Another day, another Sakura Wars fan disc set. This two disc release was the last of the Saturn offerings, and unlike the ones that came before it Teigeki Graph in Sakura Wars is packed with new content and an easy recommendation for any fan of the series, whether they have a back tattoo of the full cast and named their firstborn Sakura-Ogami or vaguely remember liking “the one with the glasses“. The main event is a short story based around the group doing what else but putting on a show, this time based on Sleeping Beauty and set during the events of Sakura Wars 2. Along the way you’ll play some brand new minigames – some of them played in groups (Kohran and Kanna, Sumire, Sakura, and Iris) some played with one other person (Maria, Orihime, Reni) – before finally getting to see the show acted out in full at the end; every line fully voiced and the show put on using adorable 2D sprites. For a series set in a theatre there aren’t actually many times you get to see them perform at all (at least not without hilarious consequences), so the end result feels like a rare treat. This charming adventure, taking place at a time when there is no major conflict between anyone in the Flower Division or any demonic threats to spice things up, also serves another purpose, proving beyond all doubt that the cast exactly as they are matter more to Sakura Wars – and its fans – than anything else, that they alone are the heart of the series. It may sound obvious but think about it: how many other games could honestly sustain someone’s interest if the main characters were suddenly stripped of all their usual distractions and abilities?
Completing this short story adds another option to main menu, the “Teigeki Graph Special Reading Room“. This allows you to head to anyone’s room to replay their minigame from the Sleeping Beauty segment, play what I personally found to be a particularly impenetrable take on shogi, or head on over to the salon to play Koi Koi Wars 2, a hanafuda tournament (with customised Sakura Wars cards that, depending on the timings of their respective releases, were either based on or inspired the creation of a matching physical set) against the cast that’s honestly about one quick story mode away from being a full release in its own right. On the ground floor the Wind Division challenge you to a few Sakura Wars themed quizzes, pulling from a wide pool of questions that range from the relatively easy (showing a silhouette of a character and asking you to guess who it is) to something significantly more challenging – “What’s Kanna’s dad’s name?” “Who did Reni play in ‘Blue Bird’?”. At the end of each session you’ll receive a certificate showing how well (or otherwise) you did, and if you do well enough you’ll be granted access to an even tougher set of questions.
And the first disc just keeps on going: There’s an art gallery stuffed with images from the first two games as well as the OVA – poster art, magazine promo images, CD packaging – it couldn’t possibly include everything because even (perhaps especially) back then there was a phenomenal amount of content available, but even so it’s a wide-ranging selection of images that’s beautiful to look at and you’re bound to find something new in there purely by virtue of how wide ranging the content is: Want to see the illustration published in Newtype magazine back in June ’97? You can. Clean official guide book cover art? Yep. Take a look at in-store advertising? It’s there. Every image tells you where it’s from, exactly what it is you’re looking at (such as a poster or cover art), and who the illustrator was (this information can also be removed with a button press if you want a clear view). The final main menu option on the first disc takes you to a database that covers the people, places, organisations, enemies, and more from the first two games as well as the OVA. It’s worth mentioning that this section is packed with spoilers in the name of being as complete and accurate as possible, and makes no bones about mentioning Sakura Wars 2’s Demon Lord is in fact Sakura’s presumed-dead dad, for example.
The second disc is a much simpler affair, although that’s because this is where all of the video content lies. Here you’ll find a single promotional clip each for Sakura Wars, Sakura Wars 2, the OVA, and Sakura Wars 2’s CD single as well as short interviews with the Flower Division’s (and Kaede’s) voice actors. In an unusual twist once the usual introductions are out of the way a LIPS box pops up and you have to pick one of three standard questions (you can also, as always, let the timer run out, the voice actor feigning irritation at you for doing so and ending the interview early): What do you they like to eat, about their first love, and where they like to go on a date. Once your single question’s been answered they say goodbye and interview ends, which is either a cynical attempt to eke out as many replays as possible out of a small set of clips or a neat attempt to make recorded footage feel interactive, depending on your point of view.
Teigeki Graph is far more substantial than a fan disc has any right to be, and is the first time Sakura Wars digital side content feels like it genuinely exists for the benefit of fans themselves rather than the marketing people trying to sell things to them. There’s a lot of new material in here, and what has been taken from elsewhere has either had a lot of effort put in (those database entries didn’t write themselves, and neither did the quiz questions) or in the case of the images has been collected together in a quantity and quality that as far as I can see it had never been before (or, sadly, after).
🌸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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