry about – and therefore no stats for happy Flower Division members to benefit from. However positive and negative responses to Ogami’s behaviour in the adventure sections still exist – and still have a benefit: When Ogami hears Sumire’s hurt her foot he rushes to her room to check on her. She’s a little stunned by his reponse and asks if he really was worried, which prompts a LIPS box to pop up and if you answer “Of course I was!” she’ll say thank you and you hear the usual happy little jingle. Positive choices (and successfully clearing certain minigames – more on those further down the page) at certain points also award special live-action bromides, which alongside a swathe of other goodies can be viewed in the bonus menu located in the main menu.
This amusing little adventure carries on straight through to the second disc and the Flower Division finally get themselves organised enough to put on the Benitokage play. Just as you’re sure this is where you sit back to passively watch a few clips the game does something that even today feels a little bit like witchcraft – it runs multiple FMV sequences at once.
The reason it does so is because you’re trying to make the best recording of the play possible (one you can even rewatch your editing effort later) using three separate camera feeds to capture the action, each high quality stream toggled between with nothing more than a quick dab of the Dreamcast’s triggers. If you’re feeling brave you can even add text sound effects and actor credits too, choosing whether to acknowledge characters by the name of the real-life actress or the Flower Division member they’re playing as. Better still it’s a fun play to watch – there’s a dramatic rescue, a sword fight, tragic lovers, and it all finishes with a powerful duet that goes on for a very long time considering one of the singer’s supposed to have been fatally shot by the other. I went into this game and the play totally blind and I had a fantastic time; you really don’t need to have seen Benitokage before to understand the appeal because the point is to retell the whole thing (a fair chunk of the whole thing) as a game (ish) experience.
Oh heck yes I promised you some information on minigames, didn’t I? This is the really great part: Even though Funtouki is a bit of a game wrapped around pre-recorded footage of a stage show there’s a lot of replayability in here, and the best example I can give of that is after playing the game through and checking the unlocked features (you can rewatch or replay anything you’ve seen or experienced during the game) I realised I’d only actually encountered two out of six minigames. Best of all I’m sure those other four are going to be worth the effort of tracking down, seeing as I had honestly so much fun handing out leaflets to disinterested passers-by in an almost Frogger-like experience and finally getting to do some authentic Ogami’ing for myself, quickly directing theatre-goers to their ticket-appropriate seating. I also somehow missed four out of eight Benitokage movies, a few bromides, and all the signed autographs too – there really is a lot to come back for, and when the overall package is as entertaining as this you won’t mind doing so either.
And this is before we mention all of the extras clearing the game unlocks: There’s rehearsal footage to view (one for each member of the Flower Division, the naming rather fuzzing the line between character and actor), a glorious full performance of “Geki! Teigokukagekidan (Kai II)” including the crowd clapping and cheering along and the cast taking a bow at the end, and as if that wasn’t enough there are also one hundred photos – separate photos, not stills from the footage you’ve just watched – from the stage show to look through. Honestly, the only disappointment here is that I didn’t play this sooner.
🌸Sakura Wars 1 and 2
Sakura Wars vs Atsuki Chishio Ni
Dating Games… Without The Dating?!
🌸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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